Types Of Lawn Fertilizers: A Comprehensive Guide

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Maintaining a beautiful and healthy lawn requires a lot of effort. Aside from regular mowing and watering, applying the right fertilizer is also crucial. The right fertilizer can ensure that your lawn gets all the essential nutrients it needs to grow strong and healthy. With all the available options on the market, it can be confusing to decide which one to use. To help make that decision easier, this guide will discuss the different types of lawn fertilizers so you can find the one that best suits your needs and the needs of your grass!

Synthetic Fertilizers

npk for the soil

Synthetic fertilizers are chemical-based fertilizers that contain essential nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. These fertilizers are readily available on the market and are the most affordable option. Synthetic fertilizers are fast-acting and provide quick results, making them an excellent option for a quick green-up. However, as is the case with any chemical-based product, improper applications can cause damage to the turf, so reading the labels and instructions thoroughly is crucial.

These fertilizers have an NPK ratio listed on the package. The NPK ratio indicates the percentage by weight of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium in the product. For example, a 20-5-10 fertilizer contains 20% nitrogen, 5% phosphorus, and 10% potassium. Most synthetic fertilizers have a balance of each nutrient and include an array of micronutrients like iron, zinc, copper, and more.

Nitrogen-Based Fertilizers

Nitrogen enhances the green color of the lawn, promotes leaf growth, and increases root development. Nitrogen fertilizers come in different formulations such as quick-release, slow-release, and controlled-release. Depending on your lawn's needs, you can choose the appropriate type of nitrogen-based fertilizer. Nitrogen is the most important ingredient in any synthetic fertilizer.

Phosphate-Based Fertilizers

Phosphate-based fertilizers contain a higher amount of phosphorus than the other two macronutrients, which promotes root growth and helps the plants absorb nutrients more effectively. This type of fertilizer is beneficial for newly seeded lawns or those that have poor soil quality. Applying phosphate-based fertilizers can help the lawn establish a healthy root system and strengthen its resistance to diseases and pests.

Potassium-Based Fertilizers

Potassium-heavy fertilizers help the lawn withstand extreme weather conditions, such as heat and drought. This type of fertilizer is beneficial for repairing damaged lawns and promoting recovery after stressful situations. Potassium-based fertilizers can enhance the turf's tolerance to stress and increase its overall health and resilience by strengthening cell walls of the grass.

Organic Fertilizers

organic fertilizer

Organic fertilizers are made from animal or plant-based materials, and they are also referred to as natural fertilizers. These fertilizers release nutrients slowly and naturally into the soil, making them a great choice for long-term soil health. These varieties do not provide the immediate results that you get from synthetic fertilizers, but they are the better option for sustained soil health, which means healthier grass in the long run.

Unlike synthetic fertilizers, organic fertilizers don't have an NPK ratio listed on the package since their nutrient content can vary widely based on the source material. One of the benefits of organic fertilizers is that they increase soil microorganisms' population, which can improve nutrient availability and water-holding capacity. A good way to think of the distinction between organic and synthetic fertilizers is that organic fertilizers focus on improving soil quality (which leads to grass growth) whereas synthetic fertilizers focus on creating green grass quickly by feeding the grass directly. Below are a few examples of the types of ingredients and materials found in organic fertilizers:

  • Manure
  • Compost
  • Bone Meal
  • Alfalfa Meal
  • Corn Gluten Meal
  • Egg Shells
  • Rock Phosphate
  • Kelp

Liquid & Fast-Acting Fertilizers

liquid fertilizer spreader

Liquid fertilizers are plant food in a liquid form, making them easy to apply and quick to absorb. Liquid fertilizers may come in a concentrated form, and you mix them with water before applying them to your lawn. One of the benefits of liquid fertilizers is that they are fast-acting and can provide quick results. They are also an excellent option for those who want to spot-treat specific areas of their lawn or apply fertilizer with a hose-end sprayer. These fertilizers can evaporate in the hot summer sun, and rainfall quickly after application can wash them away before they are absorbed. To avoid these issues, liquid fertilizers should be applied on a day that is not expecting rain, ideally in the late afternoon.

Granular & Slow-Release Fertilizers

granular fertilizer spreader

Granular fertilizers are dry, pellet-like granules that need to be applied to the soil's surface and then watered into the lawn. The pellets break down slowly, releasing nutrients gradually into the soil. They provide a consistent release of nutrients over time, which can be better for your lawn's long-term health. Of course, this means you will not see the immediate results you get from liquid fertilizers, but patience is very important when you are trying to improve your lawn. These types of fertilizers are easy to store and have a long shelf life.

Spring Fertilizers

Spring fertilizers are designed to promote new growth and green-up your lawn after winter. They typically have a higher nitrogen content to stimulate fast growth. Spring fertilizers provide a green lawn in time for summer when you will be spending more time outdoors. However, it's essential not to over-fertilize in early spring, as this can lead to excessive growth that requires more water and maintenance.

Fall Fertilizers

granular fertilizer in fall

Fall fertilizers are designed to build stronger roots and prepare your lawn for winter. They typically have a higher phosphorus and/or potassium content than other synthetic fertilizers, which helps your lawn withstand cold temperatures and disease. Fall fertilizers should always be in slow-release, granular form to avoid stressing out your grass too quickly right before the cold weather arrives. It's essential to apply fall fertilizers at the right time, around six weeks before the first frost, to ensure that your lawn receives optimal benefits.

Weed & Feed Fertilizers

Weed and feed fertilizers contain both fertilizer and herbicide. They are designed to kill weeds while providing nutrients to grass. Weed and feed fertilizers are typically applied in the spring or fall, but they can be applied any time weeds are popping up in your lawn. These products save time and effort by treating weeds and fertilizing your lawn at the same time. Unfortunately, these products may not have a full and appropriately balanced fertilizer in them (compared to strictly fertilizing products), and they are not effective against grassy weeds like crabgrass or annual bluegrass.

Biofeed Fertilizer & Little John's Lawns


Biofeed fertilizer is a nutrient-rich liquid fertilizer made from organic matter. It promotes healthy grass by increasing the soil's microbial life, creating a more robust root structure, and building plant disease resistance. The fertilizers we use here at Little John’s Lawns contain all the essential nutrients found in any commercial fertilizer, plus a variety of organic ingredients to give your lawn both immediate and long-term results! Call us today at (480) 841-6906 for more information on our fertilization services in Arizona!