Whether you know the difference between lawn food vs fertilizer or not, one thing is clear: these two products help your lawn look its best.

However, understanding the meaning of these will help you decide which one is necessary for your lawn.

Fertilizing is a step of lawn care that you must do in most cases for your lawn to be healthy. On the other hand, lawn feed maintains its structure to look lush year-round.

Before the heat of summer strikes the grass, let’s discuss plant food and plant fertilizer to prepare your lawn for the future.

Using a Plant Fertilizer 

An infographic explaining each letter in the NPK fertilizer ratio

Many believe less plant fertilizer means less money and less effort spent on lawn care.

Sadly, that’s not the case with plant fertilizer. 

A plant fertilizer enhances the soil by directly providing the nutrients it needs to flourish. 

Plant fertilizer is an artificial mixture that often contains N-P-K.

For those who don’t know, it is the abbreviation for nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium–the three hero nutrients plants require to sustain themselves. 

A plant fertilizer functions by enriching the soil around plants, which then uses those nutrients along with materials from their natural surroundings.

Subsequently, the lawn starts producing food for themselves. 

Having said that, here comes the first distinguishing factor between lawn food vs fertilizer–types.

You can find a plant fertilizer in two forms: liquid and granule. 

You won’t find these categories in plant food. 

Both types of fertilizers provide the chemical components required for plant nourishment. 

Synthetic & Organic Fertilizers

There’s a difference in how organic and synthetic fertilizers work as lawn nourishment despite being easily accessible and trustworthy suppliers of NPK. 

Since most synthetic fertilizers are water soluble, they tend to flow off, which can be problematic for the ecosystem. Even though they nourish the grass, they do nothing for the soil. 

They work quickly, but to maintain the lawn nourished during the growing season, you must continually reapply them.

Natural materials such as blood meal, fish emulsion, bat, chicken, or cow dung, cottonseed meal, and fish emulsion are used to make organic nitrogen fertilizers. 

An organic plant fertilizer has longer-lasting effects when applied correctly since it feeds the soil as well as the grass. However, this also means that weeds benefit from the fertilizer.

A hybrid plant fertilizer is most likely the best for lawns. 

A quality hybrid lawn is one solution for all of the common concerns like lawn maintenance, improving the soil, feeding the grass right away, and keeping weeds out of the garden.

To get more information on the NPK ratio, go through our blog “Lawn Fertilizer Numbers Meaning for Every Season in Canada.”

Using Lawn Food 

The majority of organic fertilizers are derived from plant and animal sources, giving your lawn naturally occurring nutrients. 

They are also more useful to the long-term health of your soil because they have additional beneficial microbes. 

Plant food works the same as an organic fertilizer. So, we can say that it is a type of plant fertilizer.

Because organic fertilizers break down far more slowly than artificial fertilizers, your soil will continue to be healthy and balanced. 

Additionally, using organic fertilizers lessens the chance of overfertilizing your plants or grass.

A variety of nutrients and microbes can be safely added to your grass with plant food. 

They only include natural ingredients that are good for your lawn and garden and don’t seep into the soil.

Elements of Lawn Food

An infographic on the top elements of lawn food

Here are the elements that lawn food contains:

Organic Matter: Supplying organic matter is the foundation of plant food. Additionally, plant food contains an abundance of healthy organic substances and microorganisms that support the structure and health of the soil.

These microbes release nutrients in a form that grassroots may readily absorb as they decompose organic materials. This symbiotic partnership promotes improved water retention and aeration in addition to nutrient availability.

Amino Acids: Consider amino acids to be the fundamental components of life. These molecules function as catalysts for the formation of protein, which is necessary for healthy plant growth and development when it comes to lawn food.

Additionally, amino acids strengthen the lawn’s resistance to external stresses like foot traffic and severe weather.

Seaweed Extracts: If you delve into the ocean’s depths, you’ll discover an immense reservoir of nutrients and hormones. When added to plant food, seaweed extracts provide abundant plant nutrients.

These compounds help absorb nutrients, promote root growth, and even regulate vital functions like photosynthesis.

Lawn Food Vs Fertilizers: Four Major Differences 

An infographic on the differences between lawn food vs fertilizer

We are discussing lawn food vs fertilizer because they are not exactly the same thing, even when they belong to the same family.

To understand why they are dissimilar from one another, read these pointers:

1. Nutrient Distribution

Like other plants, grass produces its own food through the process of photosynthetic energy. 

The roots of the plant store this food to support the plant’s continued growth during dormancy and to help in the regrowth of perennial plants in the spring.

Fertility of the soil is essential for supplying nutrients, such as minerals, which plant roots take up and absorb to be transported throughout the plant.

Poor soil lacks nutrients, which fertilizer supplies. Nitrogen is the most crucial since it tends to displace out of the soil and must be replaced more frequently than potassium or phosphorus. 

Plant food has additional micronutrients like iron and magnesium. Hence, it contains a balanced combination of nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and other necessary elements.

Seaweed extract and humic acid in plant food enhance soil health and encourage root development.

Lawn food not only feeds the grass but also improves the quality of the soil that supports it.

Plant food’s cultivated bacteria and organic matter gradually strengthen the soil’s structure, facilitating better root penetration and drainage. 

