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Liquid vs. Granular Lawn Fertilizer


Choosing the right fertilizer for your lawn care routine depends on your environment, your lawn goals, and the dedication you have to upkeep for your lawn. One of the crucial choices you must make in your lawn care regimen is the type of fertilizer to use. Before you can look at the needs of your lawn to choose a formula, you first have to decide whether to use liquid lawn fertilizer or granular fertilizer. There are quite a few factors that come into play when deciding between liquid and granular, but here at Simple Lawn Solutions, we’ll break it down to make the decision easy for you, and your lawn care regimen!


What Is Liquid Lawn Fertilizer?

Liquid lawn fertilizer is a liquid concentrate of nutrients for your lawn. This concentration is added to water to create a nourishing solution of food for your plants and grass. It is a fast-absorbing way to fertilize your lawn and plants.


What Is Granular Lawn Fertilizer?

Granular lawn fertilizer is fertilizer known as dry pellets or solid fertilizer. As a solid, this fertilizer is scattered onto your lawn. This is the slow-release fertilizer to feed your lawn and plants.

 Sprinkler system watering green grass

Is There a Difference in Lawn Nutrients?

In terms of lawn care, plants need three basic nutrients for growth, root development, enhancing green, and strengthening. Those nutrients are nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Both liquid lawn fertilizer and granular fertilizer contain these three main nutrients, and plants can’t tell the difference.


What Do These Nutrients Do?

The benefits of these nutrients start at the cellular level. All three work together to create and strengthen the membranes of cells. They also produce amino acids which are used as building blocks for growth. Additionally, they stimulate the production of ions that allow plants to metabolize the nutrients and water they gain from the soil. Strangely, without fertilizer, these nutrients can only be found when surrounding plants die! The best way to provide your plants with these necessary nutrients is through your fertilizer.


Nutrient Comparison

While the basic nutrients in liquid lawn fertilizer are the same compared to granular fertilizer, there is one specific feature that makes the way they deliver nutrients different. Liquid lawn fertilizer delivers a quick-release of nutrients, while granular fertilizer has a slow-release of food for your plants. These features work differently for different types of lawns, so let’s compare the two.


Spatial Difference: Fast-Absorption vs. Slow-Release

When comparing liquid lawn fertilizer to granular fertilizer, we can look at the spatial difference. By “spatial,” we mean the distance from the fertilizer nutrients to the plant roots in order for absorption to take place. One of the nutrients plants need most —phosphorous — is not a very mobile nutrient. That means this nutrient has a hard time moving from where the fertilizer was applied to the root of the plants. In granular fertilizer, phosphorous does not stand much of a chance in improving this mobility, as it is in solid, slow-release form. However, in liquid form, phosphorous, along with the other nutrients, are given a more mobile solution that easily moves through the soil. Spatially, liquid lawn provides a better option for your plants, with nutrients that can move easily to their roots for absorption!


Fertilizer Salt Content

Granular fertilizer is meant to be a slow-release fertilizer, which means it contains high concentrations, since the nutrients need to last longer. This high concentration also means granular fertilizer has a much higher salt content compared to liquid lawn fertilizer. That might not seem like a big deal, but it is to your plant’s roots. High salt content makes a granular fertilizer “hot,” which means the roots purposefully steer away from granular fertilizer! If granular is being used as a starter fertilizer, your young plants might not take to it, leaving them undernourished. If salt content is a worry for your lawn care regimen, then liquid fertilizer is the type to use.


Consistency of Fertilizers

While the type of nutrients and amount of each are the same in liquid lawn fertilizer compared to granular, the distribution within the fertilizers may be different. In liquid lawn fertilizer, each ounce and drop of fertilizer contains identical nutrient percentages to the rest of the bottle. In granular fertilizer, each dry pellet may contain a different variation. This means when spreading your fertilizer, you know there is an even distribution of nutrients in liquid form, but in granular, you may have patches of high concentration dry pellets in one area, and undernourished in other areas.


Granular Fertilizer Application

In that same mindset, the consistency matters beyond the bottle of liquid fertilizer or packaged granular fertilizer. Applying fertilizer to your lawn needs to be as consistent as possible, especially if you want a lawn full of even, green grass. With granular fertilizer, you have to hand-spread the pellets, meaning you have to measure an even application with your eye. Even if you use a measuring cup or consistently measuring my handful, human error comes into play and you might be leaving a heavier number of granules in one patch of your yard compared to another. This creates a domino effect when it comes to the rest of your lawn care regimen. If one patch of grass is overgrowing, you might be over-mowing your lawn to make it look even. Mowing too often can leave your lawn susceptible to weeds such as crabgrass. Also, if you are over-nourishing in some areas, you are most likely under-nourishing in others, which can lead to patches of thin or browning grass that take away from that even lawn you work hard to create!


Liquid Lawn Fertilizer Application

Liquid lawn application is as simple as watering your lawn. With hose in hand, you just spray evenly to apply the fertilizer to your lawn. If you know how to water a lawn without creating puddles, then you can apply liquid lawn fertilizer evenly. An even application of fertilizer will create that even, green, lush lawn you’ve been working towards without the risk of overgrown or undergrown patches. Having a lawn that grows evenly means the rest of your lawn care regimen stays intact, such as mowing and watering. Having an even lawn without any weak patches can also protect your lawn from unwanted guests, like invasive weeds.

Green leaves with dew on them 

Which Is Better as a Starter Fertilizer?

