There are so many products on the market that all claim to make our lawns look great.

And it can be a real challenge figuring out which is going to be the most effective.

So, let’s get back to basics.

In this feature, we’re taking a look at the merits of liquid lawn fertilizer vs granular, and which one is the right choice for you and your turf.

Because it can really make a difference, depending on a number of key factors.

Read on to find out more.

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Liquid or Granular Fertilizer for Lawns – In a Few Words

As always, I like to not beat around the bush and give you a straight answer for anyone in a bit of a rush. There are lawns that need caring for after all.

In short, when it comes to liquid fertilizer or granular for lawns, it will come down to your personal preferences, budget, and – of course – lawn needs.

In a nutshell – liquid fertilizer is easier to apply, faster acting, mixes well, and offers more accurate coverage. Granular fertilizer is much cheaper in bulk, easier to store, and generally won’t need second or third applications through the season.

Of course, it’s much more complicated than that, and if you really want to get to the bottom of the granular fertilizer vs liquid fertilizer for lawns debate, I suggest you stay tuned.

person fertilizing lawn with liquid fertilizer

Soil Testing

First thing’s first – before you start throwing anything down on your lawn, liquid, granular or otherwise, it’s a good idea to find out what it actually needs.

Not only will this help you choose the type of fertilizer it requires, but it can seriously narrow down the choice of products too.

So, pick yourself up a decent soil testing kit – which has multiple uses around the garden for keeping plants alive – and you can better understand what’s going on in the earth around your home.

Every lawn is different – and even your neighbor’s soil might vary from your own. If you know the NPK (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium) requirements of your lawn, it’s half the battle.

Understand the needs of your lawn, and then you can adjust your choice of product accordingly, without leaving so much to chance.

And while you’re at it, take a look at this article on the best lawn care tools to get you started on your quest for a beautiful lawn.

Liquid Fertilizer

Liquid fertilizer is basically a bunch of lawn-boosting nutrients together in a concentrated liquid form. Just add water to get things going.

A fine example is this Lawn Energizer product from Simple Lawn Solutions. One gallon of this stuff can cover up to 12,000 square feet, and it’s suitable for all grass types, all year round.

It’s also available in a 32 ounce hose sprayer bottle if you prefer that method of application.

Liquid Lawn is also another popular and effective example of a quality liquid fertilizer, with a balanced N-P-K content and added iron.

Pros of Liquid Fertilizer

  • Fast acting – Once applied, liquid fertilizer gets to work immediately, nourishing the grass, soil, and roots it comes into contact with. With the correct application, you can see fast results – even within a few days.
  • Foliar application – it’s absorbed through the leaves of the plant (or blades of grass) – something that granular fertilizers just aren’t capable of.
  • Easy application – Whether you’re hooking it up to a hose or using one of the many tank-spraying variants out there, liquid fertilizer is easy to apply – and – dare I say – maybe even fun.
  • A lovely spread – Additionally, liquid fertilizer can be distributed evenly, and over a much wider area. You’ll generally find that you’ll achieve more blanket coverage with liquid than you will with granules.
  • Plays well with others – Fertilizer in this form can be mixed with other liquid solutions, so you can add additional lawn care products to the application and save time and money with such efficiency.
  • Lower chance of over-fertilizing – As you’ll have more control with a liquid fertilizer, there’s less likelihood you’ll overdo it – which can be just as detrimental to your lawn as not fertilizing at all.
  • Effective starter fertilizer – A liquid fertilizer is going to be more beneficial to new roots, so if you’re overseeding or putting down new seeds, a liquid product is likely the better option of the two.

Cons of Liquid Fertilizer

  • Pricey – Liquid fertilizer isn’t as budget-friendly as granular, and depending on the size of area you want to treat, it can set you back a fair bit of coin.
  • Required more applications – You need to make sure you’re on top of things with liquid fertilizer, as it’s likely it will need more than one application through the season, unlike granular which offers a slow release over time As a result, you’ll find the effects of liquid fertilizer after one application don’t last as long as granular.
  • Can separate in storage – Compared to granular fertilizer, liquid is much more challenging to store, and it can separate and become less effective over time. If you’re going down this route, you’ll probably want to use it all before that happens.

Granular Fertilizer

As the name suggests, granular fertilizer is a solid lawn feed that comes in dry pellets, and is usually applied with a broadcast spreader.

When it comes to lawn fertilizer in general, it’s hard to overlook Scotts products, and this Turf Builder is one of their most popular and successful offerings.

granual lawn fertilizer

Suitable for any grass type, it helps thicken your existing lawn in order for it to crowd out unsightly weeds. Goodness knows I could do with that about now – my front lawn has been hit with a dandelion infestation.

