The 5 Best High Nitrogen Fertilizers in 2024

Many plants benefit from an application of a high-nitrogen fertilizer. However, there are so many fertilizers to choose from you may have trouble knowing which one is best. This guide will help.


What is a High-Nitrogen Fertilizer?

A high nitrogen fertilizer is a fertilizer where the amount of nitrogen in the fertilizer is higher than the amount of phosphorus or potassium. There may still be substantial phosphorus or potassium, or one or both of these minerals are omitted. In addition, any fertilizer with twenty percent of nitrogen is considered high nitrogen even if the amount of potassium or phosphorus is the same as the nitrogen. 

When Should You Use a High-Nitrogen Fertilizer?

High nitrogen fertilizer is used when the amount of phosphorus and/or potassium in the soil is adequate, and you do not need to add any. It can also be used with plants that need a little phosphorus and potassium, but a lot of nitrogen, such as lawns or vegetables in the early phases of growth. If there is a nitrogen deficiency, then a high-nitrogen fertilizer is called for. Finally, some states and areas ban using phosphorus and/or potassium on landscapes unless there is a documented deficiency of those minerals in the soil or you are establishing new plants, so you are only allowed to apply nitrogen. 

Types of Fertilizer

Fertilizer comes in many forms. Here are the most common forms of high-nitrogen fertilizer. 

Liquid Fertilizer

Liquid fertilizers generally start working immediately but only work for a week or two. A few liquid fertilizers have some coated particles that extend that to a month. You can buy ready-to-use liquids or concentrate. The concentrate is more expensive up front and has to be mixed with water, but the cost per application is lower than ready-to-use liquids. 

Water Soluble Fertilizer

Solid fertilizers that dissolve completely in water are called water-soluble fertilizers. They are mixed with water to form a solution and then applied as if they were liquid fertilizers. 

Granular Fertilizer

Granular fertilizer does not dissolve completely in water. It is generally applied in a dry state to the soil around the plants or to the lawn. Most granular fertilizers require water to activate them. Some granular fertilizers are mixtures of fast-release fertilizer that works immediately and slow-release fertilizers. The fast-release part works for about two weeks. 

Slow-Release Fertilizer

Slow-release fertilizer has been coated with something that breaks down gradually, letting the nutrients trickle out over time. It starts working in about two weeks and can continue to work for as long as six months. To be effective, a slow-release fertilizer should be at least half of the fertilizer in a bag. 

Organic Versus Synthetic Fertilizer

Organic fertilizers are derived from ingredients in nature, such as compost. To be called organic, a product must have been submitted to a certifying agency such as the USDA and approved. Organic fertilizers are broken down by microbes into substances the plant can use, so are often mostly slow-release. They tend to be more expensive than synthetic fertilizers. 

Synthetic fertilizers are derived from at least one ingredient that is made by man. Most are made from petroleum products. Synthetic fertilizers tend to be stronger than organic fertilizers and are less expensive. For example, urea is 46-0-0 and is very inexpensive. These fertilizers feed the plant directly but can kill the soil microbes over time through starvation. 

Top 5 Best Nitrogen Fertilizers

Here are my picks for the best high-nitrogen fertilizers. 

1. Simple Lawn Solutions Maximum Green & Growth Fertilizer High Nitrogen 28-0-0 – Best Liquid High Nitrogen Fertilizer

Simple Lawn Solutions Maximum Green & Growth Fertilizer High Nitrogen 28-0-0

Simple Lawn Solutions Maximum Green & Growth Fertilizer High Nitrogen 28-0-0 Liquid Lawn Food Spray Spring & Summer is my pick for the best liquid high nitrogen fertilizer. It has 28 percent nitrogen and no phosphorus or potassium. It contains 70 percent quick-release fertilizer and 30 percent slow-release fertilizer. Lawns green up quickly and stay green between applications. This fertilizer comes in a hose-end spray package and also has application rates for a tank sprayer. It is ideal to treat a nitrogen deficiency and to keep your lawn growing. If you want your grass to be darker and thicker, this fertilizer will help that. Use this fertilizer on all grass types, including Bermuda, St. Augustine, Zoysia, Buffalo, Centipede, Florida Palmetto, Bahia, Fescue, Ryegrass, and Kentucky Bluegrass.  

