Information About Chemical Fertilizers


Chemical fertilizers derive from inorganic or non-living sources, according to the University of Oregon's Extension Service Garden Hints. Chemical fertilizers are referred to as commercial fertilizers because they undergo some form of manufacturing, such as ammonium phosphate.


Grass requires 16 macronutrients and micronutrients to sustain growth. Soil supplies these nutrients, but not enough to promote proper growth. Fertilizer supplements one or more of these essential nutrients with materials, usually nitrogen for color and potassium for root strength and phosphorus for disease resistance.


The commercial fertilizer industry began with the development of superphosphate in 1843. The English agronomist, Sir John Lawes patented a method for treating phosphate rock with sulfuric acid to produce fertilizer.


The University of Arkansas' Cooperative Extension Service says chemical fertilizers fall into two categories: quick release or soluble nitrogen and slow release or insoluble nitrogen.


Chemical fertilizers display a three number N-P-K analysis on the packaging. The numbers reflect the percentages of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the product.

Time Frame

Chemical fertilizers work more effectively on grass that is still actively growing, but correctly timed applications make all the difference. Cool season grasses like tall fescue respond better to fall applications while warm-season grasses like Bermuda grass benefit from spring applications.


Some chemical fertilizers may contain caustic materials that pose inhalation and burn hazards. Wear gloves and a face mask when you handle fertilizers.


  • University of Oregon Extension: Extension Service Garden Hints
  • The University of Arizona: Arizona Master Gardener Manual
  • Economic Research Service: Growing A Nation

Who Can Help

  • University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension: Fertilizing Your Lawn
  • Maryland Cooperative Extension: Soil Amendments and Fertilizers
Keywords: chemical fertilizers, nitrogen, phosphate

About this Author

Renee Vians has been writing online since 2008. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism and language arts certification from the University of Nebraska-Kearney. Her articles have appeared on eHow, Garden Guides and a variety of other websites.