I digress, the Turf Builder is kid and pet friendly, can be applied at any time of year, and lasts for up to six weeks – so you should have a nice, healthy lawn all through BBQ season.

Pros of Granular Fertilizer

  • Cost effective – The big plus point for granular lawn fertilizer is the fact that it’s much cheaper than the liquid counterpart – especially if you’re buying in bulk. For folks with big gardens – this is a big win.
  • Slow release – Although this might be a con initially, having a slow-release formula ensures your lawn is getting the nutrients it needs over time, without the need for re-application.
  • Easy storage solutions – If you are buying in bulk, you can rest assured that granular fertilizer will stay good on your shelf for long periods of time.

Cons of Granular Fertilizer

  • Distribution – Getting an even spread and the best coverage with granular fertilizer can be something of a challenge, and nowhere near as practical as a liquid option.
  • Application can be more slapdash with granules – and you may even need to clean up if it casts in unwanted areas.
  • Down to the roots – Granules need help when it comes to getting where they’re most needed, and just a casual application might not bring them into contact with the grass root system. This is where you need to learn (and practice) the benefits of lawn aeration. I’d go so far as to say granular fertilizer just won’t work unless your lawn has had a chance to breathe.
  • Random spread – Not all the nutrients will be in each individual granule, which means that there’s a more haphazard distribution of the actual compound. Some parts of your lawn will get a different experience than others.
  • Burn concern – A granular fertilizer can sometimes “burn” plant life it’s come into contact with if it’s not watered in. If the pellets are not breaking down for whatever reason, it might cause a few problems for you and your lawn.
  • Requires activation – Once applied, liquid fertilizer gets right to work, but granular needs watering to activate – so you’re going to have to get the hose out anyway, or apply just before it rains.

Application

Certainly the most obvious difference between the two lawn fertilizer options is in the way that they’re applied.

Liquid fertilizer is applied with the use of a hose attachment that allows water directly from your outdoor spigot to mix with the product.

This is easy and accessible for most homeowners who will already have some kind of hose setup ready to go. The downside is, those hose bottles can run out quickly.

Alternatively, it can be applied using one of the many tank sprayer options that are out there, including this backpack tank sprayer which is ideal for anyone with larger yards and gardens.

Pro-tip – add a lawn-safe indicator dye to liquid fertilizer before application – then you can easily see exactly where you’ve sprayed, and where you have left to cover. This takes the gue sswork out of accurate, blanket coverage.

Granular fertilizer can be applied by hand, or – as is more common – by using one of these now iconic seed spreading devices (link to scotts.com).

It can also be applied by using a tow-behind broadcast spreader if you have a lot of area to cover and have a lawn tractor. And you can follow that link for some incredible machines if you fancy an upgrade.

In both cases, make sure your lawn has had a good watering before application – that way you know it’s going to accept the fertilizer, and it will help it get down to the root system.

Read this article on how to water your lawn like a pro for some more expert advice.

After you apply granular fertilizer, you’ll need to water the area in order to “activate” it. Don’t leave granular pellets on your lawn too long – particularly in hot weather.

Pro-tip for fertilizer coverage – start at the edges and work your way into the center – that way you’re not missing anything, you know exactly where you’ve been, and you can limit the amount of wasted product in unwanted areas.

When to Apply Lawn Fertilizer

Regardless of the type of fertilizer you end up going with, you need to know when it is the opportune moment to apply it.

The professionals suggest a good rule of thumb is to put down a fertilizer around the same time as you do your first mow of the season.

When the grass is ready to kick off and grow like crazy – that the perfect time to give it an extra health boost.

Late spring is also ideal, as your lawn is going to need all the help it can get to negotiate the heat and stress of the summer months. Feeding through summer will also keep it in tip-top condition.

And an application in the fall will help your stressed-out turf recover from the heat, and is particularly good when combined with overseeding to help repair any bare patches and keep it healthy through the winter.

Remember though – it might all depend on the type of grass you have, as warm season grasses will required a different process to cool season.

Either way, applying a lawn fertilizer is best after aerating your lawn – which will greatly help the product get down to the roots and get to work.

Try this review for the best lawn aerators on the market, and go here if you want a complete guide to lawn aeration for more info on this important lawn-care process.

Over Fertilizing

They say that too much of a good thing is bad – and that’s certainly the case when it comes to lawn fertilizers.

Whether you’re using liquid or granules, overdoing it can lead to serious damage, much more so than not fertilizing at all.

Look out for trouble spots such as yellowing grass, bald patches, wilting blades, or any kind of discoloration.