Simple Lawn Solutions is made in the USA by a family with over 25 years of experience in the commercial lawn business. All of their formulations have been used on commercial lawns and golf courses before being offered to homeowners. 

To use Simple Lawn Solutions Maximum Green & Growth Fertilizer, attach it to your hose. Turn the hose on and move the thumb switch to open. Sweep the fertilizer back and forth while you walk backward toward the edge of your lawn. Be sure to cover all the grass well but do not overapply, or your grass will burn.  

I like Simple Lawn Solutions Maximum Green & Growth Fertilizer for small or irregularly shaped lawns where it is hard to get a spreader in. This package covers 5,000 square feet of lawn, so it is enough for most people to treat their lawn twice. While the ingredients are high-quality, the price is reasonable. I have found this fertilizer harder to apply evenly than granular fertilizers. It is very easy to get too much on one area and not enough on another area, so unless I am very careful, I end up with burned areas and light green missed areas. For that reason, I usually use granular fertilizers and a push spreader. Since this fertilizer is intended for lawns, it does not include instructions for other plants. 


  • No mixing
  • Good for all grasses
  • Comes in hose end spray package


  • Can be difficult to spray evenly

2. Dr. Earth High Nitrogen All Purpose Fertilizer 5-0-2 – Best Organic High Nitrogen Fertilizer

Dr. Earth High Nitrogen All Purpose Fertilizer 5-0-2

Dr. Earth High Nitrogen All Purpose Fertilizer 5-0-2 is my pick for the best organic high-nitrogen fertilizer. Organic fertilizers can’t match the high amount of nitrogen synthetic fertilizers can. This fertilizer’s NPK ratio is 5-0-2. It is derived from alfalfa meal, feather meal, and potassium sulfate. It contains no chicken manure or GMO ingredients. The ingredients are feed-grade products. Each bag is guaranteed or your money back. 

Dr. Earth was founded in 1991 and produces exclusively organic products. Dr. Earth fertilizers never have chicken manure and are made from feed-grade ingredients that have been composted along with other fine materials. If it isn’t sustainable, Dr. Earth doesn’t do it. 

To use Dr. Earth High Nitrogen All Purpose Fertilizer 5-0-2 on a lawn, mow the lawn first. In the early spring, apply 18 pounds of fertilizer per 2,000 square feet. In late spring, apply 9 pounds per 2,000 square feet. In summer, apply 18 pounds of fertilizer per 2,000 square feet. In the fall, apply 18 pounds per 2,000 square feet. After applying the fertilizer, water the lawn for 30 minutes. Keep the lawn moist for 3-4 days. The bag has a chart of spreader models and the setting you should put each one on. 

For vegetables and flowers, apply ¼ cup of fertilizer per foot of plant height. For new plantings, dig the hole deeper than is needed and mix the fertilizer with the soil from the hole. Backfill the hole to desired planting depth with the fertilized soil. Plant as normal. Water well once planted. For established plants, scratch the fertilizer into the top inch of the soil. Water the area well. 

For new potted plants, mix two heaping tablespoons of fertilizer into each gallon of soil. Use that soil to plant the plant as normal. Water well once the plant is planted. For established plants, work the fertilizer gently into the top inch of the soil. Water well. 

For trees and shrubs, use one cup of fertilizer for every inch of trunk diameter. For small trees, measure the trunk diameter six inches above the ground. For large trees, measure the trunk diameter 4.5 feet above the ground. Spread the fertilizer in a band around the dripline of the tree and scratch it into the first inch of soil. Water the tree well. 

I like Dr. Earth’s products because they use premium ingredients. Plants just grow better with premium fertilizers, and this is one. The instructions on the bag are detailed and tell me exactly how to use this Dr. Earth High Nitrogen All Purpose Fertilizer 5-0-2. I do better with detailed instructions because they increase the likelihood of success. I would use this fertilizer in my garden, but it doesn’t really have enough nitrogen for my lawn. I prefer bloodmeal or something else with at least 12 percent nitrogen for lawns. Frankly, that is difficult to find in an organic product. Being organic and a premium fertilizer, this product is pricey. 


