Slow and Quick Release Fertilizers: Timing is Important
With so many different types of fertilizers available to homeowners, it’s important to understand that there are two distinct fertilizers that can be used on your landscape. Slow release fertilizers will release nutrients over an extended period of time. In comparison, a quick release fertilizer is one that dissolves very quickly in the soil, making the nutrients readily available.
There are many forms of slow release fertilizers such as organic materials. Compost and manure make great forms of slow release fertilizers. You can also buy professionally packaged products such as this feather meal and bone meal that will release nutrients over an extended period of time.
It’s best to use a slow release fertilizer for most of our applications during the growing season. However, during the fall period – as the turf is waiting for winter- it’s ok to use a quick release fertilizer because this will add energy to the root system and make it available quickly as the plant is entering dormancy.
In summary, the biggest difference between a slow release fertilizer and a quick release fertilizer is the timing in which the nutrients will be available. A slow release fertilizer will make nutrients available an extended period for up to two months. Whereas a quick release fertilizer is going to make nutrients available for a period of approximately two weeks.
It’s important to use slow release fertilizers during the majority of the growing season. The one exception to the rule is when fertilizing turf grasses in the late fall. It’s preferred that a quick release fertilizer be used in the fall on turf so that the turf is able to pick up the nutrients quickly before it enters fall dormancy.
This feature story prepared with Jason Graves, Kansas State University Research and Extension Horticulture Agent for Central Kansas Extension District. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at KansasGreenYards.org.