Granular vs. Liquid Fertilizers: Which is Best for a Backyard Garden?

Granular vs. Liquid Fertilizers: Which is Best for a Backyard Garden?

An article by Travis Key from Lazy Dog Farm

Unless you have some incredibly fertile soil in your backyard, you’re probably going to have to supplement your vegetable plants with fertilizer to get them to grow to their full potential. Where we live in South Georgia, our soils are sandy and don’t hold nutrients very well. As a result, we must feed the plants as they grow. Clay soils tend to hold nutrients very well and don’t require as much fertilization to grow healthy plants.

There are many backyard garden fertilizers available on the market in two basic forms — granular or liquid. There are pros and cons to using each type, so here I wanted to discuss the benefits of each. We use both granular and liquid fertilizers in our backyard garden, but it’s important the differences so you can feed your garden effectively.

Benefits of Granular Fertilizers 

Pre-Plant Applications 

Granular fertilizers are available in several different shapes. Some are formed into round pellets and some organic granular fertilizers look more like chicken food. These fertilizers work great when used as a “pre-plant” fertilizer that is applied prior to planting.

On a smaller scale with raised beds or containers, you’d simply sprinkle the granular fertilizer over the entire soil surface and lightly mix it into the soil. For a larger in-ground garden, you’d only want to apply the granular fertilizer along the intended planting row. We prefer to make a furrow or small trench and apply the granular fertilizer into it. Then we cover the furrow and plant on top of the buried fertilizer.

Slow-Release Applications

Granular fertilizers also work well for slow-release applications. Because they are in a solid form, they won’t be able to feed your plants immediately like a liquid fertilizer will. They must be dissolved (via watering or rainfall) into the soil where they can they be used by the plants. For plants that have a long growth cycle (onions, for example), these slow-release fertilizers can help to ensure they have the nutrients they need over the long-term.

Benefits of Liquid Fertilizers

Proximity of Application

Although granular fertilizers certainly have their place in a backyard vegetable garden, liquid fertilizers like AgroThrive provide significantly more advantages to the backyard gardener. First, granular fertilizers can only be applied so close to a plant without disturbing the plant. This is especially the case with plants that have a more “bushy” growth habit.

This can be problematic for immobile nutrients like phosphorous which tend to stay where they are applied. If granular phosphorous is applied too far from the root system of the plants, it won’t ever be accessible to the plants. But a liquid fertilizer can easily be applied around the entire base of the plant, regardless of the amount of foliage on the plant. This can be done with an injection system or a simple hose end fertilizer siphon.

Consistency of Application

Granular fertilizers are typically composed of tiny pellets that have different concentrations of nutrients in each pellet. Liquid fertilizers on the other hand, provide a consistent solution of nutrients that can be applied to your plants. The fertilizer is dissolved and equally distributed in the solution so that your plants receive all parts equally.

Ease of Application

Granular fertilizers require some type of mechanical spreader or spreading by hand, which can be time consuming. After applying, that granular fertilizer needs to be mixed into the soil so that plant roots can access it once dissolved. Liquid fertilizer, on the other hand, is much easier and faster to apply as a dissolved solution. It can be injected through your water hose, sprinkler, or mixed in a bucket and poured alongside the plants.

Ease of Storage

Granular fertilizers are usually sold in bags compared to liquid fertilizers like AgroThrive which are sold in bottles or jugs. The bags of granular fertilizer typically don’t reseal very well, which can make storage an issue. If exposed to air, many granular fertilizers will begin to “oxidize” and degrade. Liquid fertilizers are concentrated and mixed with water to obtain the desired solution. With the simple twist a cap, liquid fertilizer containers can be easily resealed with no worries of the contents degrading over time.

Know When to Use Each

We hope this comparison has helped you determine when to use granular or liquid fertilizer in your backyard garden. They both can be great for plants, but there are situations when one might work better than the other. We primarily use granular as a pre-plant fertilizer and then use AgroThrive to feed the plants as they grow. And it’s nice to know that AgroThrive is not only feeding our plants, but feeding our soil biology as well!

Thousands of gardeners have been tuning in to The Lazy Dog Farm YouTube channel where Travis covers a variety topics ranging from how to successfully start seedlings to how to make a flavorful hotsauce that packs a punch. Accompanied by his wife Brooklyn and their two boys, the gardens on their 2 acre homestead in southwest Georgia are always filled with a wide variety of vegetables that are enjoyed fresh or preserved for later.


  • Alejandro Apalategui

    Thank you for the great info. I have bought products from your company, and they are great!

  • David

    Really like these blogs Travis. Well done.

    Being a container/raised bed gardener, I’ve experimented with every conceivable fertilizer strategy and I’ve finally narrowed down to a granular balanced blend for pre-plant(organic in spring/summer and synthetic in fall/winter) and employ Agro-Thrive for on-going maintenance. Good to read that others use a similar strategy.

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