  • Organic
  • Premium fertilizer
  • Good for multiple plants


  • Relatively low nitrogen for lawns
  • Pricey

3. Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food – Best High Nitrogen Fertilizer for Lawns

Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food

Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food is my pick for the best high-nitrogen fertilizer for lawns. The NPK is 32-0-4, and it also contains seven percent sulfur and two percent iron. The iron produces a deep green in your grass, while the sulfur helps it make amino acids for proteins. This fertilizer causes green-up in as little as three days. The fertilizer builds strong roots and improves the lawn’s ability to absorb water. Scotts offers a no-quibble guarantee. This product is not organic. It is suitable for any grass type, including Bermuda grass and St. Augustine grass. 

Scotts was founded in 1868. They have become a recognized leader in the lawn care industry with their extensive research and development for each product they produce. 

Scotts only includes the spreader settings for Scotts brand spreaders. However, you need to set your spreader to deliver 2.5 pounds of fertilizer per 1,000 square feet of lawn. You can apply this fertilizer to a wet or dry lawn, but I recommend applying it to a dry lawn. Walk with your spreader back and forth in a north and south direction, then walk back and forth in a west and east direction. This makes sure you do not miss any spots on your lawn. For the best results, water your lawn within 24 hours of applying the fertilizer. However, you do not have to water the fertilizer in. 

I trust Scotts products because of the extensive research they do on each one. I would prefer to use a product without potassium, but the potassium in Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food is relatively low. While I usually prefer organic products, it is almost impossible to get a high-nitrogen product with the nitrogen level lawns need in an organic product. Using Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food is simple, but it will burn your lawn if you put too much fertilizer down. While Scotts is a premium fertilizer, it is relatively inexpensive, and each bag will treat the typical lawn twice. I would recommend this fertilizer to anyone with a lawn, regardless of the type of grass. For Southern lawns, use Scotts® Turf Builder® Southern Lawn Food with an NPK of 32-0-10 with 4 percent sulfur and 2 percent iron. However, that is enough potassium that you cannot use this fertilizer if you have lots of potassium in your soil like I do. I just apply nitrogen to my lawn with blood meal. 


  • High nitrogen
  • Fast working
  • Inexpensive


  • Can burn lawn

4. Cz Garden Urea Fertilizer 46-0-0 – Best Urea High Nitrogen Fertilizer

Cz Garden Urea Fertilizer 46-0-0

Cz Garden Urea Fertilizer 46-0-0 is my pick for the best urea high-nitrogen fertilizer. Urea is the strongest nitrogen fertilizer. It has an NPK ratio of 46-0-0. This urea is water soluble and very pure. Care must be taken not to burn your plants with it. It comes in a heavy-duty 5-pound resealable pouch, so it stays clean and potent. This fertilizer can be used with indoor and outdoor plants. It is not organic. Keep this fertilizer away from kids and pets. 

Cz Garden was founded to help people grow the best quality plants. They hope to help people regain their green backyards. 

Before spreading urea, wet the soil well. For lawns, spread one pound of urea over 1,000 square feet. Do not use more than this, or you will burn your lawn. The best time to use urea on lawns is in the early spring. Run the irrigation system for thirty minutes after spreading urea. 

For leafy green vegetables, use four ounces of urea per thirty feet of row. Use the same on tomatoes and other vining crops when transplanting the plants. Do not use urea on those plants after that because you will get all foliage and a few blooms. Use urea at four ounces of urea per thirty feet of row on corn throughout the growing season. Water the urea well. 

Urea is not recommended for houseplants because it is too strong and burns them. 

Urea is a powerful fertilizer. I think it is best used in early spring to promote green-up in lawns. Urea spoils quickly, so I don’t buy more than I can use in a few months. I water the lawn, spread the urea, then water the lawn again. The ammonia in the urea will turn to a gas and escape if it is not watered in quickly. I prefer other fertilizers for anything but the lawn. Urea is just too concentrated for most plants, especially houseplants. However, urea is very inexpensive, so it is used a lot by people with large lawns to fertilize. Always wear gloves when handling urea because it will burn your hands. Do not let pets or children near it until the lawn has been watered for thirty minutes after the urea is spread. I would wait until the lawn dries before letting them out onto it. Urea has a strong chemical smell and can burn your eyes, nose, and mouth if the smell is inhaled, so wear a facemask when spreading it and try to avoid breathing the fumes. 


