Solved! How Long Do Fertilizers Take To Work? | Liquid Vs. Granular Fertilizer

Fertilizing your garden and lawn is crucial to keeping your grass lush and your plants blooming. Consider fertilizer as the food that will assist in the growth of your grass and plants. It gives your plants a surge of essential nutrients and minerals they desperately need. In this article, find out how long does it take granular fertilizer to work.

Contents show

But how long do fertilizers take to work?

how long does it take granular fertilizer to work

Photo Credit In most cases, fertilizers can take up to two weeks to produce the desired results after application.

I understand how you feel—your lovely garden looks sadder than usual. Your flowers won’t blossom, and your fruit won’t ripen. And then the thought strikes you, “What about fertilizer?” However, fertilizers don’t just work overnight. They take time! Exactly how much? Well, that is what this article is about. Continue reading to find out.

How long it takes for fertilizer to work on grass depends on the fertilizer used. Liquid fertilizer takes around 24 hours to work. Granular fertilizers, on the other hand, may take 1 to 2 weeks to work following application. Similarly, there are synthetic quick-release fertilizers that produce results almost immediately. And there are slow-release organic fertilizers, which slowly release nutrients over time.

In this article, we will discuss:

  • The pro and cons of different fertilizer types
  • Which fertilizer type works the quickest
  • The best fertilizer type for your garden
  • And loads more!

What Are The Different Fertilizer Types?

If this is your first time gardening, you are undoubtedly curious about the different kinds of fertilizers that are available on the market. For the purpose of this article, I will focus on the different types of lawn fertilizers as they are applied to the soil.

Related: The Best Organic Fertilizers For Home Lawns For A Greener & Healthier Yard

Powder Fertilizers

Powder fertilizers

Photo Credit Powder fertilizer offers all the pros and cons of liquid fertilizer since it is diluted in water before use.

Although they are different, people frequently confuse them with granular fertilizers. Powder fertilizer, to be honest, is probably the least-known type of fertilizer. 

If you are looking for a powder fertilizer, the simplest method is to check the packaging and see if it says “water-soluble.”  In most cases, this is a good indication that the item in question is a powder rather than granules. If you can find the correct powder fertilizer for your needs, it will be the “Goldilocks” fertilizer for your lawn or garden.

I also like powder fertilizers as they are typically less expensive than liquid fertilizers and have fewer issues than granular fertilizers. The only disadvantage of purchasing powder fertilizers is that their use almost always requires some math. 

For instance, you will need around 2/3 of a cup to water your plant. However, according to the fertilizer’s packaging, use 1/2 teaspoon per 1/2 cup. Do you see what’s wrong?

Liquid Fertilizers

Liquid Fertilizers -how long does it take granular fertilizer to work

Photo Credit Liquid fertilizer is any liquid solution that is given to plants as food.

Granular fertilizers tend to be rougher on plants than their liquid counterparts. Therefore, it’s best to use liquid fertilizer on tender or immature plants. There are also some very potent liquid fertilizers on the market, but liquid fertilizers are generally not as harsh.

Another advantage of liquid fertilizers is that they help you avoid many issues that might arise when working with granular fertilizers. For instance, fertilizer cannot create a crust on the soil when it is in liquid form, and the nutrients can more easily reach the plant’s roots. This also means that liquid fertilizers typically have a quicker-acting time. 

However, you may discover that you need to fertilize your plants more frequently as a direct result of this quick-release action. In addition to this, because of their more convenient nature, liquid fertilizers are typically more expensive. 

Simply combine them with water, and then apply the mixture to the ground. However, it is more challenging to store liquid fertilizers during the winter. 

If you live in a cooler location as I do, you have to store it inside, or else it would freeze, and then all sorts of weird stuff could happen. 

For instance, the solubility of the minerals shifts, and some wacky reactions occur, both of which muck up the nutritional profile of your fertilizer.

Granular Fertilizers

Granular Fertilizers

Photo Credit Granular fertilizers are dry and often come in pellet form.

Granular fertilizer is likely the most common form of crop amendment used in yards, lawns, and gardens. You should have little trouble tracking it down, and depending on the time of year, you might even find it at the Walmart in your neighborhood. 

Despite the fact that it is not my go-to choice for fertilizer, many people use it, and it does have some advantages. Granular fertilizer, for instance, is typically sold at a lower price, and it is also more convenient to store during the colder months. 