Therefore, your lawn becomes healthier and more resilient, making it more capable of withstanding various environmental difficulties.

2. Nutrient Release

The second difference between lawn food vs fertilizer is also nutrient-related.

In contrast to fertilizers, lawn food has a slow-release formula, meaning that its nutrients are released gradually over time. This keeps your grass from overfeeding on nutrients and enables it to absorb them.

Generally speaking, each summer fertilization of a lawn requires one pound of nitrogen per 1,000 square feet.

The NPK ratio indicates the amount of nitrogen in the product, and you can determine how much to spread if you know the bag’s weight—which you should because it’s specified on the label. 

You will need to adjust your spreader to apply more nitrogen to a product with a low concentration than you would to one with a higher concentration.

It’s crucial to determine the coverage when using a quick-release formula to prevent burning the grass by applying too much nitrogen.

It is best to fertilize before a strong downpour because granular fertilizers become available in the soil only when wet. 

Plan on thoroughly watering the lawn immediately after fertilizing or utilizing a liquid fertilizer in desert regions with less rainfall. 

Also, remember that liquid fertilizers often penetrate the soil faster than granular or water-soluble ones.

In contrast to fertilizers, lawn food has a slow-release formula, meaning that its nutrients are released gradually over time. This keeps your grass from overfeeding on nutrients and enables it to absorb them.

Plant food ensures a consistent supply of nutrition over time, eliminating growth fluctuations that can happen with conventional fertilizing techniques.

3. Stress Resistance 

A well-groomed lawn is more resilient to external stresses, such as intense heat waves, insect infestations, or high foot traffic. 

The difference between lawn food vs fertilizer is that to increase the stress tolerance; you need the plant fertilizer with more potassium.

Related: Natural Solutions for an Attractive Lawn: Organic Lawn Care 101

4. Environmental Impact

The last factor that sets lawn food vs fertilizer apart is their environmental impact.

Plant food presents a more environmentally friendly option in a time when sustainability is integral. 

Organic materials and natural components are prioritized in many lawn food formulas. That lowers the possibility of chemical runoff into water sources and fosters a better ecosystem for plants and animals.

When you use plant food in your garden, the wrong amounts of nutrients will affect not just your plants but the surrounding ecosystem as well. 

The consequences will resemble those of overfertilizer use. 

The microbes will fight with the fish and other animals for oxygen if they make it to bigger bodies of water, such as lakes and seas. 

The fish will eventually become exhausted and suffocate, which will result in their death. Consequently, the dead fish will generate unpleasant odours and water quality degradation.

Besides that, the excess nitrogen and phosphorus will enter surface water and encourage the proliferation of microorganisms.

Aquatic plants and algae will proliferate, which is undesirable. An excess of algae and other aquatic plants due to their oxygen-depleting nature.

Additionally, the algae die, feeding the water’s microbes and accelerating the loss of oxygen.

The water body may also become poisonous if the nitrogen in the lawn food is derived from nitrates or ammonia.

It’s a good idea to limit the usage of lawn food to areas of your lawn where the grass can absorb it fully without causing any harm to surrounding bodies of water. 

Similarly, improper plant fertilizer application can pose environmental risks.

Lawn Food Vs Fertilizer: The Ultimate Choice

After learning the differences between lawn food vs fertilizer, you must be thinking about which one is better.

The ideal lawn food is for those who need a consistent, long-term supply of nutrients. 

If you have a well-established lawn that has to be maintained to encourage healthy development, lawn food is also a great option. 

Since lawn food is less likely to contaminate nearby plants and wildlife or leak into water sources, it is also a more environmentally responsible choice.

However, if your lawn needs a rapid nutritional boost to recover from damage brought on by disease, pests, or drought, plant fertilizer is a great option. 

You can use a plant fertilizer for newly established lawns that need a lot of nutrients to develop strong roots and encourage development.

To properly nourish the lawn, one must first ascertain its needs. This entails finding out what each plant or grass needs and doing a pH test on your soil. 

If the pH of the soil is too high or too low, plants cannot absorb the nutrients required for them to produce plant food.

Using these items excessively may damage the environment and your grass. Always adhere to the manufacturer’s directions, and stay away from using these products in hot, dry weather.


Can I apply lawn food to plants other than my grass? 

Specifically designed for lawn use, lawn food might not be suitable for other plants. Before using lawn food, make sure to read the packaging carefully.

How frequently should I fertilize or feed my lawn? 

Generally, lawn food needs to be applied every 6 to 8 weeks, while plant fertilizer may require more regular applications. 

Is it possible to combine fertilizer and plant food?

It is possible to use fertilizer and grass food together. But it’s crucial to use the product as directed by the manufacturer rather than overfertilize your grass.

The Bottom Line

Now that you have learned the differences between lawn food vs fertilizer, you can purchase the suitable one.

To infer, plants produce their own food through the process of photosynthesis; it is not something you can buy. 

A kind of plant fertilizer designed especially for lawns is called lawn food. 

The goal of lawn food is to give your grass a well-balanced combination of nutrients to encourage healthy growth and enhance its appearance. Meanwhile, the role of a plant fertilizer is to improve the soil condition to support growth indirectly.

If your lawn is dead or has brown patches, don’t rely on plant food or fertilizer to fix it; contact Falcons Landscaping.