  • Inexpensive
  • Don’t have to use much


  • Can burn plants
  • Can ruin quickly

5. Espoma Organic Blood Meal Fertilizer 12-0-0 – Best Overall High Nitrogen Fertilizer

Espoma Organic Blood Meal Fertilizer 12-0-0

Espoma Organic Blood Meal Fertilizer 12-0-0 is my pick for the best overall high-nitrogen fertilizer. Blood meal is full of nitrogen and iron. The fertilizer is certified organic and is the most versatile of organic high-nitrogen fertilizers. Espoma makes all its products in the United States. Blood meal promotes rapid growth of any plant and dark green color. Use on flowers, vegetables, trees, and shrubs. The company says it is an ideal supplement for all annuals and perennials. You can use it on lawns, too, but the company does not include instructions for how much to put on a lawn. 

Espoma was founded in 1929 and has produced specialty organic fertilizers since after the second world war. The fourth generation of the original family still owns the company. 

To use, broadcast one pound per 100 square feet for normal feeding, or two pounds per 100 square feet for heavy feeding. For individual plants, spread ½ tablespoon around the drip line. The company says to spread the blood meal like you are sprinkling salt and pepper on your food. Water the plants after spreading the blood meal to avoid burning them. 

I like Espoma Organic Blood Meal Fertilizer 12-0-0 and use it on my garden. My soil has a high level of phosphorus and potassium, so blood meal is ideal for it. If you need to add phosphorus and/or potassium, you will need to use another fertilizer. I have found that my dog likes this fertilizer. I have to make sure she is inside before spreading it and watering it in. I only let her back out once the water dries up. Blood meal does attract cats, dogs, and other animals, and it does have a moderately strong odor. I don’t find the odor offensive, but some people who are very sensitive to smells might. Unlike most organic fertilizers, blood meal is very inexpensive. One bag lasts me all season. The bag seals, but blood meal gets in the seal if you are not careful and blocks it from sealing properly. I like using this product because it uses byproducts of the slaughter industry that would otherwise be wasted. I have had good results with all the Espoma products I have tried, and this one is no exception. Store blood meals in a cool, dry place away from pets and children. Don’t leave it in a hot shed, or it will spoil faster. I would not keep it in the utility room near the washer and dryer, either. A shelf in a mudroom or closet would be best. 


  • Organic
  • Inexpensive
  • Very versatile


  • Smells
  • Can burn plants
  • Attracts wildlife

Natural Nitrogen Fertilizer – Best Source of Natural Nitrogen Fertilizers

There are many forms of natural nitrogen fertilizers. Here are thirteen common ones. This information comes from Colorado State University and Utah State University

Blood Meal

Blood meal is one of the best high-nitrogen organic ingredients. It is generally 12-0-0. It also has iron in it. Blood meal is a byproduct of the slaughter of animals for food. The blood is collected and dried before being packaged and shipped to the consumer. It is released rapidly, so can burn your lawn if overapplied. Blood meal tends to attract wildlife, so don’t use it if you have trouble with raccoons. 

Hoof and Horn Meal

Hoof and horn meal is also a byproduct of animals being slaughtered. It has a nitrogen content of 12-14 percent and a phosphorus content of 1.5-2. It has no potassium. Hoof and horn meal breaks down slowly, so usually won’t burn your plants. Because it has phosphorus, it cannot be used in areas that ban the use of phosphorus on lawns. It can, however, be used on other parts of the landscape. 

Feather Meal

Feather meal is a byproduct of the chicken industry. It has a nitrogen level of 7-12 percent and no phosphorus or potassium. This means it is a good ingredient for fertilizer for both lawns and other plants. 

Bat Guano

Bat guano has been used as a fertilizer for thousands of years. It has an NPK ratio of 10-3-1. Because bat guano is collected from caves that bats live in, there is concern that it increases the chance bat colonies will catch white-nose syndrome or other diseases. In addition, bat guano will burn your plants easily. 

Corn Gluten

Corn gluten is nine percent nitrogen and does not have phosphorus or potassium. This product keeps seeds from germinating for about four months after application and is often used as a pre-emergent. It will not hurt transplanted or existing plants, however, making it great for landscape use. Be sure you are buying pure corn gluten, not corn gluten feed. 

