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What is Granular Fertilizer?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a HomeQuestionsAnswered researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon985584 — On Jan 17, 2015

Which month is best to apply granular fertilizer?

By anon53990 — On Nov 25, 2009

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.

By anon53988 — On Nov 25, 2009

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

By anon53307 — On Nov 20, 2009

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

By anon29050 — On Mar 26, 2009

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

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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