Getting your lawn the nutrients it needs can be challenging, especially when deciding which fertilizer is best. Granular and liquid fertilizers are two popular choices for lawn care, but understanding the pros and cons of each (and how they work to feed your turfgrass) can guide you towards the right choice for your lawn. Today, I’ll offer a full comparison of granular vs liquid fertilizer products, explaining the pros and cons of each lawn fertilization method. I’ll also share some tips to explain how you can use both types of product together to achieve amazing results.
Granular fertilizers are made from compact pellets that allow the nutrients to be released slowly into the soil where plants access the nutrients with their roots. Liquid fertilizers are better for quicker results as they absorb directly into the blades of grass, with some root uptake of nutrients as well. The long-term benefits of liquid fertilizer aren’t as good.
When deciding between granular and liquid fertilizers for your lawn, you should consider your lawn size and how frequently you need to apply either product.
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Benefits of Granular Fertilizer
Granular fertilizer requires fewer applications because it lasts longer in the soil. You will need to apply it less often, making your lawn care routine simpler and easier to manage. This is a key point when comparing granular vs liquid fertilizer for lawns.
The slow-release nature of granular fertilizers means that you can spread these products out over a large area and be sure that the nutrients are being released evenly.
Another advantage of granular fertilizers is that rainfall doesn’t affect these products quite as much, and you can be a bit less concerned about chemical run-off. There are plenty of options available for granular fertilizers, including both synthetic, and organic formulas.
It’s very important to choose the right type of granular fertilizer for your lawn’s nutrient deficiency, as well as the season you’re in.
If you choose the wrong type of fertilizer, you could end up damaging your lawn. For example, an overaccumulation of particular chemicals could damage your soil’s microbiome.
This is why I suggest most homeowners begin with a quality, lab-based lawn soil test kit to get an accurate understanding of where their soil is deficient, so that you can apply the right fertilizer for your lawn.
Best Overall Lawn Soil Test Kit
The Soil Test Kit I Use & Recommend
There are many options for testing your lawn’s soil, but I prefer a lab-based soil test that provides a detailed analysis of your soil’s nutrients and what’s needed for your lawn to thrive.
I use this one from MySoil every year.
And if you’re interested in taking the guesswork out of what to do next after you get your soil test results, consider Sunday’s subscription lawn-care plan. They test your soil for you and use local weather data to send you exactly what your lawn needs, when it needs it. It’s pretty fool-proof – you can Click Here for Your Instant Lawn Analysis and take 12% off your order with promo code LAWNCHICK2023.
Benefits of Liquid Fertilizers
Liquid fertilizers are growing in popularity as they act fast and provide quick results. They’re best for treating specific areas of a lawn and can help improve the appearance without needing too much time or effort.
Some of the best lawn care subscriptions include liquid fertilizer products which can be applied via hose-end sprayer. These are popular with homeowners who don’t have a lot of specialized lawn care equipment, and they can be very effective.
You can apply liquid fertilizers directly to the leaves of grass, which gives them a direct source of nutrients faster than traditional granular fertilizers.
This means that you’ll see quicker results, but it also means that you need to re-apply the liquid fertilizer more frequently than you will when you choose granular fertilizer products.
Liquid fertilizers are also great for lawns that are affected by drought, as they can provide extra moisture and hydration in addition to nutrients.
This kind of fertilizer is also a lot easier to apply than granular varieties. You can just use a hose attachment for most pre-mixed solutions, and you don’t need to aerate the soil.
Important Tip for Success
Apply liquid fertilizer at the right time of day in order to prevent the burning or wilting of your grass. I like to do it at the end of the day when things cool down. This is when your grass will be most ready to absorb nutrients from foliar feedings as well.
You should also check with your local laws regarding the use of liquid fertilizers, as some areas have restrictions on what types can be used in certain conditions.
Granular and liquid fertilizer both have their benefits for lawns. It is important to consider which type best suits your lifestyle and application preferences, as well as the needs of your lawn.
When Should You Use Granular Fertilizers?
If your lawn is in need of a long-term feeding program, granular fertilizers are probably the way to go.
They provide slow-release nutrients, which allows you to spread out your applications and get better results over a longer period of time.