Cotton Seed Meal

Cotton seed meal is ground from the cotton seeds left over when the cotton is removed from the burr. It has a nitrogen level of 5-7 percent, a phosphorus content of two percent, and a potassium content of one percent. Cotton seed meal breaks down slowly, so it is unlikely to burn your plants. 

Soybean Meal

Soybean meal has an NPK ratio of 7-2-1. It is often used as cattle feed, so it is inexpensive to purchase. It breaks down slowly, so fertilizes for a while without burning your plants. 

Fish Emulsion

Fish emulsion is made from the seventy percent of the fish left after the fillets are removed. It has a nitrogen level of 2-5 percent, a phosphorus level of 2-4 percent, and a potassium level of 1-2 percent. It also has other nutrients, amino acids, and vitamins. Fish emulsion breaks down rapidly, so can burn your plants. It also attracts wildlife, including pets, and smells bad to humans. 

Neem Seed Meal

After the seeds of the neem tree are pressed for oil, the seeds are dried and ground for fertilizer. The resulting meal has 2-5 percent nitrogen, 0.05-1 percent phosphorus, and 1-2 percent potassium. It also contains calcium and magnesium. The meal retains the insecticidal properties of the oil, so the fertilizer protects the plants from insects. 

Crab Meal

Crab meal is made from the shells of crabs after the meat is extracted. The NPK ratio is 4-3-0. This meal slowly decomposes, so adds nutrients for a while without burning your plants. Don’t use crab meal if you are allergic to shellfish. 

Alfalfa Meal

Alfalfa meal is often pelleted for animal feed. It has an NPK ratio of 2-1-2. The slow decompensation of this product will feed your plants for several months and does not burn them. It may contain seeds, however, although pelleted products are probably cooked at hot enough temperatures to kill them. 


Manure is a readily available resource. It has widely variable amounts of nutrients. The nitrogen level is from 0.5-6.5 percent, the phosphorus level is 0.2-6.0 percent, and the potassium level is 0-3. The variability is due to feed levels, the type of animal the manure is from, and how old the manure is. Do not ever use manure on anything you plan to eat because it contains food-borne diseases that can make you sick. Do not use cat or dog manure on anything because they contain diseases that can make you sick. Manure can burn your plants and often contains weed seeds. 


Compost is another readily available resource. It is often made of manure along with a mixture of dead leaves, grass clippings, and other organic matter. It has a nitrogen level of 1.3-3 percent, a phosphorus level of 0.5-1.0 percent, and a potassium level of 1-2 percent. Commercial compost is made in hot piles that kill weed seeds and pathogens. Homemade compost doesn’t usually get hot enough to do that, so be careful not to compost seeds, or they will sprout when you spread it. 

Homemade Nitrogen Fertilizer – My Favorite Recipes

I use blood meal I buy as a fertilizer. However, you can buy any of the materials I discussed above and use them to make fertilizer. Which ones you use can depend on what you are fertilizing.  

Recipe #1

If you can get over the yuk factor, urine is a very good source of urea. Fill a five-gallon bucket with water. Mix in two cups of urine. Dilute by half and use as a drench around your plants. To add more nitrogen, soak grass clippings in a bucket full of water for three days before adding the urine. Strain the grass out of the liquid. Dilute by half and use as a drench for ornamental plants. I would not use this on plants that are food or produce food. 

Recipe #2

Mix half coffee grounds and half compost. Spread one inch of the mixture over your garden. If using it on your lawn, spread the mixture over the lawn, then use a leaf rake to rake it into the grass so it touches the ground. Water the lawn well. You can usually get coffee grounds from restaurants for free or for a low fee. 

How To Calculate The Nitrogen In A Fertilizer?

You will need to know the percentage of nitrogen in the fertilizer, which is the first of the three numbers on the bag. You will need to know how much actual nitrogen you need to spread on the area you are fertilizing. Say your bag has 20 percent nitrogen, and you need to put one pound of actual nitrogen on your plants. Use the following equation to figure out how much fertilizer to buy.

Fertilizer to spread=1/percent nitrogen 

 X =1/.2 

X= 5 

You will need to apply five pounds of fertilizer to achieve one pound of actual nitrogen.  

