liquid vs granular fertilizer

Liquid vs Granular Fertilizer for Lawns: Which is Best?

Fertilizing your lawn is one of the most important things you can do to aid its growth. However, you will notice that there are different fertilizing products about and this can lead to confusion over which one you should use. 

Many people wonder if there is a difference in performance between liquid vs dry fertilizer for lawns. 

Liquid fertilizer and granular fertilizer both contain the same types of nutrients your grass needs. But how they deliver them is the key difference. While granular fertilizers are slow acting, liquid fertilizers are fast acting. There are pros and cons to both. 

So, if you’ve been scratching your head and trying to weigh up granular vs liquid fertilizer, you’re in the right place. We’ve put together some information on both types of fertilizer that will help you make the most informed decision. 

Granular fertilizers come in the form of either beads or pellets. These are slow release fertilizers that some people call dry fertilizer. The way these pellets are used is by sprinkling them over the area you wish to fertilize; in this case, your lawn.

That said, these fertilizers can be used on a variety of plants and so come in different sizes bottles and bags according to the intended use.

When we say that granular fertilizers are slow releasing, this refers to the concentration of nutrients within the product. While the nutrient types are the same, in a granular fertilizer, they’re more highly concentrated which means they last longer.


granular fertilizer

After you initially apply the fertilizer, you might have to wait around a week for it to get to work. However, you may not need to reapply the product for up to nine months.

This type of fertilizer has long been used on lawns even over the course of many years or even decades.

What Is Liquid Fertilizer?

As the name tells you, a liquid fertilizer is designed to be used in liquid form and this is a very popular option especially because of how easy and convenient these products are to use. You typically add the fertilizer product to water and you’re ready to go. Application is normally done by spraying the product onto the areas that you need to treat.

There are some liquid fertilizers that can be applied using an attachment to your garden hose which is incredibly efficient. However, there are two different ways to apply it.

If you have a liquid fertilizer that needs to be foliar applied then it must only be sprayed on the leaves of the plant. Others are designed to be added to the ground so it’s important to read the label before you start the treatment.

These liquid fertilizers are also highly concentrated and are incredibly nutrient rich. But one of the main differences is that they are not as long lasting as granular fertilizers so you may find that you have to reapply them before the end of the season.

What’s The Difference Between Liquid And Granular Fertilizer?

Regardless of whether you choose a granular or liquid fertilizer, the ingredients will be the same. These are the three main nutrients that a lawn needs; nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. It’s important to be aware that some manufacturers will refer to potassium as potash but they’re the same thing.

Before making a decision on whether to use granular or liquid fertilizer for lawns, keep in mind that the lawn won’t be able to tell the difference and both will supply what it needs.

Let’s take a look at what the different nutrients in these fertilizers offer your lawn.

  • Nitrogen is incredibly important and helps to make the lawn greener and more dense. When choosing a fertilizer for lawns, choose one that is richer in nitrogen than other nutrients. 
  • Phosphorus aids the root growth of the lawn and ensures that the roots are strong. If you use the fertilizer for a flowering plant then phosphorus is really important for this. 
  • Potassium ensures that the lawn stays healthy and is able to fight off disease. Note that, on the fertilizer packaging, potassium will be detailed as K as this is the chemical symbol.

Typically speaking, granular fertilizer has a lot more salt compared to liquid and this can lead to root burn, if you’re not careful.

In terms of cost, granular fertilizer tends to be the cheaper option, especially if you buy it in bulk. You’ll pay a little more for the convenience of a liquid fertilizer.

Also think about how the fertilizer is applied. One of the key differences between these two products is application. Normally, a liquid fertilizer is sprayed on, often using your garden hose whereas you’ll need something like a drop spreader to apply granular products.

Granular Fertilizer Liquid Fertilizer
Rate of Absorption Slow Release Quick Release
Application Broadcast or Drop Spreader Hose or Spray Bottle
Price Lower Higher
Shelf Life Long Short

Granular vs Liquid Fertilizer

Slow Release vs Quick Release

One of the main differences between granular vs liquid fertilizer is the rate of absorption. This is referred to as slow release and quick release.

Slow release fertilizers like the granular products take longer to absorb but do not need to be applied as often. On the other hand, quick release fertilizers absorb a lot faster but you will need to apply them more frequently.

Granular Fertilizer Pros and Cons

Granular fertilizers have a range of good points. However, there are some things that might put you off using them. It’s important to understand these things before making a decision. 


  • Being slow releasing is a huge plus. You might not think that something slow releasing was going to be beneficial but it’s not actually a bad thing; at least, not all the time. When you use a slow release product, like granular fertilizer, you won’t have to apply it as often meaning less maintenance for you. 
  • Granular fertilizer is a lot more affordable so if you’re looking to save a few dollars, it might be worth considering. You’ll find you get better deals the more you buy so if you have a large lawn to treat, it’s definitely worth it. 
  • As long as you keep it dry and at room temperature, granular fertilizer will keep exceptionally well. In fact, you could buy it in bulk and it won’t degrade until you’ve used it all, no matter how long it’s in storage.


