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The Different Types of Fertilizers

a garden scoop filled with fertilizer and soil

Springtime means that homeowners are fertilizing their lawns. If you want to keep your lawn looking its best this summer, you will want to get an effective fertilizer.

Still, there are so many different fertilizers to choose from. So how do you know which types of fertilizer you need for your lawn?

The main reason you need to fertilize your lawn is to improve soil nutrition. Soil alone does not contain enough nutrients like potassium, phosphorus or nitrogen. Commercial fertilizers are labeled according to their NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) levels. These nutrients are the keys to healthy, green grass.

Keep reading to learn more about different fertilizers and which ones may be best for your lawn. You will also learn about plant food versus fertilizer and whether the best time to fertilize is before or after rain. With a better knowledge of fertilizer types, the grass will always be greener on your side of the street.

How Different Types of Fertilizers Work

The different types of fertilizers usually fall into two larger categories: synthetic and organic.

Synthetic fertilizers provide quick fixes to your lawn care challenges. These affordable chemical solutions infuse your lawn with key nutrients. Synthetic fertilizers don’t change the soil composition because they are not organic.

Organic fertilizers are more expensive but more environmentally friendly. It takes longer to see positive results with organic fertilizers, but they have longer-lasting effects.

Learning more about synthetic and organic types of fertilizers may help you better understand what your lawn needs. Hiring a lawn care expert is the best approach to ensuring your lawn gets the best treatment.

The Benefit of Liquid Fertilizers

Liquid fertilizers can bring your lawn back to life fast. These water-soluble synthetic solutions should be diluted. Then you can apply synthetic fertilizers to the grass and plants in your yard. Some homeowners spray their lawns with liquid fertilizers or use a water pot to distribute the product across their yards.

This type of fertilizer is good for gardens with vegetables or potted plants. One downside to spraying liquid fertilizer on your yard is that you have to apply the solution often. This requires frequent care, which can be expensive and time-consuming.

When to Use Granular Fertilizers

There are different types of synthetic granular fertilizers that homeowners use to keep their lawns looking good.

Quick-release granular fertilizers are spread across a lawn and then watered. These tiny granules are water-soluble, and the chemical compounds release once they make contact with water. As the quick-release granules break down, they leak nutrients into the soil of your lawn. You may start to notice results in as little as a week. However, you will have to reapply these quick-release granular fertilizers every three or four weeks.

Other types of synthetic granular fertilizer are slow- or controlled-release options. These are even slower than other synthetic fertilizers, but they make a difference in your yard within two weeks. Slow- or controlled-release fertilizer granules do not break down with water. They create a lasting impact on your lawn and only need to be applied about twice a season.

How Fertilizer Spikes Work

Fertilizer spikes are synthetic solutions that you can buy at lawn supply stores. Homeowners insert these spikes across their yards. Over time, the spikes break down and release nutrients into the soil.

While spikes are a convenient type of fertilizer, each spike is only effective at improving a small part of your lawn. Thankfully, synthetic fertilizer spikes work their magic for up to three months. This makes them a time-saving fertilization option.

Understanding Organic Fertilization

What sets organic fertilizers apart from these synthetic fertilizer methods is that they are composed of naturally occurring substances. Organic fertilizers are composed of organic materials like plants, minerals or animal byproducts. These fertilizers, like bone meal, blood meal or cottonseed meal, enrich and strengthen the soil in your lawn.

Unlike synthetic fertilizers, organic types of fertilizers will not pollute water near your home. Also, organic fertilizers are less likely to lead to a toxic build-up of synthetic chemicals in one area. This is called fertilizer burn, which can kill your grass or other plants. Fertilizer burn is a significant problem when homeowners use synthetic fertilizers without expert help.

Another benefit of using organic fertilizers is that the effects can last for months or even years. However, this option is much more expensive and slower than synthetic types of fertilizer.

a homeowner fertilizing their lawn

Plant Food Versus Fertilizer: Knowing the Difference

While they help your grass grow, plant food and fertilizer are not the same things. Plants, including grass, actually create their own food through a process called photosynthesis. Grass relies on sunlight, water and carbon dioxide to survive. Together, these natural elements nourish your lawn.

