Liquid Lawn Fertilizer vs Granular: Which Choice is Best For Your Lawn?
If you have a lawn you’ve probably fertilized it at some point and have been faced with the question of lawn fertilizer spray or granular choices. Most of us typically choose one based on affordability and availability at a local store, but there really is quite a bit of information you should be aware of prior to making this choice.
Below I’ve outlined a quick overview of each, why you may want to consider one over the other, and what to expect concerning its use. Even if you’ve picked a fertilizer to use already, knowing specifically why it works the way it does can be helpful for application purposes, or if you ever run into a problem with your lawn concerning its use.
- Uniform application
- Seasonal application variances available
- Can blend with other liquid products
- Easy to apply
- May separate, or settle out when stored
- Set up or application processes may be expensive
- More of short lived availability
- Cheap in bulk
- Easy to store for long periods of time
- Can provide slow release
- Efficient for pre-planting
- May be ‘hot’ and can burn plants
- Certain nutrients may not make contact with the roots
- Harder to apply evenly
Liquid fertilizers have become very popular in recent years, making most people wonder what the differences between liquid lawn fertilizer vs granular really is. The differences are rather transparent, as you’ll see below.
Application techniques of liquid fertilizers are simple, although require a very specific setup, and results are almost always seen in a very short amount of time. Although this process definitely has its benefits, it does come with a few considerations you should take into account.
Liquid application can be applied in various ways to provide instant nutrients to your lawn. It is an efficient way to quickly correct recognized nutrient deficiencies, and is more readily available to your plant as the liquid nutrients reach plant root systems more easily, and can also be taken up by the plant through foliar application, as explained below.
Liquid fertilizers are also able to provide a consistent application of nutrients as the components are suspended within the viscous form, which is then applied in an even manner. This means that all parts of your lawn receives the same amount of fertilizer.
Liquid recipes are also more easy to personalize for lawn feeding. This is especially helpful for commercial businesses as one lawn may be very different in its needs from another. Plus these nutrients are immediately available for plant uptake, meaning that problems are treated instantly upon application, and results will be seen within days.
Liquid fertilizer can be applied in two different ways: as a ground application or foliar application. Almost all liquid solutions are concentrated, so before application you will need to make sure that they are properly diluted or you run the risk of burning your plants, or not getting them what they need. A good overview of what this looks like for widespread application, and the problem solving that goes into it can be viewed here:
This is a simple technique, and when it comes to lawns, if you fertilize before the grass begins to grow technically you are ground applying the nutrients as the leaves are not yet able to take up the nutrients as a foliar application. Ground applications concerning liquids needs to be timed correctly as they are a quick release fertilizer that doesn’t linger long in the soils.
Grass roots do stay alive through the winter if your lawn has been properly maintained, so your goal is to feed your new growth and provide the nutrient support needed in the early spring right before, or as your grass is just beginning to grow.
Fall or winter applications are somewhat wasted as no active growing is taking place and so the nutrients are unable to be used by the plant for vegetative growth.
The biggest benefit of liquid fertilizers is how readily available the nutrients are. Not only can the roots uptake the fertilizer with very little nutrient waste, but the leaves of your lawn can also take in the nutrients. Once your lawn begins to grow this is exactly what is occurring; results are seen very quickly because of this and problems areas usually resolve themselves within a few days.
This may sound like an easy, and hassle free way to feed your lawn, however there are a few considerations you’ll want to take into account before taking this route. To start, if you hire a company to apply a customized liquid fertilizer blend, be aware that they aren’t necessarily making the blend specifically for your lawn as this would be too expensive and you may not be getting your exact choice.
Liquid versions are a very quick release solution, meaning you will need to apply feed more often for desired results. The cost of this can add up quickly over time, and the amount of work required for consistent application through the growing season may cut into your other yard maintenance plans.
Liquid application equipment can also be expensive. Spray uniformity is an important part of the process, and this requires the proper tools to do so. Quick application feeders that you hook up to your garden hose may be affordable, but then you are also at the mercy of nutrient blends that are not specific to your lawn needs. If your liquid has not been properly mixed (especially after storage which can cause it to separate out), you can cause significant damage to your vegetation and/or root systems by over fertilizing.
Granular fertilizers have been a tried and true way to feed your lawn for decades. The recent expansion of liquid feeding techniques has somewhat undermined how granular feeding works, but it definitely has some serious perks worth paying attention to.
Granular applications have a plethora of benefits surrounding its use. To start, it is very cost effective as even high end spreaders are very affordable and usually last the life of your lawn. Plus one application of fertilizer for the average sized lawn is typically priced under $20. You also won’t need to apply this choice as often as you have slow release options that can feed your lawn for longer periods of time.
The granular route is also popular in areas that receive a lot of sun, or in hot climates. Liquid fertilizers need to applied carefully in these conditions, usually in evening, to avoid burning foliage, but granular feeds do not collect on grass blades and therefore can be spread at anytime or the day or year.
Granular feeds, due to their slow release choices, are also good for feeding lawns prior to spring growth, at the end of the growing season, and even mid-winter depending on the type of grass you have planted.
Like liquid choices, granular fertilizers also have various application processes. The granular substances have differing nutrient percentages, making application techniques important in order to get your lawn what it needs. Granular feeds require a fertilizer spreader to help with even, and consistent application. This technique is described here:
Slow or Controlled Release
Granular fertilizers are popular due to this option. These feeds come with a blend of nutrients coated with a substance that breaks down over time, releasing nutrients into the soils. There is some argument over the use of slow and controlled, with slow release often relinquishing nutrients at a less than predictable rate than controlled, but what both do is provide a longer term steady feed for your lawn.
These types of feeds allow you to feed your lawns at various times of the year to provide nutrients when, and if, they are needed. This is especially helpful for midwinter feedings in hot climates where lawns may not have gone completely dormant through the colder weather, but are still using up existing ground nutrients for slow vegetative growth.
Quick release granular applications aren’t as quick as liquid feeds, but they aren’t coated like slow release choices are, and with a little bit of moisture quickly absorb into the soils to feed your lawn. Some of the best application tips include watering your lawn lightly before application, spreading, and then watering your lawn lightly again to help the process along.
Obviously the biggest issue with granular applications is that you cannot quickly feed your lawn like you can with a liquid feed. If you have any problem spots that need immediate attention your best choice may not be granular, however in time you will get the same results.
Some granular choices may burn your foliage if not quickly watered into the lawn. This is important to consider during application to choose the best types for your lawn needs, and to be sure to fully read application instructions to avoid damaging your lawn.
Many granular feeds linger upon the tops of your soils as well, and some may not be as environmentally friendly as you would want. If you live on a sloping area these could wash down into rivers and streams in a heavy rain, or could be picked up on the bottom of your shoes or pet’s feet. Depending on the nutrient this could be harmful to skin as well. It is important to mention that there are many eco- friendly, and pet/child friendly choices on the market to consider if this is a concern.
There is no reason that you cannot find a balance between using both liquid and granular fertilizers at varying times of the years to properly maintain and get your lawns what they need. For example, the quick feed of a liquid choice may be exactly what your lawn needs as it starts to take off in the spring, but for maintenance purposes you may choose a slower release granular after growth has begun to slow down for the year.
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