Granular fertilizers are also very beneficial for pre-plant application. You can simply grab handfuls of the fertilizer and sprinkle it all over your garden or lawn to fertilize the plants and the grass. Granular fertilizers are thus quite flexible to use.

Granular fertilizer does, however, come with a few drawbacks. When used incorrectly, it can do severe damage to your plants. For example, I’ve learned the hard way that incorrectly applying granular fertilizer can result in crusting, which is very harmful. 

So, ensure that you apply granular fertilizer into the soil after sprinkling it on your lawn.

Related: Lawn Fertilizer Schedule | When To Fertilize Your Grass For The Best Results?

Granular Vs. Liquid Fertilizer

 ProsCons
Granular Fertilizers


Granular fertilizer is more cost-effective when purchased in larger quantities. 

Granular fertilizers are superior for use in heavy pre-planting treatments because of their higher efficiency. 

They do not become brittle when exposed to low temperatures, making it much simpler to store them. 

Your plants can receive nutrition from the slow-releasing pellets for up to nine months.
A challenging and laborious application.

Because each granule has a unique quantity of nutrients, there is inconsistency in the process of feeding plants. 

Some immobile nutrients, like phosphorus, cannot reach the roots for absorption unless they are carried by water. 

Their high concentration of salt can cause damage to the leaves of plants.
Liquid FertilizersPlants take up the nutrients at a higher and more efficient rate. 

Their mode of shipment is more convenient.These fertilizers have a fast-acting effect. 

They are simpler to apply the fertilizer at an even level to the plants. 

Last but not least, liquid fertilizers are convenient to stockpile because they are sold in compact containers.
The excessive salinity of liquid fertilizers can burn plant leaves when used at high temperatures. 

Granular fertilizers tend to be more affordable than their liquid counterparts. 

Plants absorb only a tiny part of the nutrients. The remainder of the soil’s nutrients is lost due to the processes of volatilization and leaching. 

The tools used to apply fertilizers are quickly ruined due to their excessive salinity.

How Long Do Different Fertilizers Take To Work?

how long does it take granular fertilizer to work

Photo Credit Liquid fertilizers work the quickest, producing results within a matter of 1 to 2 days.

So, now that you have all of the background knowledge on various types of fertilizers, I can finally tell you how long each type of fertilizer takes to work! 

I am going to go in the order of slowest time to fastest.

Granular Fertilizers

Granular fertilizer! It is wonderful in many ways, but you shouldn’t expect quick results from it. Even though some products work more quickly than others, you should always check the label to be sure. Nevertheless, it could take anywhere from two weeks to three weeks before you see the effects of granular fertilizers on your lawn or garden. 

Granular fertilizers are slow as the molecules of the nutrients they contain are less mobile compared to liquid fertilizers. Although some rapidly acting granular fertilizers are available on the market, they can occasionally burn your plants.

As a result, before applying any granular fertilizer to your lawn, you should always make sure that you thoroughly inspect the fertilizer’s nutrient makeup.

Powder Fertilizer

The efficacy of powder fertilizer is comparable to liquid fertilizer. However, powder fertilizers include formulations with a slower release rate and can take a few days longer to work.

Nevertheless, you can buy a product labeled as “quick-release” to obtain quick results. The composition of powder fertilizers is typically a little milder than that of liquid fertilizers, which means that the results may not always be as profound. 

This is especially true for hardy plants that have already been established. So, if you are looking for fast results, just keep that in mind!

Liquid Fertilizer

As you might have already predicted, the liquid fertilizer is the one that works the quickest. Depending on the product, you should begin to see results anywhere from one to two days after starting use. If you really need results quickly, I suggest you look for a product that is advertised as “fast-acting” or even “instant results.”  

You could start to see progress in as little as 24 hours. However, make sure that the nutrient content is not too strong as it could lead to grass burns.

Related: What Is The Best Lawn Fertilizer Ratio? A Comprehensive Guide To N-P-K Numbers

Factors That Affect Fertilizer Absorption

Factors That Affect Fertilizer Absorption

Photo Credit If it is too hot outside, do not fertilize your lawn, or you will burn your grass.

Fertilizers, despite their differences in composition, all perform a similar function. They break down in the soil, transforming into a form the plant roots can readily take up. 

