What Are Quick-Release Fertilizers & How Do They Work?

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One of the most important factors in maintaining a healthy lawn is proper fertilization, especially when your lawn is struggling to grow no matter what you do. Many issues can prevent your grass from becoming as lush and green as you would like, but there are certain products that can help.

Quick-release fertilizer, also known as soluble or fast-acting fertilizer, is a type of fertilizer that is formulated to deliver nutrients rapidly to plants. If you're new to lawn care or have never used quick-release fertilizers, keep reading to find out all the ways these products can help save your turf!

What Is Quick-Release Fertilizer? 

Man applying liquid, fast-release fertilizer with hose.

Quick-release fertilizer is a type of fertilizer that uses water-soluble ingredients, like potassium nitrate and ammonium nitrate, for the rapid delivery of nitrogen and other nutrients to your lawn or plants. Nitrogen is the most important nutrient for quick and lush grass growth, and other nutrients present in the fertilizer aid in root development and sustained plant health. 

Unlike slow-release fertilizers, which release nutrients gradually over an extended period, quick-release fertilizers are designed for immediate absorption by plant roots upon application. The rapid nutrient delivery is achieved through the formulation of highly soluble compounds that contain essential nutrients crucial for plant growth, such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), which are the three major ingredients crucial for plant growth. 

How Does Quick-Release Fertilizer Work?

Quick-release fertilizers work by providing an instant boost of essential nutrients to your plants in a readily available, easy-to-absorb manner. These fertilizers typically come in liquid form, which is applied with a sprayer, hose-end applicator, or irrigation system. The macronutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium – known as NPK) start taking effect immediately rather than having to be watered in or broken down over time. This promotes greener leaves and better root growth much more quickly than what you would see from just the naturally occurring resources in the soil.

Quick-release fertilizers also contain a variety of micronutrients like iron or magnesium, to name a couple, but they are able to take effect so quickly because of their concentration of the NPK macronutrients. Nitrogen is the most important nutrient for rapid and lush grass growth, and it works even quicker when it is used in a highly water-soluble, liquid product. As the macronutrients produce lusher leaves and larger roots, the micronutrients have an easier time being absorbed by the plant. 

Pros & Cons Of Quick-Release Fertilizers

The biggest advantage of quick-release fertilizers is the immediate results they offer. Your lawn can become greener and healthier in just a few days after applying the product. This fertilizer is ideal for homeowners who want to achieve more immediate results and do not have the patience or time to wait weeks for their lawns to thrive. It is also helpful in areas where the soil is deficient in nutrients, as is the case with all types of fertilizers.

On the downside, quick-release fertilizers can encourage excessive growth, leading to frequent mowing and increased maintenance. This excessive growth is also known to cause grass to become thin and weak, which is commonly referred to as fertilizer burn. When compared to slow-release or granular fertilizers, there are some clear pros and cons of quick-release products:


  • Quick results
  • Easy to apply
  • Covers more ground
  • Consistent nutritional content
  • No clean up required on paved surfaces
  • Easier to tailor mixtures to specifications


  • Turf stress caused by rapid growth
  • Can evaporate on a hot day
  • Will wash away in the rain
  • Frequent reapplications needed
  • Shorter shelf-life
  • More expensive in bulk

Types Of Quick-Release Fertilizers

Liquid fertilizer applied from a tank.

There are several types of quick-release fertilizers, each with different nutrient ratios and delivery systems. When selecting a quick-release fertilizer, it's essential to consider the specific requirements of your soil and grass. A soil test can help determine the nutrient needs of your lawn, and certain options may be better than others if you need immediate results for your lawn.

  • Liquid - This type of fertilizer, which is pre-mixed and immediately ready to use, is the simplest and most effective option for beginners. Pre-mixed liquid fertilizers are already blended with water when you purchase them, and they often come in convenient hose-end sprayers. All you have to do is attach it to your garden hose and turn on the water, without having to do any diluting or mixing yourself!
  • Powder - Also known as water-soluble fertilizers, this option entails mixing water with a powdery concoction packed with nutrients and minerals, which you purchase in powder form. Gardeners are more likely to use this option than lawn care enthusiasts, as powder fertilizers usually come in very small packages that can't cover an entire lawn.
  • Concentrate - While this option is the most effective for lawn care, it is best left to the pros! Liquid concentrate fertilizers come in the form of a highly concentrated solution with all the nutrients your lawn needs. This option allows the most freedom in picking out and tailoring an NPK ratio to the specific needs of your lawn. However, these highly concentrated solutions MUST be mixed thoroughly with water, or you risk destroying the grass you are trying to help!

Quick-Release Fertilizer vs. Slow-Release Fertilizer

Granular, slow-release fertilizer in grass.

Slow-release fertilizers (example shown above) are designed to deliver nutrients gradually over time, ensuring a steady supply of nutrients for the lawn. They dissolve slowly and improve soil health as they seep into the lawn. They are less prone to leaching and runoff, which can be harmful to the environment. However, slow-release fertilizers do not provide the immediate results of quick-release fertilizers, which means you have to wait longer to see the grass growth you are hoping to achieve.

Homeowners and lawn care enthusiasts enjoy slow-release fertilizers because they focus on improving soil quality, whereas quick-release options focus on feeding the roots of your lawn as directly as possible in order to see fast growth. While both options have their merits, quick-release fertilizers are the only choice to make when it comes to immediate results. Once grass growth is reestablished with quick-release fertilizers, focusing on improving soil quality can help maintain the lush lawn you have created.

Best Times To Apply Quick-Release Fertilizers

The best time to apply quick-release fertilizers is during the growing season, typically from spring to late summer. It's important to apply the fertilizer when the grass is dry and there is no risk of rain for at least 24-48 hours. This enables the fertilizer to settle in the soil and prevents it from being washed away. It is also important to avoid applying these fertilizers in the hottest part of the day to avoid evaporation. The best time of day to apply any liquid-type fertilizer is in the late afternoon or early evening.

Before applying the fertilizer, be sure to mow the lawn to its proper height and remove any debris that might interfere with the application. Use a spreader or sprayer to apply the fertilizer evenly, taking care not to overapply the product. It's important to follow the package instructions and wear gloves and protective goggles when handling the fertilizer. Walk at a steady pace across your lawn to make sure every area gets treated evenly.

  • REMEMBER! Quick-release fertilizers are most effective for new and dying lawns. Soil that is struggling to support grass growth can get a rapid boost from quick-release fertilizers, but proper lawn care must take place once growth is achieved!

Professional Fertilization For Quick Results 

Summit Lawns fertilization services.

Quick-release fertilizers are an excellent option for homeowners who want to see fast and immediate results in their lawn's growth. They provide an immediate boost of nutrients, helping the grass to become greener and healthier in a short time. However, it's important to use them responsibly and follow the application guidelines to prevent harmful overfertilization. For the best results, call a local fertilization service provider like Summit Lawns! Using a professional service is the best way to ensure that you get the best results possible without damaging your turf!