Liquid vs Granular Fertilizer for Lawns – Which is Better?

It’s that time of the year that you want to give your lawn a nutritional boost and you’re not sure whether to use liquid or granular fertilizer. So, between liquid and granular fertilizer, which is best for your lawn?

Both liquid and granular fertilizers contain same primary nutrients required by your lawn i.e. Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium. However, one might be more desirable than the other depending on lawn’s health, application convenience, fertilizing frequency, cost and storage.

Liquid vs Granular Fertilizer Differences

Liquid fertilizer is a concentrate of nutrients in a liquid or water-soluble form. It is a quick-release solutions absorbed by the plants almost immediately after application. It is ideal for a new or struggling lawn. On the other hand, granular fertilizer is in a form of dry pellets. It is a slow-release fertilizer suitable for an already established lawn.

The following are key differences between liquid and granular fertilizer:

Liquid FertilizerGranular Fertilizer
Provides instant results thus suitable for a lawn that is strugglingGives long term results throughout the growing season
Easy to apply – you simply mix it with water and spray the grass or plantsIt takes time to apply – you have to use a spreader
Have lower salt content thus not easy to burn the grassHas higher salt contents which easily burn the grass especially when applied in excess
Doesn’t last long both in storage and in the soilLast longer both in storage and in soil without going bad
Liquid fertilizers are expensiveGranular fertilizers are pocket friendly

Ease of absorption

Liquid fertilizer is a quick-release fertilizer that is readily available to the plants after application. On the other hand, granular fertilizer is a slow-release formula that is absorbed slowly by the plants throughout the season.

Application Convenience

Liquid fertilizer does not require any special tool when fertilizing your lawn. You simply mix it with water and spray it on the grass with a hose.  With granular fertilizer, it requires spreader to fertilize your lawn. It also consume a lot of time to refill the spreaders with fertilizer granules.

Salt Content

Granular fertilizers have higher salt content as compared to liquid fertilizers. They can easily burn the lawn especially when applied excessively in dry weather. If you want a low salt content fertilizer, then liquid fertilizers are the best.

Application Frequency

Liquid fertilizers are quick-release, they don’t last long. They require frequent application to keep the lawn green and healthy. On the other hand, granular fertilizers are slow-release. They release nutrient into the soil gradually as required by the plant. Therefore, granular fertilizer is the better choice if you want to fertilize your lawn once throughout the season.

Storage Convenience

Liquid fertilizers have an expiry date, they have a shelf life of 4 to 10 years. It degrades easily once opened. Liquid fertilizers are also prone to freezing especially when the weather is too cold. It may also separate leaving the inactive liquid on the top and a concentration of nutrients at the bottom.

Under or over concentration can be detrimental to your lawn. On the other hand, granular fertilizers can stay infinitely without going bad.

The Cost

If you are on a budget, granular fertilizers might be the best choice. They are cheaper as compared to their liquid fertilizers. You may end up spending more at the end of the year when using liquid fertilizer to keep your lawn green and healthy.

Liquid Fertilizer Positives and Negatives

Liquid fertilizer is available in different brand names. However, all of them have the same positives and negatives.

Liquid Fertilizer Positives

  • Provides nutrients to the grass immediately after application.
  • It mixes with other products easily. For instance, you can mix it with a pesticides or selective herbicides and use in a single application.
  • It is easy to track the area you have fertilized. You can easily mix liquid fertilizer with pattern indicator dye to temporarily color the grass during application.
  • There is no special tools required when fertilizing your lawn.
  • It shows results within a short period of time. 

Liquid Fertilizer Negatives

  • Doesn’t last long in the soil.
  • Liquid fertilizers are usually more expensive as compared to granular fertilizers.
  • Liquid fertilizers have a shorter shelf-life as compared to granular fertilizer.
  • Liquid fertilizers can also trigger growth surge when applied to an established lawn

Granular Fertilizer Positives and Negatives

Like liquid fertilizers, granular fertilizers come in different sizes, colors, shapes and mixtures. However, they all have one thing in common, they are dry crystals with same nutrients.

Granular Fertilizer Positives

  • It’s cheap to buy in bulk.
  • Slow-release granular fertilizers last longer in the soil as compared to quick-release liquid products.
  • Granular fertilizers have a longer shelf-life as compared to their liquid counterparts.
  • The results are long term.

