Liquid Versus Granular Fertilizers
Pam Newcombe

We are often asked: What are the benefits and distinctions between liquid versus granular fertilizers?

To decide what kind of fertilizer to use, and how much to put down, we first determine the nutrient needs of the grass.  Grass generally requires 2-4lbs of nitrogen in a season, and returning grass clippings adds approximately .5lbs of that nitrogen need. 

Through nearly 20 years of turf care experience, we’ve found that a granular program and a granular-liquid program will both work well, but a strictly liquid-based program does not supply sufficient nutrients. When looking at each option, there are important things to consider when choosing liquid versus granular…


Liquid applications can be good to use as a readily available food source in early spring and the end of summer. To provide both short-term and long-term nutrients, we recommend applying granular and liquid at the same time. It’s important to know if the nitrogen source is Water-Soluble Nitrogen (WSN) or Water-Insoluble Nitrogen (WIN).

When using organic WSN, what the plant does not absorb will leach (similar to a synthetic product, but without the negative effects on the biology). If you are looking at a liquid application, we suggest using a soil drench to get product into soil where biology can break it down. If you’re utilizing organic liquid fertilizers, remember that nitrogen value decreases when liquid products are diluted in water, and they do not start with the high #N that’s in traditional synthetic fertilizers. Due to this, organic liquid fertilizers require more frequent applications because the #N per application is very low. These factors lead to a higher cost per #N for a liquid application in comparison to granular.


Granular fertilizers contribute to the organic matter in the soil and provide nutrients in substantial ways. These products are easy to apply and do not require a lot of training for your employees: the bag label tells you the square footage it covers, so you just spread until it’s gone! Our PJC ProHealthy Turf granular fertilizers contain Water Insoluble Nitrogen (WIN), so leaching is less of a concern. WIN fertilizers are dependent on soil biology to break down the product and make nutrients available to the plant. Depleted soils may take longer to break down materials due to lower soil biology. Additionally, granular applications last longer than liquid applications. These factors mean that the cost per #N is typically less than liquid.

Liquid Versus Granular Analogy

For comparison’s sake, let’s look at a 5-Hour Energy Shot (liquid) vs. a well balanced meal (granular): The Energy shot will give you a quick jump start because it is in a form that is easily absorbed.  The well balanced meal is more substantial, takes longer to digest, provides more nutritional value, and keeps you fuller longer. Both have advantages and situational benefits, but it’s important that we look at long-term sustainability when creating a plan for your grass. 

Analysis Form Container #/N in
Rate per 1000SF
per 1000SF
Cost/Bag Cost #N
6-0-6 Granular 50lb bag 3.00 10 lbs 0.6000 $29.00 $9.67
15-0-0 Powder 50lb bag 7.50 1 oz. 0.0094 $156.00 $20.80
OMRI Products
8-0-6 Granular 50lb bag 4.00 10 lbs 0.8000 $32.50 $8.13
13.6-0-0 Powder 50lb bag 6.80 1 oz. 0.0085 $269.00 $39.56
Note: To deliver equivalent #N as 1 application of granular would require 64 – 94 liquid applications at label rate.