Before a discussion can proceed about the difference between liquid and dry fertilizers, first there must be an understanding of what typical fertilizers contain. Fertilizer containers have letters and numbers on them that refer to specific substances that are incorporated into the fertilizer.
Typically are the letters N-P-K. The “N” stands for Nitrogen, the “P” represents Phosphate, and the “K” refers to Potassium. Nitrogen is an important nutrient that helps encourage foliage growth. Phosphate is a substance that is important in root growth and helps the plant to flower. Potassium helps keep the plant healthy and a healthy plant is much more capable of fighting disease than an unhealthy one.
Fertilizer containers show the amount of N, P, or K that are included in the mixture of fertilizer. The amount of each nutrient is referenced by a specific number. Therefore, you’ll also have to become familiar with those numbers and what they mean to understand what fertilizer you are buying. If your lawn is healthy the best fertilizer is one that shows numbers that reflect low phosphate content in relation to the other ingredients of nitrogen and potassium. The important numbers that indicate the content of ingredients is put in a series of numbers that reflect a “ratio”. A typical ratio number to look for is 24:12:17 or one that is close to those proportions.
For lawns that have special problems or are in a general unhealthy condition, it is best to contact a professional for advice as to what type of fertilizer is needed and what ratio of ingredients are the best. It may be an even better solution to hire a professional and take the guess work out of the equation as well as preventing possible further damage to your lawn.
According to Ohio State University Fertility Specialist Robert Mullen, liquid and dry fertilizers are equally efficient in supplying nutrient needs and states: “For almost all situations (unless you are in the desert Southwest), the choice of dry or liquid is one of material handling and price per pound, not plant availability. Both liquid and dry phosphate fertilizers will stay put in the soil when incorporated, too, so picking dry or liquid is up to you and your application equipment. Pick the cheapest commercial source once you calculate the value per pound (and read a recent soil test report for your field).”
Basically, the choice comes down to cost and preference. Since both products provide the necessary nutrients to your lawn, it becomes a matter of preference rather than one being better for your lawn than the other. However, liquid fertilizers don’t have a time release feature while dry fertilizers do. Therefore, the time release aspect may be viewed as a slight plus for dry fertilizers. Also, dry fertilizers only require a small investment in a spreader.
Liquid fertilizers on the other hand can be custom mixed to accomplish specific purposes. This may be an advantage. Liquid fertilizers act quickly and may be applied directly to plants. However, liquid fertilizers may need to be applied more frequently and tend to be more expensive than dry type fertilizers. Liquid fertilizers can be incorporated into a drip system and naturally dry fertilizers cannot.