Of course, you might just need to dethatch the lawn, so take a look at this full guide to lawn dethatching if you think that might be the problem. This article should also be able to help you fix yellowing grass.

Either way, don’t go overboard with the fertilizer, as too much can prevent the grass from getting water, air, and sunlight, and eventually start to choke out your turf.

person in yellow gloves holding granual fertilizer

Why Not Use Both?

For anyone really dedicated to the health of their lawns, there is absolutely no reason you can’t use both liquid and granular fertilizers. With a few caveats.

First – don’t overdo it. Although I’ve mentioned that already, it should be noted that if you’re using both types you shouldn’t use the maximum amount of each during any one application.

Try 50% granular and 50% liquid for best results.

Of course, this will give you a lot more work to do – not to mention the added expense – but nobody said achieving the most perfect lawn in the neighborhood was going to be easy.

A word About Children and Pets

A question that’s often asked is which lawn fertilizer is safest for pets and children? Is it granular or liquid products?

Truth be told, there’s no real way of testing this out, suffice to say both treatments will be pet and child safe providing the application and storage instructions are adhered to.

If using a liquid fertilizer, wait until it has dried completely before allowing kids and furry things to play in the yard.

For granules, it’s good practice to allow the pellets to break down a little first – although this isn’t really necessary.

Your pouch might get a bit of an upset tum, but large quantities would need to be eaten to cause major concern.

Again, just make sure you’re following the instructions – for both types – and make sure you keep both kids and pets inside during application.

Use a bit of common sense. That way you’re not freaking out if you see your four-legged-friend (or child) licking and/or eating the grass.

FAQs

Which is better liquid or granular lawn fertilizer?

It’s a close call, and it really does depend on your own circumstances, but if push comes to shove, and you have to choose one, I would say go with liquid.

You’ll have more control, a better distribution, and it will get down where it’s needed much faster. Being absorbed through the leaves and the soil is a real winner for your plant life.

What is the best type of lawn fertilizer?

I would say liquid – but granular does have its place. Again, it might just come down to your own personal preference.

Still, if you don’t believe me, I highly recommend watching the video below for more information, which has some extra advice on both types of lawn fertilizer, as well as application tips and tricks.

Is liquid lawn fertilizer better?

Yes, although as mentioned, there’s still a place in this world for granular fertilizer. Your choice will likely depend on a number of factors depending on your circumstances – and the needs of your lawn.

Should I mow the grass before fertilizing my lawn?

Yes, it’s a good idea to give your lawn a trim before applying any kind of lawn fertilizer – although it doesn’t need to be scalped, unless you’re dethatching, aerating and overseeding for the first time.

you should make sure you’re using the right tool for the job, so check out this article on the different types of lawnmowers, and head on over to read this piece for the best lawnmowing tips to help you get started.

And always make sure your lawnmower blade is sharp, so pick yourself up one of these lawnmower blade sharpeners and do the job yourself.

Why is liquid fertilizer better?

In general, liquid lawn fertilizer is regarded as being better than granular because it gets right down into the root system fast, has a better coverage, and is simply a more versatile solution.

Nutrients in liquid fertilizer are absorbed both into the soil and into the leaves of the plant, or – in this case – the blades of the grass.

And the same amount of nutrients are found in each drop of liquid, whereas with granular products they might differ from pellet to pellet.

Can I use liquid and granular fertilizer on my lawn?

Yes! There’s no reason why you can’t use both – just make sure you don’t overdo it and get your timing right.

Immediately after it’s rained is a good time to apply liquid fertilizer, and just before it rains is best for granular. Although the ground should already be a moist for best results for both.

Use a mixture of half-and-half and you should reap the rewards with the extra work you’ll be putting in.

Is lawn fertilizer safe for pets?

Your furry friend would need to ingest a lot of fertilizer in order for it to be a real issue, so there really isn’t anything to worry about unless you’re storing the stuff improperly.

That said, you should always wait for liquid fertilizer to dry and granular fertilizer to break down a little before allowing Fido to sniff about – just to be on the safe side.

And remember – lawn fertilizer is not the same as weed killer, even if it comes in the same form and is applied in similar ways.

Check out this article on the best pet safe weed killers on the market if that is something which concerns you.

Summary

The liquid lawn fertilizer vs granular debate rages on, but there’s a clear winner when all’s said and done, and the liquid variants take the crown.

That said, granular fertilizer is not obsolete, and in some cases might even be better depending on individual needs.

Let me know your experiences with lawn fertilizer in the comments – and which version you prefer and why.

Happy fertilizing!