There are two different ways to apply fertiliser to lawns. As a liquid or as a granule.
Liquid fertilisers usually come supplied in a concentrated form. This soluble concentrate is mixed with the required amount of water and sprayed onto the grass plants. The amount applied can be carefully calculated and the feed is distributed evenly using a sprayer or watering can.
Granular fertilisers consist of small, solid grains of fertiliser mix. These are manufactured into round, easy flowing particles. These granules are stored in bags to be weighed and then spread evenly across your lawn either by hand or with a fertiliser spreader. These granules break down upon contact with water and degrade into the soil, releasing their nutrients gradually to the plant roots.
Is liquid or granule fertiliser best?
Liquid and granule fertilisers can both provide plants with similar nutrients, they just apply them in different ways. Don’t think of it as a case of which is better. They both have their advantages and disadvantages. They can both be used effectively as part of a balanced lawn treatment programme.
Base feeding and feeding on demand
Many lawn care professionals refer to base feeding and demand feeding when referring to liquid or granular fertilisers. This is the theory that a granular feeding programme provides all of the main nutrients the grass plants need (NPK). Any further liquid feeds are then used to quickly “top up” specific nutrients which are found to be lacking. The analogy is often made with our meal times. Base feeds are your breakfast, lunch and dinner. Liquid feeds are any snacks or supper which you have to keep you going between meals. This analogy with grass feeding and our own diets is a good one. Base feed with granular in Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. Top up with the appropriate liquid feed in-between meals.
Liquid fertiliser for lawns
- Liquid fertiliser is a much cheaper lawn feed than granules. Over 50% cheaper in some cases.
- It is much easier to store liquids and they come in resealable bottles which do not take up much space.
- Liquid fertilisers can be easy to apply to your lawn. Often, just a watering can with a rose nozzle is needed. It is also very easy to evenly apply to your grass. Striping caused by a liquid feed is rare.
- Liquids can act upon grass plants very quickly. Feed can be taking in both by the leaves and roots. This gives a rapid boost to the health of your lawn.
- A liquid feed is often applied to a lawn when the grass is stressed, such as times of drought.
- Liquid feeds are mainly used to correct specific lawn nutrient deficiencies, or give the grass a quick boost.
- Liquid lawn feed does not last as long as a granular feed. You need to reapply it regularly to achieve the same long term effect.
- Relying on an entirely liquid feeding programme would mean feeding your lawn at least monthly or more.
- Weather conditions play a significant part in the effectiveness of liquid lawn feeds. There is a big risk of washing through the soil when applying in damp or wet weather.
Granular fertiliser for lawns
- Granular fertiliser can have a long lasting affect on the lawn, feeding the plants for many weeks or even months.
- It is easy to see where you have applied granular fertiliser. So you are less likely to apply too much.
- Granular lawn feeds should be thought of as the main meals of a lawn feeding programme.
- Granular fertiliser is more expensive than liquid fertiliser.
- It can be more difficult to store granular feeds. They are bulky and can be hard to handle. Spillages can be a problem. Containers should to be stored in cool, dry places. Granular fertiliser breaks down in damp environments, becoming useless.
- Nutrient take up with granules can take a long time, especially in drier weather. This is because the granules need moisture to break down. Nutrients are absorbed by the roots which takes a few days longer.
- It can be easy to burn a lawn with a granular lawn feed.
The summary of using liquid or granule fertiliser for lawns
At first glance it may seem that liquid feeds are better for your lawn. However, granular lawn feeds last a lot longer making them more attractive for lawn professionals. The flexibility of weather conditions is also a major positive. You can still feed lawns in the rain and cold without the nutrients washing through.
If you are able to feed your lawn regularly and cost and storage is your main factor, you will get good results with liquid feeds. Otherwise, stick to granular lawn feeds.
In my job, I use granular lawn fertilisers nearly all year round. I only switch to liquid feeds (and seaweed) in summer, when the risk of scorch is high, but lawns still need to be fed.
Whether you choose liquid or granule fertilisers for your lawn treatment programme, be sure to always read the label and apply according to the instructions. If in doubt, have your lawn cared for by a professional.