How And When To Apply High Nitrogen Fertilizer?

How and when you apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer depends on the fertilizer and the plants you are applying it to. Here are some examples. 

Methods of Application

Many fertilizer instructions use words for the method of application that may not be familiar. Except for foliar sprays, fertilizer should never touch the plant, or the fertilizer can burn the plant. 


Use a liquid fertilizer to soak the soil around the plant. Drenching is common for houseplants and ornamental plants. 

Foliar Sprays

Foliar spraying is spraying fertilizer directly on the leaves or grass blades. It is used to quickly deliver nutrients right where they are needed. Using a foliar spray is the only time you get fertilizer on the plant. 


Broadcasting fertilizer is one of the most common ways to spread fertilizer. You fill your hand with fertilizer and toss it out all over the area you are fertilizing. Scatter the fertilizer evenly, don’t drop clumps of granules, or you can burn your plants. Be sure and wear waterproof gloves when handling fertilizer so it won’t irritate your skin. 

Use A Spreader

Most granular lawn fertilizers are spread using a spreader. There are push spreaders that you walk behind and crank spreaders you hold in your hand. When using a spreader, walk back and forth on the lawn from north to south, then walk back and forth on the lawn from east to west. This makes sure the whole lawn is treated. Missed spots will be obvious because they will be light spots in a sea of green. 

Side Dressing

Side dressing with fertilizer is often used when fertilizing existing plants with granular fertilizer. Spread the fertilizer beside and about six inches away from the plant or row of plants, in a band one to two inches wide. 

 Band Application

Band applications are used when fertilizing trees. Spread the fertilizer in a wide band of three to four inches along the dripline of the tree. You end up with a band of fertilizer circling the tree. Do not touch the trunk with the fertilizer.  

Drill Hill Application

Big trees may require so much fertilizer that if you put it on the surface of the soil, it will kill grass and any smaller plants. Instead,  

  1. Divide the fertilizer into equal parts. 
  2. Dig holes three to four inches deep that are equally spaced around the drip line. 
  3. Put the fertilizer into the holes. 
  4. Cover the holes up. 
  5. Water the area along the drip line well. 

How To Use High Nitrogen Fertilizer By Plant Type?

The way you use high-nitrogen fertilizer will vary by the type of plant you are fertilizing and by the individual fertilizer you purchase. 


Houseplants often require 3-1-2 type fertilizers, which are high in nitrogen but not very high relative to the fertilizer lawns need. Very strong nitrogen, such as 28-0-0, can burn most houseplants, especially sensitive plants like African violets. Fertilizer spikes for houseplants are a high nitrogen alternative because most of the nitrogen is slow release.

Read my article if you are looking to fertilize your houseplants.

Annual Flowers

Annual flowers require fertilizer that is higher in phosphorus than nitrogen to trigger the plant’s blooming. I would suggest a 5-10-10 instead. High nitrogen fertilizer can trigger too much foliage at the expense of flowers. 

Existing Ornamental Plants

If you have a soil high in phosphorus and potassium, using blood meal as a fertilizer for your ornamental plants is a good option. Use one pound of blood meal per 100 square feet of bed and broadcast it throughout the area. 

Bulbs and Tubers

I would not use a high nitrogen fertilizer on bulbs and tubers because they will grow too much foliage and not bloom. I would use a 5-10-10 instead. 

Vegetable Gardens

High nitrogen fertilizer is good for leafy greens and for vines during the growing stage, before they start to bloom. After the vegetables are supposed to bloom, and set fruit, a fertilizer low in nitrogen is more appropriate. In addition, if your soils are high in phosphorus and potassium, high-nitrogen fertilizers may be appropriate instead of a more balanced fertilizer. You have to take care that you do not use too much nitrogen, or you will get lots of foliage and not very many blooms and vegetables. I would use blood meal at a rate of one pound per 100 square feet.

Check out my article on how to fertilize vegetable gardens in detail.


Non-flowering trees can benefit from a high-nitrogen fertilizer. Flowering trees are usually given a fertilizer with more phosphorus to trigger the blooms. Blood meal can be used at a rate of one pound of blood meal per 100 square feet of dripline. 


