Plants usually need certain essential nutrients to support their growth. Normally, these nutrients are to be contained in the soil and absorbed by the roots. But due to several reasons such as leaching, location, and climate, not all the nutrients needed are usually supplied or supplied in the right quantity.
This brings about the need for the application of fertilizers. Fertilizers are natural or artificial organic materials applied to the soil for the purpose of supplying deficient nutrients necessary for plant growth and development.
Granular fertilizers have quickly become one of the widely used types of fertilizers. But beyond being popular, you’ve got to know how best to apply them for effective results. I’m dedicating this article to this purpose.
What Are Granular Fertilizers
Granular fertilizers are solid, lump like granules. They are usually sprinkled or worked into the plant. They decompose slowly, and hence their effect can last up to 9 months before wearing out.
Since they decompose slower than their liquid counterpart, plants usually do not take up the nutrients contained in them as quickly as they do the liquid fertilizers. They normally require watering and the span of a few days for their effects to be visible.
Granular fertilizers provide nutrients to your turf grass more slowly, but they also have the advantage of longevity. Some common granular fertilizers used in farms are 8-8-8 and 10-10-10.
Types of Granular Fertilizers
#1. Slow-release Fertilizers
They are also referred to as controlled or timed-release fertilizers. Slow-release fertilizers release their content slowly over a long period.
They are usually coated. The coating overlaying them helps to regulate the speed of release. This usually happens for as long as two to nine months.
With coated fertilizers, you only have to apply them at most twice during the growing season. Afterward, they keep releasing nutrients in minutes of quantities. The advantage of this is that waste is curbed, as the fertilizer releases only what can be absorbed by the roots.
#2. Uncoated Fertilizers
These are usually less expensive than the coated type, and their effect wears up quicker. They normally last for about two to four weeks.
When applied properly, in the right proportion and location, both the coated and uncoated types don’t leach away. This attribute alone makes it more environmentally friendly.
What Are the Uses of Granular Fertilizers
Almost all the nutrients needed for the growth of your turf grass are present in the soil and air. But many times, plants do not have access to these available nutrients. Hence, the need for fertilizing.
#1. Provides Essential Plant Nutrients
Fertilizers come in different types, and their method of application differs as well.
Nitrogen helps to promote a healthy and robust left growth. It does this by stimulating chlorophyll production in plants. Chlorophyll, as we know, is the major chemical needed in photosynthesis.
Phosphorus, on the other hand, promotes healthy growth of fruits, roots, blossoms, and stems. Potassium also aids the plants in the manufacturing and digesting of their food. By providing these nutrients, plant growth and development is aided.
#2. Provides Trace Elements
In addition to this, other trace elements asides NPK is provided. Deficiency in trace elements leads to poor growth in plants. Some of these trace elements include magnesium, calcium, copper, manganese, iron, zinc, boron, sulfur, etc.
Most times, plants show symptoms when these trace elements are absent. Like if you begin to notice chlorosis (discoloration), it might be a sign of iron deficiency. Using granular fertilizers can easily correct this.
#3. Replenishing Soil Nutrients
Overtime activities such as construction, farming, and traffic can change the chemistry and structure of the soil. Thereby making the nutrients available inadequate to support the growth of your turf grass. When fertilizers are applied, these nutrients are restored and replaced.
#4. Antidote for Leaching
Most water-soluble fertilizers leach easily out of the soil due to rain and other atmospheric conditions. But since granular fertilizers usually only decompose after they have been watered, they provide a longer-lasting result after application.
How to Use Granular Fertilizers
The success of your fertilizer application starts from how the lawn is prepared and even entails the typ of technique you choose to embrace. For a start, you should do the following:
#1. Make Sure To Water the Lawn
Because granular fertilizers are usually in the grain-like form, they’ll need to be watered after application either by irrigation or rainfall. This should take place within 24 hours after the application but best practice is to water-in the fertilizer immediately to prevent problems.
After the initial watering, you could wait three more days before watering intensively again. This is to prevent overwatering, which can cause the fertilizers to leach out.
Remember, water less frequently and more deeply.
The watering process helps to activate and decompose the fertilizer, thereby allowing the release of its nutrients. If watering doesn’t take place, the fertilizer might remain ineffective and dormant.
Another reason for watering the lawn when using granular fertilizer is that, as with most fertilizers, if it isn’t watered, the plants are at risk of burning out.
When using granular fertilizers, it’s also best to water early in the morning before the sun comes out as this will also prevent burns.
#2. Avoid Rainy or Windy Days
The reason must be quite obvious to you already. Applying fertilizers to your lawn during such times can cause it to run off or blow away before it enters into the soil or before it begins to take effect.
#3. Don’t Leave Them on the Leaves
Fertilizers, instead of causing growth, can cause leaf burning if not properly applied. Make sure to shake the remains off the leaf when you’re using granular fertilizers. This will prevent your grass from burning.
#4. Don’t Use Them on Tiny Seedlings
Finally, to prevent burning caused by applying fertilizers, fertilize only growing grasses. Fertilizing seedlings or seeds might cause them to burn out.
Granular Fertilizer Application Techniques
Irrespective of the type of granular fertilizer you choose to apply, yo’ve got to use any of these techniques:
#1. Broadcast Technique
With this method, fertilizers are applied to lawns, fields, and new beds before seeds are planted. While applying fertilizers with the broadcast technique, a hand rotary or a drop spreader is usually used. Using this method enables you to cover a large expanse of land.
#2. Top-dress Technique
This technique allows you to apply your fertilizer by hand to individual plants. It is done by applying the fertilizer around the base area of the plant and extending it to the drip line.
Best Time to Apply Granular Fertilizers
As with most lawn practices, there’s a row and a when. Knowing when to apply your fertilizers will ensure you achieve maximum results. If care is not taken, fertilizing at a wrong time might prove to be an absolute waste of energy.
Most vegetables, as well as annual and perennial crops, benefit the most when granular fertilizers are applied in spring. Lawns are also best fertilized in the first application during the spring season. The second application of granular fertilizers should usually come around early fall.
It’s best to avoid fertilizing before the spring rain. If you do this, leaching might easily occur, and that will result in an absolute waste of time.
Also, trees and shrubs should first be fertilized with granular fertilizers during spring, and subsequently during fall.
Granular Fertilizers vs. Water-Based Fertilizers
In deciding on what type of fertilizer to go for, you should make your choice based on what you’re after.
Granular fertilizers are usually slower but long-lasting, while water-soluble fertilizers provide a quick fix for your grasses.
Also, with granular fertilizers, you can make the application less frequently than with water-based fertilizers. This is because their slow-release properties inhibit quick breakdown.
Meaning, you only have to fertilize your lawn once in about a span of six to nine months. If you’re a very busy lawn owner, granular fertilizers might just be good for you.
You might require less watering when using water-based fertilizers because it is usually mixed in water before application. Granular fertilizers, on the other hand, will have to be watered 14 days after the application for them to take effect.
More so, granular fertilizers come in both fast and slow-release types, unlike liquid based fertilizers, which do not have this option.
Less mobile nutrients such as phosphorus are usually more accessible to your turf roots when using water-based fertilizers, unlike with granular fertilizers.
In essence, they both have their pros and cons. And you should carefully consider these before settling for one.
Using granular fertilizers could prove to be the breakthrough your lawn has been looking for. But then, fertilizing rightly is the key to achieving results. Knowing when and how to fertilize is even more important than fertilizing at all. Make sure to follow through with the guidelines given, and you’ll be surprised at the changes in your lawn.