Granular Fertilizer Negatives

  • Granular fertilizers requires special tools to apply than liquid fertilizers.
  • Slow-release granular fertilizers may not deliver nutrients fast enough to a struggling lawn that requires immediate nutrient boost.
  • It is difficult to spread fertilizer evenly in your lawn.
  • Contain high amount of salts that can burn the lawn.

How to Apply Liquid Fertilizer

Fertilizing your lawn with a liquid fertilizer is not physically intensive as compared to when applying granular fertilizer. There is no spreaders to push or hoppers to keep on refilling with fertilizer. Applying liquid fertilizer only requires a hose and a running source of water. Attach the spray bottle to the hose and you are good to go.

Mix the liquid fertilizer with a pattern indicator dye so that you can know where you have fertilized and where you haven’t. It also helps to prevent over or under fertilizing certain areas in your lawn. The dye is usually temporal, it fades away some hours after application.

Fertilize your lawn when the weather is calm, high wind can impact on the effectiveness of the fertilizer. Since it’s coming out of a spray, it can easily be blown away into an area that you have already fertilized. You don’t want to risk burning your lawn due to over-fertilization.

How to Apply Granular Fertilizer

Depending on the size of your lawn, there are three tools you can use to apply granular fertilizer. They include: Rotary spreader, drop spreader and hand-held spreader.

Rotary Spreader

Rotary spreader is also known as broadcast spreader. This is a push powered tool that is similar to a trolley or a wheelbarrow. It contains a hopper to carry the fertilizer and small tiny holes at the bottom to discharge it systematically.

It contain a lever on the handle to regulate the flow of fertilizer granules. When the holes are open, fertilizer granules flow out to strike a rotating plate which helps to disburse the granules for at least 3 feet away from the spreader.

Rotary spreader is ideal when applying granular fertilizer to a large yards of lawn that are greater than 2000 square feet. It also promotes even distribution of the fertilizer when calibrated correctly.

Drop Spreader

This is also a push-powered tool, it contains a rectangular hopper with evenly spaced tiny holes at the bottom. Unlike to a rotary spreader that has a spinning plate to distribute the fertilizer granules, a drop spreader drops the granules between its wheels as it move.

It contains a lever on the handle that is used to open or close the tiny holes at the base of the hopper. You can also calibrate it to drop the desired rate of fertilizer. A drop spreader is ideal for fertilizing medium lawn yards that are less than 2000 square feet.

Hand-held Spreader

Hand-held spreader is a small tool equipped with a handle and hopper to hold the fertilizer granules, tiny holes at the base and a lever to regulate the flow. A hand held-spreader is gently shaken with hand to release fertilizer granules. This tool is ideal for fertilizing small areas of lawn.

Regardless of a tool you are using, there are step-by-step guidelines to use that ensures there is correct and even distribution of the fertilizer.

  • Calibrate the spreaders to distribute the recommended fertilizer ratio. It helps to promote even distribution of the fertilizer.
  • Refill the hoppers while standing on the driveway. Accidental spillage can burn your lawn.
  • Start fertilizing your lawn in one corner and push your spreader in a consistence speed along the perimeter. When using a rotary spreader, be sure to leave a distance of at least 3 feet from the perimeter so that the granule will just fall at the edge.
  • When you reach the other end of the perimeter, switch the lever to close the dropping holes. Turn your spreader, open the holes and start moving forward again. When using a rotary spreader, ensure to leave some space between the two rows of application.
  • Continue to apply the fertilizer in straight lines until the whole yard is done. Be sure the lines are parallel to your last pass.
  • If you have covered the whole yard but still having some fertilizer, you can make a second application in a crisscross pattern.
  • Blow any fertilizer granules that may have landed on the driveway or sidewalk back into the lawn

Which is Better Liquid or Dry Lawn Fertilizer

Both liquid and granular fertilizers contains the same nutrients to keep your lawn green and healthy. However, if you are having a new and struggling lawn, a liquid fertilizer may be a better choice to give your grass a quick boost.

And if your lawn is in good condition and you want it to remain healthy throughout the season, then granular fertilizer can be a good bet. Nonetheless, lawn grass need routine maintenance involving fertilizing, watering, mowing and controlling pests and diseases.

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