What is Granular Fertilizer?

Mary McMahon

Granular or dry fertilizer is a type of fertilizer which comes in a dry pelleted form, as opposed to spikes, a liquid, or powder. Most garden stores carry several different types of granular fertilizer, along with an array of formulations which are designed to address specific soil conditions. This type of fertilizer has both advantages and disadvantages which gardeners have to consider before use.

Granular fertilizer can be blended with soil to provide plants with nutrients.
Granular fertilizer can be blended with soil to provide plants with nutrients.

Some companies make synthetic granular fertilizer, in which various chemicals are used to create the desired balance of nutrients. This type of fertilizer tends to have a very precise balance, and a very predictable behavior once it is applied. Others make their fertilizer from natural materials, by gathering things like compost, manure, and so forth and pelletizing them for gardening convenience. These fertilizers are tested before sale, but they may not always have the exact balance of nutrients one finds with synthetic fertilizers.

Close-up view of potash granules, which are often used in fertilizer.
Close-up view of potash granules, which are often used in fertilizer.

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One of the best ways to use this type of fertilizer is as a soil preparation prior to planting, in which the fertilizer is worked into the soil to provide nutrients to the plants which will be established there. Granular fertilizer can also be applied to existing plants, in which case it will need to be watered in so that it settles around the root system of the plants. Watering in will also prevent nutrient burns to the plants.

The key advantage to granular fertilizer is that it acts as a time release capsule, allowing nutrients to flow out over time, rather than flooding the plants with nutrients like liquid fertilizers do. However, the fertilizer can also lose or leach nutrients in heavy rainfall, or in poor drainage conditions, in which case the plants may not get the full benefit of the fertilizer. Granular fertilizer can also be difficult to manage in an established garden, as it needs to be applied with care to avoid damage to the plants.

Gardening organizations strongly recommend that people test their soil before applying fertilizer. Many universities with agriculture programs offer soil testing to gardeners, and it is also possible to send samples in to firms which specialize in soil tests. The test results will provide information about the balance of nutrients needed in the soil, and the best type of fertilizer to use. Gardeners should also remember that the character of the plants is important, as plants have different nutrient and pH requirements which need to be addressed.

Granular fertilizer usually has predictable behavior once it's applied.
Granular fertilizer usually has predictable behavior once it's applied.

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Discussion Comments

anon985584

Which month is best to apply granular fertilizer?

anon53990

Quick question: Does granular fertilizer have the basic N-P-K composition? By the way, you people are best for info! Thanks, wiseGEEK! -Thalia B.

anon53988

Thanks so much for the info. It was just what I needed! You guys are the best! -Kesha

anon53307

Do you guys have any info about water soluble fertilizers and natural organic fertilizers?

anon29050

Would it be necessary to use a liquid fertilizer in addition to a granular fertilizer, such as osmocote?

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