Lawns are frequently fertilized with a high nitrogen fertilizer, especially if you live in a state that bans using phosphorus on grass. Lawns are not usually fertilized with more than one pound of actual nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

Read this article for lawn fertilizers.

Problems From Over Applying Nitrogen Fertilizer

Too much of a good thing can damage your plants. 

Symptoms of Overfertilization

If you fertilize and the next day or two, you notice brown edges on the leaf blades, you have probably put out too much nitrogen. Excess fertilizer can burn the roots, making the plant wilt because it cannot take up enough water. A brownish or white crust on the surface of the soil means the salts from the fertilizer have accumulated and are blocking water absorption. 

How Do I Reverse Overfertilization?

For a crust of fertilizer salts, most common in houseplants put the plant in the sink and flush the salts away with water. I do this with my houseplants every three months just to make sure they do not have problems with fertilizer salts. 

If you fertilize a plant and it wilts soon after, or the edges brown, water the plants about three times what you would normally water to leach out the fertilizer. This does not always work, but it is your only option for inground or raised bed plants. 

Why Too Much Nitrogen Fertilizer Is A Problem?

Too much nitrogen fertilizer can be as bad as not enough. It burns the plant, which can kill it. Some excess nitrogen will cause the foliage and tender tips to grow a great deal, which attracts pests. It also keeps the plant from blooming and producing vegetables and fruit.

In addition, excess nitrogen washes into storm drains and into creeks, rivers, ponds, lakes, and the ocean. This causes algae to grow so much that it uses all the oxygen in the water and blocks the sun. Other plants and aquatic creatures, including fish, die from both. 

Mistakes to Avoid

Here are some common mistakes to avoid when dealing with fertilizer. 

  • Never apply granular fertilizer to wet leaves or a wet lawn. The fertilizer will burn the leaves severely. 
  • Always water in granular fertilizer soon after applying it.   
  • Weed and feed products often break all these rules. They want to be applied to a wet lawn and not watered for twenty-four hours after application.  
  • Urea is also an exception. Put on a wet lawn and water again after spreading. 
  • Use gloves that are waterproof when handling any fertilizer to avoid burns or skin irritation. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the fastest way to add nitrogen to the soil?

The fastest way to add nitrogen to the soil is to apply a high-nitrogen fertilizer in a fast-release form. 

How do I add nitrogen to the soil without using fertilizer?

Plant legumes, such as beans, peas, or clover, and let them grow. After they have grown for a season, plow them into the soil. Legumes fix nitrogen from the air and will add it to the soil. 

Will nitrogen fertilizer kill weeds?

No, nitrogen fertilizer will not kill weeds when used properly. 

Will nitrogen fertilizer kill clover?

Nitrogen fertilizer is not needed by clover, as it fixes nitrogen from the air. Since too much nitrogen will kill a plant, fertilizing clover with nitrogen can kill it, depending on how much you add. 

In conclusion, high-nitrogen fertilizers are excellent for lawns. They are not as good for other plants. My pick for the best liquid high nitrogen fertilizer is Simple Lawn Solutions Maximum Green & Growth Fertilizer High Nitrogen 28-0-0 Liquid Lawn Food Spray Spring & Summer. It greens grass up quickly. Dr. Earth High Nitrogen All Purpose Fertilizer 5-0-2 is my pick for the best organic high-nitrogen fertilizer. It is easy to use and very versatile. My pick for the best high-nitrogen fertilizer for lawns is Scotts Turf Builder Lawn Food. It is suitable for all grass types. Cz Garden Urea Fertilizer 46-0-0 is my pick for the best urea high-nitrogen fertilizer. It is very powerful, so be careful not to burn your plants with it. My pick for the best high-nitrogen fertilizer overall is Espoma Organic Blood Meal Fertilizer 12-0-0. It has the highest nitrogen level of any organic fertilizer.

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Stephanie Suesan Smith

Stephanie Suesan Smith has a Ph.D. in psychology that she mainly uses to train her dog. She has been a freelance writer since 1991. She has been writing for the web since 2010. Dr. Smith has been a master gardener since 2001 and writes extensively on gardening. She has advanced training in vegetables and entomology but learned to garden from her father. You can see her writing samples at, and her vegetable blog at

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