As a result, the waiting period for liquid fertilizers is the lowest, while the waiting period for granular fertilizers is the longest. However, several other factors also affect the rate at which fertilizers are taken into the soil and produce results. 

These factors are:

Supernutrition In The Soil

The nutritional makeup of a plant can affect how well it absorbs a particular nutrient. For instance, if a plant receives one nutrient in excess, it will establish physiological barriers that will slow down the rate at which nutrients are absorbed. Occasionally, because of this, it takes significantly longer than expected for the fertilizer to be absorbed by the soil.

Rainfall

After the rain, granular fertilizer dissolves faster, and plants absorb it much more quickly. However, you should not apply your fertilizer when it is raining. This is because rain will wash away the fertilizer, depriving the plants of the ability to take in sufficient amounts of nutrients. Similarly, in dry seasons, plants take longer to absorb nutrients due to low soil moisture.

Temperature

Warmer conditions promote solubility. This means that fertilizer dissolves faster in warm weather than in cold weather. As a result, plants absorb nutrients more quickly when it is hotter than when it is cold. However, you should avoid fertilizing your grass when it is too hot outside since you could easily end up burning the grass on your lawn.

Things To Consider When Buying A Fertilizer

how long does it take granular fertilizer to work

Photo Credit Granular fertilizers work best for new grass, whereas liquid fertilizers work best for established grass.

Let’s go back to the beginning of our story: your garden is in desperate need of nutritional assistance, and it needs it now. What do you do? The answer is fertilizer, of course! When selecting a fertilizer, there are, however, a few factors that should be considered.

Your Lawn’s Current Condition

Are you getting ready for May transplants or hoping for a last blossom explosion before the fall? The answer to this question will help you decide which type of fertilizer is best for you.

My opinion is that liquid and powder fertilizers are best for use on established plants. So, if your lawn or garden is in its later stages, I suggest you use one of these.

Granular fertilizer, on the other hand, is best used for pre-plant fertilization. Therefore, granular fertilizer can be your best option if you want to fertilize young plants swiftly.

How Much Area Do You Need To Cover

If you have a large garden area that has to be fertilized fast, I advise using either liquid or powder fertilizer. Put the required quantity into a watering can, and start working!

Granular fertilizers, on the other hand, are fantastic for covering a vast area of the garden in a single application. Also, if your plants have already been set into the ground, this step can be lengthy since I recommend mixing granules into the top few inches of soil.

Synthetic Fertilizers

Synthetic Fertilizers

Photo Credit Synthetic fertilizers are fast-acting and come in Liquid, pellet, granule, and spike forms.

Many individuals naturally assume that anything synthetic entails something negative. With synthetic fertilizers, however, this is not always the case. Synthetic fertilizers are safe as long as they are used correctly. Also, synthetic fertilizers’ nutrients are available immediately without having to wait for their degradation, which is one of their key benefits.

What Are Synthetic Fertilizers Made Of?

Most of these fertilizers have a high percentage of nitrogen but almost none of the other nutrients (potassium and phosphorus, respectively). This is because nitrogen is what gives grass its deep, lustrous green color on a lawn.

How Do Synthetic Fertilizers Work?

Synthetic fertilizer needs to be mixed with water before it can become soluble and be taken up by the plants. It won’t accomplish much if it is simply abandoned in the form of dry pellets.

Organic Fertilizers

Organic Fertilizers

Photo Credit Organic fertilizers of high quality are the byproducts of natural decomposition and are easily digestible by plants.

Organic fertilizers are typically better for the environment than their laboratory-created counterparts, i.e., synthetic fertilizers. They have carbon as part of their chemical composition. Carbon, together with nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, feeds microbes and allows them to make nutrients available to plants through a natural process.

What Are Organic Fertilizers Made Of?

The nutrients that are contained in organic fertilizers are entirely derived from either plant or animal matter. They are usually made up of bone, blood, or fish emulsion, among other things. Other examples of organic fertilizer are cow manure, decomposed leaves, and food compost.

How Do Organic Fertilizers Work?

Organic fertilizers are known as slow-release fertilizers since they must decay in order to release their nutrients. They last a lot longer, though, and can feed your plants for weeks, months, or even years. The time it takes for granular fertilizer to work depends on the organic components used to make it.