Fertilizer helps support plants by introducing more nutrients into the soil they grow in. Plants make their own sugar and carbohydrates through photosynthesis. But they may be missing the phosphorus, nitrogen, potassium or other nutrients they need to thrive. This is where fertilizer can make a difference in your yard.

While plant food is made inside the plant, fertilizer is an outside force that makes plants like grass even healthier. In essence, making food is what grass does for itself, while fertilization is what you do for your grass.

Like many homeowners, you may feel uncertain about how to best care for your lawn. Asking for professional help with maintaining your grass and other plants in your yard can save you time and money. You can also avoid the hassle of do-it-yourself fertilization methods.

Finding a Reliable Lawn Care Specialist

You deserve a lawn care specialist that will listen to your unique needs and provide quality, lasting solutions. When researching the lawn care companies in your area, you will want to look for specialists who are upfront about service costs. Lawn care professionals should also be clear about the benefits you will receive.

Fertilization experts know the difference between various types of fertilizer and know when to fertilize your lawn. Their professional experience is valuable in knowing how to fertilize your lawn.

Lawn care professionals can test the levels of each nutrient in your yard to determine how much of each you need to introduce to your lawn. Some fertilizers contain phosphorus, potassium and nitrogen in equal amounts. Others offer custom solutions for whatever micro- or macro-nutrients your lawn is lacking.

Creating an Effective Lawn Care Schedule

One of the most important questions to ask a lawn care company is how often they plan to fertilize your yard. By getting your lawn care services on a regular schedule, homeowners can catch problems early on. Experts can recommend fertilizers that best fit your values and your budget.

Avoiding fertilizer burn should be a major focus in the fertilization process. Synthetic fertilizers are known for causing chemical build-up in sections of your yard if they are not evenly distributed. If you try to apply fertilizer on your own, you may accidentally kill some of your grass or other plants.

A lawn care professional will know which fertilizers to use and how to distribute them in a way that makes your yard more beautiful than ever. By trusting the experts with this process, you can expect quicker and safer results. Plus, you won’t waste money or time on solutions that accidentally harm your yard.

a green lawn

The Best Time to Fertilize a Lawn: Before or After the Rain

Some homeowners like to fertilize their yards before a rainstorm, while others wait until after a heavy rain to apply fertilizer. But what is the best time to fertilize a lawn—before or after rain? Both methods have benefits and drawbacks, but one method is better for the environment.

The Pros and Cons of Fertilizing Before the Rain

One benefit of fertilizing your lawn before it rains is that rain helps break down water-soluble fertilizers. Rainwater also contains nitrogen, which is a necessary nutrient for your lawn. The combination of fertilizer and rainwater is effective for growing your grass.

You may want to think twice before adopting this fertilization method. Fertilizers may wash from your yard into nearby water sources such as creeks, lakes or rivers. Too much nitrogen can result in nitrate, a chemical that is harmful to other organisms.

Keeping Your Lawn Green Long-term

If your lawn is wet from a rainstorm, you can take advantage of the moisture to fertilize your grass. This will not be as beneficial as fertilizing your lawn before the rain, but it is much more environmentally friendly. Fertilizing after rain is less likely to pollute nearby surface water with nitrate.

The best way to keep your yard looking great year-round is to consult experts who can create a lawn care schedule. Instead of worrying about different types of fertilizers, rely on professionals who can do the work for you.

ABC Can Keep Your Lawn Healthy and Green

Taking care of your grass can take a lot of work. If you would rather spend your weekend enjoying your yard, contact ABC Home & Commercial Services. Our lawn care team can give you that healthy green grass you’ve been looking for. We even have a team who can refresh your landscaping!

J Zambo

J Zambo joined ABC in 2023 with over 20 years of experience. He is the Lawn & Tree Division Manager, overseeing Lawn Maintenance and Care, Landscaping, Tree and Holiday Lighting for all ABC Austin branches. Before ABC, he was the Vice President of Aloha Arbor Care and Hawaii Landscape Services. J is an ISA Certified Arborist and ISA Qualified Tree Risk Assessor. His favorite quote is “So shines a good deed in a weary world” by Willie Wonka.

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