As we mentioned earlier when discussing the high salt content of granular fertilizer, some major factors need to be considered when choosing a starter fertilizer. By “starter fertilizer,” we mean a fertilizer that is applied for new grass or plants. That could mean anything from fertilizing grass seeds and plant seeds to fertilizing new sod. Liquid fertilizer is the preferred method for starter fertilizer, because your new roots won’t strategically avoid the fertilizer and nutrients. Liquid fertilizer is the best way to stimulate your new roots to flourish on your lawn.


Which Is Better for In-Season Fertilization?

In-season varies based on the type of grass you have on your lawn. For example, cool-season grass needs to be fertilized twice in the fall, and once in spring. Warm-season grass needs to be fertilized twice in the spring, and once in the summer. Granular fertilizer is slow-release and takes a while to break down. That makes it a great choice to use if there are long periods of time between fertilizing. However, unless you are willing to chart out and follow the calendar to time your fertilizing correctly, you could accidentally fertilize before your previous round of granular fertilizer breaks down. Over-fertilizing may not seem problematic, but it can have serious consequences for your plants.


Dangers of Over-Fertilizing your Lawn

Using granular fertilizer for in-season fertilization, coupled with the fact that dry pellets have different concentrations, increases your risk of over-fertilizing your lawn. If your soil has too much fertilizer, it makes it difficult for your plants to soak up water. That water ends up just sitting there, building up, which causes pressure on the plant roots, so the flow of water actually reverses! Here are some signs of an over-fertilized plant:

  •       Yellow leaves
  •       Wilting leaves
  •       Browning tips
  •       Rotting roots that are black or brown
  •       Slow or dormant growth
  •       Drooping leaves
  •       Crusty surface on your soil created by fertilizer


Liquid Fertilizer for In-Season

Liquid’s fast-absorbing formula allows for plants to quickly soak up the nutrients. This makes it a perfect option for in-season fertilizing, because the risk is lower for accidentally over-fertilizing. This is especially important for lawns that need fertilizing twice in one season, whether its spring or fall. Liquid fertilizer can also be customized to the season, such as spring & summer, or summer & fall.


Slow Release vs. Quick Release Fertilizer

We’ve discussed the benefits and consequences of granular fertilizer’s slow release formula. While liquid lawn fertilizer gives quick-release nutrients, you might be wondering how the nutrients will last between long periods of time without fertilizing. For example, in cool-season grass, there is no fertilizing between November and early spring. How can your plants stay nourished through the winter so they don’t completely die out? Well, certain formulas, like our 28-0-0 Liquid Lawn Food, has 70% quick release, and 30% slow release to keep your lawn fed between applications of fertilizer. You are able to adapt to your lawn’s needs and the application round you are focused on in the process.


Options to Customize

Each lawn is different: the environment, the amount of sun, the type of grass growing. All of these factors matter when creating your lawn care regimen. That makes customizing your fertilizer an important part of the process. So, which one is better, liquid or granular? Granular is usually the choice for customizing. It’s a more hands-on process, so mostly farmers choose granular to customize. Instead of choosing each dry pellet, you can customize your fertilizer in a simpler way – by switching out bottles of liquid lawn fertilizer that meet your goals. Whether you want to focus on green growth, strengthening your lawn, or root development, we have a formula for each. We also have formulas that perfectly balance all three, like our 16-8-8 Liquid Lawn Food, or lean towards one nutrient while still delivering the benefits of all three, like our 3-18-18 Liquid Lawn Food.


Which Fertilizer Is Easier to Use?

If you take pride in your lawn, but don’t want it to become a full-time job, you might be looking for the easiest way to deliver nutrients to your grass. With granular fertilizer, you have to measure and hand apply the fertilizer to make sure it is evenly distributed around your lawn and soil. Liquid lawn fertilizer makes it easier. All you have to do is hook up your hose and spray your lawn. No bending down, constant scooping granules, or cleanup required. That’s right – with granular fertilizer, you have to remember to sweep up your sidewalks and walkways for any stray fertilizer. With liquid lawn fertilizer, just attach, spray, then detach to store!


The Most Efficient Fertilizer Option

After weighing all the benefits and consequences of granular and liquid fertilizer, it seems the most efficient way to fertilize in your lawn care routine is liquid. Here are all of the benefits of using a liquid lawn fertilizer:

  •       Easy application
  •       Even application
  •       Effective as a starter
  •       Effective in-season
  •       Easy to customize
  •       Fast-absorbing nutrients
  •       Enhanced mobility of nutrients through soil
  •       Lower risk of over-fertilizing
  •       Easy cleanup


In the end, only you can choose the right fertilizer for you and your lawn. Don’t forget that at Simple Lawn Solutions, we use high-quality feed grade ingredients! We can help get you with your new, efficient lawn care routine today, so get started right now!

5 Responses


July 23, 2021

Thanks for sharing blog post, it helps a lot!

Simple Lawn Solutions
Simple Lawn Solutions

April 20, 2021

Hello Robert,
Thank you for your comment. For a starter fertilizer, we recommend our Growth Booster

Robert Michael
Robert Michael

April 20, 2021

I applied Scott’s liquid lawn food on February 27th 29-0-3. I just got done seeding my 3,200 sq ft lawn on March 13 th. What would you recommend for a liquid starter fertilizer and when should I apply?

Simple Lawn Solutions
Simple Lawn Solutions

December 15, 2020

Hello George, thank you for your comment. Our 15-0-15 is a great choice for feeding your grass in prep for the winter. As for weed products, we cannot make any specific recommendations, but if you head to domyown.com they have a great selection of weed and pest control solutions. Please reach out by email if you have any other questions! : )

George Schirripa
George Schirripa

December 15, 2020

Hello, I have a 15 gallon tow behind sprayer. Can you recommend a liquid/concentrated winter fertilizer and a spring weed and feed especially for crabgrass (pre-emergent). Thank you.

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