Granules are also great for larger lawns as you can spread them out evenly across the entire area (which can be more challenging when applying liquid products).
You should only apply granular fertilizer on larger lawns if you have a good sprinkler system established, as this will allow for better nutrient absorption.
A lot of granular fertilizers need water to be activated, so getting even water coverage of your lawn and having proper drainage can help you get the most out of this type of lawn fertilizer.
If the soil is compacted, or the thatch layer is too thick and dense, the granules will sit above the soil and won’t be able to penetrate the ground.
These projects help ensure that your fertilizer gets down to the soil and the roots of your lawn so that your grass can utilize the nutrients you’re providing.
When Should You Use Liquid Fertilizers?
Getting a quick boost of nutrients into your lawn is a very appealing option, but it’s not always practical as liquid fertilizers need to be re-applied more frequently than granular.
Liquid fertilizers are best used for a quick boost when your lawn needs it the most, such as during droughts and heat waves or if you have brown patches that need attention fast. Unless you’re using a customized lawn care plan, like the one Sunday offers, they should not be used in large doses as this can cause damage to the soil and to the grass.
Liquid fertilizers are also better for patchy areas of the lawn as they can be applied directly to the problem area rather than having to spread them out evenly.
If you want to use liquid fertilizers for the long term, you’ll need to have a good plan in place to ensure you aren’t overapplying and causing damage to your soil and grass.
Overall, it is important to consider both types of fertilizer when deciding what is best for your lawn.
Each fertilization method has advantages and disadvantages but they can be successful by themselves, or when used in tandem when executed correctly.
I personally combine both granular and liquid fertilizers when caring for my yard, and if you’d like a game-plan to follow, grab my free cheat sheet right here for an easy-to-follow schedule for a full season of lawn care.
Equipment for Applying Granular Fertilizer
There are a few options to apply granular fertilizers to your lawn, but my recommendation is a walk behind spreader.
I don’t recommend using a hand spreader for fertilizer (as you might when seeding a small area), as you’re bringing the product close to your face and respiratory system, which isn’t recommended.
Using a quality fertilizer spreader is the most efficient way to apply granular fertilizer. You need to apply the fertilizer evenly, so you avoid over-application or under-application in different areas. I prefer a broadcast spreader to a drop spreader, because I find it’s easier (especially for beginners) to get good coverage.
The Spreader I Use & Recommend
I’ve owned and used a number of different broadcast spreaders, and if you want the best one available, I recommend The Andersons Yard Star spreader. It is American made, can hold 50 pounds of material, rolls smoothly and easily, and is the most accurate spreader I’ve ever used.
You can adjust your spreader to distribute what is recommended for your specific lawn and soil.
Granular Fertilizer Application Tips
Make sure you always read the instructions carefully before applying any fertilizer to your lawn. Most bags of fertilizer will tell you the recommended setting for the most popular fertilizer spreaders on the market.
You should also look for sunny days when applying granules, as they will work best in a dry environment rather than a damp one. You’ll also want to avoid applying granular products before a heavy rain, which could cause run-off or pooling.
I recommend applying granular products to a dry lawn, then briefly watering it in .
For the best coverage, I recommend that you measure your lawn’s square footage using my free tool. Once you know your square footage, calculate the fertilizer volume you’ll need based on the manufacturer’s recommendation. Here’s how my lawn measuring tool works:
Once you know how much product you’ll need for different sections of your yard, buy your fertilizer and half your material.
Apply half of your fertilizer traveling north-to-south across your lawn. Then apply the second half traveling east to west across your lawn.
This “cross-hatch” application technique ensures that you get excellent and even coverage across the entirety of your lawn every time.
Equipment for Applying Liquid Fertilizers
Liquid fertilizers are an amazing choice if you have a tidy lawn that needs a little extra boost of nutrients.
You can apply liquid fertilizers with a hose-end sprayer or a backpack sprayer and some of these products will come pre-mixed, which allows for less hassle when it comes time for application.
Hose-end sprayers are generally easier to use. They attach straight to your garden hose, and you just adjust the settings on the nozzle to get the right concentration.