  • One of the main problems with granular fertilizer is that the pellets are not a blend of each nutrient. Instead, there are individual pellets that are exclusively nitrogen, potassium or phosphorus. This means that you might not get great consistency. You can normally tell the pellets apart by color but short of separating them, consistency is hit and miss. 
  • Granular fertilizer has a higher salt content than liquid. If you go over the top with it then this can take moisture away from the roots affecting their health. Ultimately, they’ll stop being able to absorb nutrients and develop root burn.
  • Most people will buy granular fertilizer in bulk but this does mean having somewhere suitable to store it.
  • While being slow releasing is a huge plus point, it can also be a downside, depending on the application. If you have a very unhealthy lawn that needs a quick fix, this isn’t going to do much good.

Liquid Fertilizer Pros and Cons

As with granular fertilizer, there are good points and bad points to its liquid counterpart. Again, it’s important to familiarize yourself with these pros and cons so you can make a better decision on what’s right for your garden.


  • The obvious benefit of liquid feed is how easy it is to apply. By using your garden hose to spray the product, it is far simpler. 
  • If you don’t have somewhere to store heavy bags of granular feed, liquid fertilizer is a great alternative. You only need to buy what you’ll use and there’s no worry about finding suitable storage space. 
  • Unlike granular fertilizer, liquid fertilizers are a mix of all nutrients so you get a much more even and consistent application.
  • There is a much lower salt content in liquid fertilizer so there’s much less chance of the lawn developing root burn.


  • For how convenient it is, you have to be willing to pay a little more for liquid fertilizer. What’s more, you’ll have to apply it more frequently, meaning you’ll need to buy more which will also boost the cost. 
  • As well as being generally more expensive, you have to keep in mind that liquid fertilizer will evaporate which means you may lose a lot of product after application. This can lead to the need for even more applications, pushing the cost even further.
liquid fertilizer

How To Apply Granular Fertilizer

You will need a special tool to apply your granular fertilizer and this is known as a fertilizer spreader. However, there are three different types of spreader that you can choose from.

Broadcast Spreader

A broadcast spreader throws the granules in a range of different directions. You simply push the tool along and it’ll spread for you. The more quickly you move, the more quickly the spreader will distribute the pellets. We would recommend using this option for larger lawns.

broadcast spreader

Drop Spreader

A drop spreader features wheels on either side and an opening between these where the fertilizer granules fall out. They will apply the pellets in straight lines between the wheels and what’s great is that this is a very consistent method of application provided you maintain a constant speed. For areas where precision is needed, the drop spreader is the best option.

Rotary Spreader

To look at a rotary spreader, you might compare it to a wheelbarrow as they look similar. There are a number of small holes in the bottom of the hopper where the pellets fall out onto the ground. You can open and close the holes as needed through the use of a lever.

As the granules fall out, they hit a spinning plate and this sends them out much further than just around the immediate vicinity of the spreader. Most rotary spreaders will fling the pellets up to five feet which is great for bigger areas.

How To Apply Liquid Fertilizer

When it comes to applying liquid fertilizer, you have the advantage of easy application. Here are some simple steps to success. 

  1. Apply liquid fertilizer around once every six to eight weeks using a spray bottle or backpack sprayer.
  2. Your first application of the year should be done at the beginning of spring then do another at the end of spring followed by two more in late summer and late autumn. 
  3. When applying the last treatment, make sure to do this well before the first frost to avoid damaging the fertilizer. 
  4. Take the spray bottle and attach this to the end of your hose. You’ll find instructions on the bottle for how to use that particular product. 
  5. Begin at the far end of the lawn and move backwards so that you don’t trample the treated areas as you work.
  6. You won’t need to water your lawn after using liquid fertilizer. Just wait until it dries out before giving it another drink. If you apply water before this, then it may reduce the effectiveness of the product by diluting it. 

Does Liquid Fertilizer Work Faster?

Yes. Liquid fertilizer is a quick release product that is absorbed into the lawn immediately. Different products vary but generally speaking, they will start to encourage growth in a couple of days and certainly no more than a week. 

Do remember that these fertilizers don’t last as long so you will need to apply them more often. 

Our Verdict

Both granular and liquid fertilizers offer the same nutrients to your lawn and will help it to grow strong and healthy. However, granular fertilizers are slow releasing and take longer to act. But they do last longer so, once applied, you won’t need to worry about doing the job again for some time.

Liquid fertilizers act much more quickly but they’ll need regular top ups. Usually this would be once a season but for their convenience, they’re often preferred.

Further Reading

Andrew Fisher

Andrew Fisher

Andrew is a dedicated father of three who really takes pride in his lawn and garden. You'll find Andrew behind the scenes of almost everything Edge Your Lawn produces. When he's not helping readers find all the information they need, he's in his backyard working on his lawn and garden landscaping. This year he hopes to build an outdoor deck and sort out his veg patches.

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