A lush green lawn makes a wonderful centre point to any garden. But if yours is letting the side down, the right lawn feed can make all the difference.
With lots of different types on the market, it can be hard to know which one to choose. Here we take a look at granular versus liquid lawn feed. And we take you through everything you need to know about how to get the best results in your garden.
So step this way for the key to a perfect lawn…
What is the difference between granular and liquid lawn feed?
As the names suggest, the difference between these kinds of lawn feed is their physical form. Granular food looks like powder or small pellets, and it’s stored in boxes. Liquid lawn feed is – you’ve guessed it – liquid! it usually comes in plastic bottles, and in some cases, these attach directly to your hose.
You can also get water-soluble fertilizer. This is a powder which you mix with water before applying to your lawn in the same way as a liquid feed.
When it comes to what’s inside these different fertilizers, there are no hard and fast rules. The key thing to look for is the N-P-K formula. These are the chemical symbols for the three main elements that contribute to plant growth – nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium.
The numbers in the N-P-K formula will tell you how much of each chemical is in the fertilizer. The number refers to the percentage by volume. A fertilizer marked 16-8-12, for example, will contain 16 per cent nitrogen, 8 per cent phosphorous and 12 per cent potassium.
A good way to find out what your garden needs is to invest in a soil test kit. If you’ve got a large lawn, test it in different places, as the levels of nutrients can vary between areas.
Granular vs. Liquid Lawn Feed – How do the different lawn feeds work?
Because they have different physical properties, granular and liquid lawn feeds deliver their nutrients to the grass in different ways.
Granular lawn feed is sprinkled over the surface of the lawn. The powder or pellets gradually decompose, particularly when the grass is watered or it rains. As they break down, they release the nutrients into the soil.
Liquid fertilizer, on the other hand, is sprayed over your lawn. Because it’s liquid, it will penetrate the soil immediately, taking the nutrients down to the roots of the grass.
Quick and slow action
The different way the nutrients are released explains why different types of lawn feed work at varying speeds.
Because granular feeds break down gradually, they don’t get to work as quickly as liquid options. But they can feed your grass over a longer period – for months at a time.
That means you won’t have to reapply the fertilizer as often as with liquids. And you won’t have to be as precise in remembering when a new feed is due.
Note, however, that not all nutrients travel as easily as others. Some, like phosphorous, will find it harder to get down into the soil as the pellets or powder decomposes. That means not all of the phosphorous that’s released by the feed will reach the roots of your grass.
If your lawn needs a quick pick-me-up, a liquid feed is the better option. The feed will be absorbed by the blades of grass, where it will get to work straight away. And any remaining liquid will drain down to the roots.
How to apply your lawn feed the low-tech way
You’ll need different equipment to apply your lawn feed, depending on whether you’re using liquid or granular versions.
If you’ve got a granular feed, you can simply sprinkle it over your grass. If you’ve opted for liquid, you can water it in with a watering can.
If you opt for either of these low-tech options, make sure you’re using the right amount of feed. The instructions on the pack will tell you how much to apply per square foot of grass. And liquid fertilizers will tell you how much water you need to add to dilute them to the correct strength.
You’ll find it easier to get uniform application with granular lawn feeds. That’s because you’ll be able to see exactly how much you’ve added to your lawn. And if you accidentally miss any areas, it’s fairly easy to spot.
The big problem with the low-tech approach, whether you’re using granular or liquid feed, is that it’s hard to be accurate. And that can lead to real problems.
Too little lawn feed won’t be effective. But if you add too much to your lawn, you can scorch the grass.
The problems get worse if you’re using liquid fertilizer. Too much of it can quickly make its way into the groundwater, damaging the environment.
Whatever kind of feed you use, investing in some inexpensive equipment can avoid these issues.
Using spreaders with granular lawn feed
If you’re using a granular feed, consider purchasing a drop, broadcast or rotary spreader.
Drop spreaders are essentially buckets that sit on top of a trolley. A long slit in the bottom dispenses the feed as you roll it across your lawn.
You’ll usually be able to adjust the width of the slit to dispense more or less feed. As long as you keep up an even pace, the spreader will dispense a consistent amount over your grass.
You’ll need to make two sets of passes to cover your lawn completely. The second set should be at right angles to the first.
With a rotary or broadcast spreader, the feed is sprayed in all directions at once, so you’ll only have to go over the lawn once. But the disadvantage is that you’ll inevitably end up with fertilizer over neighbouring paths and flower beds.
Using sprayers with liquid lawn feeds
With liquid feeds, investing in a sprayer to go on the end of your garden hose can provide excellent results. Some liquid lawn feeds come in a bottle that will attach directly to your hose for maximum convenience.
The hose attachment will suck in small quantities of fertilizer and mix it with the water as it flows. That means you’ll automatically get the right ratio of lawn feed to water.
Just make sure that you direct the hose as evenly as possible over your lawn. A good way to do that is by walking at an even pace along your lawn as you hold the hose.
Just as with a drop spreader, completing the process in two different directions will help avoid the risk of missing any parts of the lawn. So when you’ve finished walking up and down, walk over it again side to side.
Fine tuning your lawn feed
If the results of your soil test show your lawn has specific needs, you may want to fine tune your lawn feed. You could add individual nutrients or specially formulated products to protect your lawn.
Liquid or water-soluble options are much better for this. You’ll be able to add extra chemicals and mix everything together. The result will be a feed that has the same chemical composition in every drop.
With granular feeds, this is more difficult. You won’t be able to add liquids without causing the feed to clump together. And you’re unlikely to get a perfectly even distribution throughout the feed.
Other pros and cons of granular vs liquid lawn feed
Another consideration to bear in mind is cost. Generally speaking, granular lawn feeds are less expensive than liquids.
They can also be stored for longer without separating out. That means that, as long as you have sufficient storage space, you can make further savings by buying in bulk.
We’ve also heard some concerns about the odour associated with some liquid fertilizers. The majority of products don’t have a strong smell – but if you have a large lawn to feed, give it a sniff first. If you’ll be using large quantities, you won’t want to offend delicate nostrils.
How to choose the right feed for your lawn
As we’ve seen, there’s no hard and fast rule for which kind of lawn feed will work better in your garden. The right choice will depend on a number of different factors.
Ask yourself how quickly you need the feed to work, and how often you’re prepared to re-fertilize your lawn. Liquids are great for quick results, but they won’t feed your lawn for as long as slow or timed-release granular feeds.
And consider how you’re going to apply your lawn feed too. Drop spreaders are a great way to get even distribution of granular feeds. And unlike rotary versions, they won’t spray fertilizer where you don’t want it. But they do take time to use, and can be fairly bulky to store.
If you’re using a liquid feed, an option that attaches directly to your hose will make your life much easier. This kind of set-up is very quick and easy to use. But you may find it difficult to get even coverage and avoid missing any spots.
Ready to choose?
We hope you’ve enjoyed our comparison of granular versus liquid lawn feeds.
There are lots of great brands out there, and with careful use you can get great results with either type. Just follow the instructions carefully and take your time to get even distribution. You’ll soon have a lawn that will be the envy of your neighbours!