Granular Versus Liquid Fertilizers
Sean Breckin, AOLCP

“So…what’s the difference between granular versus liquid fertilizers?” We get this question a lot and are here to hash it out.

Before deciding on a fertilizer and how much of it to put down, we first have to look at the nutrient needs of the grass. Through 20+ years of turf care experience, we’ve found that a granular  and a granular-liquid all-natural program will both work well. Although, a strictly liquid-based program does not supply sufficient nutrients. When looking at where to use each option, there are important things to consider when choosing liquid versus granular fertilizer.

Granular fertilizers

Granular fertilizers contribute to the organic matter in the soil and provide nutrients in substantial ways. We find granular products are easy to apply and do not require a lot of training for your employees: simply follow the bag label! 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 fertilizer

Liquid fertilizer applications can provide 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. If you are looking at a liquid application, we suggest using a soil drench to get product into the soil where biology can break it down. When utilizing organic liquid fertilizers, remember that nitrogen value decreases when liquid products are diluted in water. Additionally, they do not start with the high #N that’s in traditional synthetic fertilizers. Due to this fact, 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.

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. When looking at liquid versus granular fertilizers, both have advantages and situational benefits, but it’s important that we look at long-term sustainability when creating a plan for your grass.