“So Many Types of Fertilizer - Which is the Best Fertilizer for Your Lawn?”

There are so many types of fertilizer.  Shopping for grass fertilizer can be a very confusing task.  The ingredients come in many different forms and formulations.  This is especially true of nitrogen.

Nitrogen is one of the primary elements your lawn requires.  Generally, a lawn requires more nitrogen than any other element.

Let’s break down each type to help you determine the best lawn fertilizer for your lawn.

There are 3 basic types:

  • Soluble
  • Slow-Release 
  • Natural Lawn 

From Types of Fertilizer to Fertilizing Your Lawn

“Types of Fertilizer #1 – Soluble Type....aka Quick-Release”

Your lawn will green up immediately after the application.  The nitrogen is water soluble, so it passes through the soil and disappears quickly.

It works well in cold soil. It can be used with your first fertilizer application in early Spring.

It is the least expensive of the different types of fertilizer per application. However, this can be deceiving.  Your lawn may require more frequent applications. This throws the front-end savings right out the window.

There are several disadvantages:

  • Fast growth after the application translates to cutting grass more frequently.
  • Effects of it are short lived which means more frequent applications.
  • During rainy periods or in well watered areas, it can run right past the grass roots.
  • Because of the salt content, it is more likely to cause fertilizer burn. The salt pulls the water out of the grass plant and it dries up.

Solubles typically contain ingredients such as:

  • Sulfate
  • Ammonium Nitrate
  • Ammonium phosphate
  • Urea

“Types of Fertilizer #2 – Slow-Release”

The nitrogen in the fertilizer has a coating around it that releases it slowly.  The coatings dissolve at different rates which releases the nitrogen into the soil over an extended period of time.  It spoon fees nutrients which allows the grass to have steady, controlled growth.

This is the type I use on my own lawn as well as my customers.

Slow release types more expensive per application than it’s counterpart.  However, in the long run it may save you time and money because less applications are required.

Slow-release types fall into 3 main categories:

  • Those where nitrogen is contained in a complex molecular structure.  The compound breaks down when the soil is warm enough. Ureaformaldehyde (UF) is a common type.
  • Those that contain water insoluble nitrogen. Two common types are Isobutyline Durea (IBDU) and Methylene Urea.  IBDU releases nutrients most efficiently when the soil temperature is above 75 degrees fahrenheit and supplies nitrogen for approximately 60 days.  Methylene releases nitrogen through bacteria so it requires warmer soil temperatures and moisture.  Nitrogen can last the entire season with methylene.
  • Those that are coated. This type of fertilizer falls into 2 categories. The first, those coated with plastic. Small amounts of nutrients are released when the fertilizer is wet. This type can continue to provide nutrients to you lawn for 3 – 6 months.  The second, is a mixture of fertilizer pellets that have varying thickness.  This type releases the fertilizer at different rates.  The most common type is Sulfur-Coated Urea (SCU).

Many fertilizers today are a combination of both types (soluble and slow-release).  This helps your lawn green up quickly, stay green longer, less chance of fertilizer burn and the price is right.

“Types of Fertilizer #3 – Natural Lawn”

Any fertilizer that is made of dried or composted plant or animal waste is considered natural lawn fertilizer.

There are many benefits:

  • Provides nutrients to your grass and soil.
  • Builds up your soil structure
  • Water insoluble – releases nutrients slowly. This provides the grass plant a steady supply of  food and imposes little danger of over fertilizing.

There are also several disadvantages:

  • It contains a lower percentage of nitrogen.  Therefore, you need to apply larger quantities.
  • Because frequent applications are required, this type can be more costly.
  • The soil temperature must be above 50 degrees fahrenheit to work.

Learn more about using organic lawn fertilizer.

From Types of Fertilizer to Lawn Care Home Page

Pushcart for collection of fertilizer in Japan. Picture taken prior to 1922.

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Label of Fertilizer Bag showing Levels of the 3 major nutrients: Nitrogen (N)-Phosphate(P)-Potassium/Potash(K)

Hand Held Spreader (good for small fertilizing and seeding jobs)

Fertilizer Cart or Fertilizer Spreader

When using any sort of chemical, always read the instructions on the back of the bag/container.