You should always read the instructions that come with your product carefully to get the correct setting for your lawn. And even if the sprayer includes an anti-siphon device, I still recommend you use a backflow preventer like this one on Amazon between the hose and your outdoor spigot to ensure there’s no risk of contamination to your household water supply.
Do you have a larger lawn? If you want to use liquid fertilizer, you should invest in a backpack sprayer or similar application equipment.
This is because hose-end sprayers just don’t have the capacity to cover a larger area with an even concentration of fertilizer. And getting things even is very important.
Be sure to follow all safety guidelines before applying any kind of fertilizer to your lawn.
How Does The Cost Compare Between Liquid And Granular Fertilizers?
There are a few factors to think about when deciding on the more cost-effective option between liquid and granular fertilizers. Granular fertilizers are often thought of as being cheaper, but this isn’t always the case.
You don’t have to apply granular fertilizers as frequently, so it’s more cost effective for larger lawns.
Liquid fertilizers can be more expensive to use on a larger lawn. Even if each fertilization is cheaper, you’ll need to re-apply more often and use more volume overall.
The cost of granular or liquid fertilizer also depends on the quality of the product you choose. There are some very affordable options out there that will do a great job on your lawn. But the best fertilizers can be quite expensive.
Different soils and different types of grass will also benefit more (or less) from different fertilizers. So, make sure you understand your soil type so that you can make an informed decision.
Find out what nutrients your soil is lacking and how much of each nutrient it needs. This will help you narrow down the options for both liquid and granular fertilizers.
Granular fertilizers are generally cheaper and available locally (because they have a longer shelf life). But with many of these products you can expect to wait longer to see the results.
Liquid fertilizers can be expensive but offer faster results due to the quick action of the nutrients.
Application Frequency: Granular vs Liquid Fertilizer
In most climates, you need to apply granular fertilizers twice a year. Many manufacturers recommend four annual applications for best results.
For established, healthy lawns, you can typically get away with one application in the springtime and then again in either summer or fall. The timing of this second application will vary depending upon your growing zone.
You can apply liquid fertilizer more frequently. The nutrients are quickly accessible to plants, and the results are much faster.
With many kinds of liquid fertilizer you’re looking at monthly applications for the best results.
The Case for Using Both Granular and Liquid Products
Some homeowners will use both granular and liquid fertilizer products that have compatible compounds. This may give your lawn a quick boost of nutrients while providing stable nutrient release in the soil all year.
If you do this, though, ask the pros at your local lawn care center about the ingredients in each. Make sure they won’t negatively interact.
Sometimes spot treating with liquid fertilizer while using a granular everywhere can help you achieve optimal results while staying on budget.
Always remember to follow the directions and apply the product correctly for the best results. That said, don’t be afraid to experiment! Test different products on different sections of your lawn to find what will work best for your property.
There’s no rule that says you have to try a product everywhere to understand its efficacy. Use my lawn measuring tool to segment up your property (front yard, side yard, back yard), do a soil test for each area, and then dial in your fertilization. You can test different types of product and different approaches to find what works best for you.
Do this for a year, and you’ll find it easy to choose a plan for your whole lawn next year.
Granular vs Liquid Fertilizer (my final thoughts)
Liquid fertilizers are a fantastic way to give your lawn an extra boost of nutrients quickly and easily. They are usually more expensive than granular fertilizers but offer faster results due to the quick action of the nutrients.
Unlike granular products, liquid fertilizers use foliar absorption in addition to working down to the roots. This allows the nutrients to be directly absorbed into the leaf. As a result, those nutrients are instantly available for photosynthesis and other metabolic processes.
Granular fertilizer releases slowly as it is exposed to moisture in the soil. The granules have a more concentrated amount of nutrients, and they’d be harmful if released all at once. So, the granule shape helps to break down over time and release their nutrients more gradually.
This slow release allows for a longer-lasting application which can be a cost-effective option for larger lawns. The cost of granular vs liquid fertilizer also depends on the quality of the product you choose.
Aerating your soil for better penetration of granule fertilizer can be worthwhile in terms of giving you a better-looking lawn.
Liquid fertilizers are a better choice if you have the time to apply them regularly. You can outsource the mixing and plan to a subscription service like Sunday Lawn Care with great results.