Slow-Release Vs. Quick Release Fertilizer

Slow release vs quick release - how long does it take granular fertilizer to work

Photo Credit If you want quick and immediate results, use a quick-release fertilizer on your lawn.

Slow-release fertilizers deliver a low but consistent dose of nutrients over a period of time that ranges from six to eight weeks on average. The nutrients in slow-release fertilizers are contained in a more complicated or complex form, which means that the soil must first break them down before the plant can take them in.

On the other hand, quick-release fertilizers provide immediate nutrition to the grass, and as a result, new growth may appear in as little as one or two days. Fertilizers with a quick release contain nutrients in their bio-available forms, which means that the plant can absorb them as soon as the fertilizer is used on the soil.

When To Use Slow-Release Fertilizer

The nutrients included in slow-release fertilizer are released into the soil over a more extended period, minimizing the number of times the fertilizer needs to be applied. 

So, choose a fertilizer that has a gradual release rate if you don’t have the resources (time or money) to tend to your plants more frequently.

When To Use Quick-Release Fertilizer

Quick-release fertilizer is useful after sowing or overseeding a lawn. The increased nutrients will help the grass grow more quickly and have a greater chance of outcompeting weeds. 

So, if your lawn needs to quickly improve its health after being affected by a disease, drought, or pests, use a quick-release formula fertilizer.

Final Thoughts

The use of fertilizers encourages robust plant growth and provides the nutrients necessary for optimal development. These fertilizers are available in a variety of forms, with Liquid and granulated being the two most common types. 

Choosing the appropriate fertilizer for your lawn and garden can help you accomplish the goals that you have set for yourself. Whether you go the organic or synthetic route, the granular, liquid, or powder route, the quick-release or the slow-release route, each approach has its own unique set of benefits and drawbacks. 

The rate at which you get outcomes is merely one aspect of the tale.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How long does it take for plants to react to fertilizer?

Plant reaction to fertilizers will occur 24 hours after the application and will be finished within  2 to 5 days. Conditions of extreme cold and high humidity result in the slowest reaction time. In the case of liquid fertilizers, it takes only a few minutes for soluble fertilizers to make their way into the nutrient stream of the plant following application.

How long does fertilizer last once applied?

Most liquid fertilizers have a half-life in the soil that ranges from one to two weeks, after which they need to be reapplied. In general, you will need to apply them anywhere from once every seven to once every fourteen days, but the precise frequency of application may change based on the type of fertilizer you are using.

What happens if you fertilize too much?

Excess fertilizer can be harmful to the environment. Overfertilization causes extra fertilizers to seep into groundwater, rivers, and oceans. Furthermore, using too much fertilizer around plants might result in fertilizer burn. Overfertilizing your lawn can happen for various reasons, including excessive fertilizer application and poorly drained soil.

Does rain wash away fertilizer?

Yes, a fertilizer that has been recently applied can be washed away if there is persistent and heavy rain. This runoff will prevent the nutrients from ever being absorbed by the soil, so plants will not receive the nutrients they require. Slow-release granular fertilizer, however, is difficult to wash away and does not break down quickly in water.

Should I mow before I fertilize?

In an ideal scenario, you will want to mow and rake the lawn before applying fertilizer. This will allow you to eliminate any excess grass waste and make it simpler for the fertilizer to penetrate the soil. However, don’t fertilize right after mowing. Instead, let at least 10 to 12 hours pass before fertilizing after cutting.

Sources for Further Reading

Timing Fertilizer and Pasture Yields | Master Grazer. (2022). Retrieved 2 September 2022, from https://grazer.ca.uky.edu/content/timing-fertilizer-and-pasture-yields

Turfgrass Fertilization: A Guide for Professional Turfgrass Managers. (2022). Retrieved from https://extension.psu.edu/turfgrass-fertilization-a-basic-guide-for-professional-turfgrass-managers

Pros and cons of granular and liquid fertilizers. (2016). Retrieved 2 September 2022, from https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/pros_and_cons_of_granular_and_liquid_fertilizers

Editor’s Recommendations

Lawn Mowing Pattern & Techniques | Cut Your Grass Like A Pro

How To Grow Grass When You Have Dogs? A Comprehensive Guide

How To Create A Wildflower Meadow? And, Is A Wildflower Lawn Worth It?

Morgan Daniels

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.