The benefit of living in the Bakersfield or Southern California area is that planting can be done just about all year long. Although, the downside to that is that the lawn or garden needs to be fertilized as well. If you’re a seasoned gardener or landscaper, you’ll have your favorite brand and type of fertilizer, you’ll know what to look for in a fertilizer, and you’ll know when and how to actually fertilize the lawn or garden. However, it can take a lot of research, experimenting, and testing to determine what is right for your needs. If you’re already feeling overwhelmed, it’s OK, we’ll take it slow. The first thing you need to understand about fertilizers is what the letters N-P-K mean.

At Kern Turf Supply in Bakersfield, we offer a wide range of fertilizers and seeds to help our customer’s gardens look healthy all year long. If you’re ever unsure about what fertilizer to purchase for your lawn or garden, contact our landscape team for expert advice and guidance.

21-7-14 – What?

When you’re looking at 10 different types of fertilizer deciding which to choose, you may notice a series of three numbers that is common among all brands. The first number is the percentage of Nitrogen (N) found in the fertilizer, the second the percentage of Phosphorous (P), and the third number is the percentage of Potassium (K). So in the title above, the bag of fertilizer contains 21 percent N, 7 percent P, and 14 percent K. These numbers will vary depending on the purpose of the fertilizer. If you’re looking for a lawn fertilizer, you’ll want a high percentage of N (the highest concentration of nitrogen is 21 percent).

What Does N-P-K Mean?

In order to choose the right fertilizer for your needs, it’s important to understand what each nutrient does for a lawn. Here’s some basic information to help guide you:


This nutrient is crucial for the growth of foliage, whether it’s grass or leaves. Nitrogen will help produce lush, tender, and deep green foliage. If you notice your grass is on the yellow side and isn’t growing very well, it could be due to a nitrogen deficiency. Nitrogen easily flows through the soil.


If you’re looking to enhance the growth of flowers and fruits, you may want to look for a fertilizer that is high in phosphorus. This nutrient also promotes healthy plant roots and can help plants mature faster. When your plants aren’t getting enough phosphorus, it can result in slow growth and can produce a purple discoloration on leaves. Phosphorus stays in the soil fairly well.


To help the strength of the plants, potassium builds strong cell walls that promote sturdy stems. Potassium can also help resist plant diseases and helps the plant create food. Without enough potassium, the plants can have weak stems and may not grow as fast as healthy plants. Potassium flushes through the soil, but not quite as fast as nitrogen.

Now that you know what each letter stands for and what it can provide to your lawn, you can choose the right ratio depending on your needs.

  • If you’re just starting out with new grass, look for a formula that is higher in P so that the roots can grow deep into the soil. However, avoid a fertilizer that is high in N because the grass isn’t ready for full growth.
  • If you want to fertilize an existing lawn, formulas that are high in N will help the lawn grow full and healthy. Giving the lawn a lot of P and K isn’t necessary at this point.
  • In Bakersfield, the extreme heat may stress out the lawn, meaning that a high-quality K can help strengthen the foliage.

If you need help or advice on your landscape or garden, contact the team at Kern Turf Supply in Bakersfield. Our quality fertilizers include Nitra King and Turf Supreme, and if you’re looking for a mulch, Kern Turf also carries Live Earth. Get in touch today and start nurturing your landscape.