A Challenge

As I was looking over the label on a bag of fertilizer this morning I was reminded of the time, a few years ago, when a friend of mine and I went to a local K-mart and decided to see what the people in the gardening section knew.  We started small—we went over to a bag of fertilizer and my friend asked what the three numbers on the bag meant.  Now, as most gardeners know, those numbers indicate the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in the fertilizer.  Unfortunately the guy we asked told us that those numbers were actually a computer code…We never did find out exactly what this computer code was for.  I have no idea why the guy couldn’t just say “I don’t know”.  We had intended to ask more questions, but both of us were too stupefied to continue.

So I have a challenge for all of you this weekend—I’m curious to see who takes it up—go to a box store, or a garden center—your choice—and ask them what the three numbers on the bag of fertilizer are for.  You can list responses in the comments section below—or feel free to e-mail me directly at gillm003@umn.edu if the answers are too embarrassing!

7 thoughts on “A Challenge”

  1. My Spanish is not good enough to ask the person at K-Mart what the numbers on the bag of fertilizer mean.

    Have you studied enough inorganic chemistry to know what the numbers on the bag might mean? The phosphorus is probably a good semester in and of itself.

  2. Awesome task. Especially since phosphorus is banned in lawn fertilizer in Wisconsin (except for new lawns). Should post the responses on the store’s webpage or facebook page.

  3. Feeling entirely evil I did as you asked at the local semi-box chain Orchard Supply Hardware. The employee working in that section told me the numbers were how many days it takes to work and how long it lasts. However another employee overheard and corrected, though wasn’t sure what the numbers were in relations too, other than “strength”. Sigh!

  4. Sorry Jeff, I didn’t have the guts to go through with it with the kid at the Home Depot on Saturday a.m.
    But on a different subject, I do want to tell you that I dug up peanuts at Cane Creek Organic Farm in Cumming (GA) recently. Yep. Ate a few right out of the ground. And then I drove down Ga. 20 and stopped and got a bag of boiled peanuts. Just wanted to see if you are jealous.

  5. As a Garden Geek who works at an independent garden center, I’d say that just to be fair you should ask a number of employees. Yes, if you approach “the kid” you’re likely to hear something funny or just plain wrong. There used to be a Master Gardener who would routinely come into our garden center, pick the most inexperienced looking employee and then proceed to ask him/her questions. He’d be sure to then start talking about how the people working at the garden center didn’t know what they were talking about.

    I’d venture to guess that most garden centers have several knowledgeable employees who work to give accurate information. Yes, there are the uninformed “help” as well, and box stores probably have more of these. Another reason to shop at your local IOGC. 620

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