Liquid Fertilizer – How To Feed Plants, Grow Better & Improve Yield

A transplanting solution aka Liquid fertilizer feeding solutions have long been popular.

Home gardeners use them because they are safe and can be used in many more ways than dry chemical fertilizers and produce results faster.

For this reason many homeowners believe liquid plant foods are better than fertilizers made as granular fertilizers, like those used in a liquid grass fertilizer.

bottles of liquid fertilizer solution

Liquid Plant Feed Not a Fad

Liquid feeding is not a fad. As early as the 16th Century it was found that water coming from muddy streams stimulated plant growth while rainwater had no such effect.

Water in which animal manures had soaked was found to contain plant micronutrients by the Chinese in the 17th Century. However, the procurement of water is a laborious process and retarded their use.

Fertilizer solutions may be made at home, bought in bottles or in a form of soluble dry salts. There are a large number of concerning applications of homemade liquid fertilizer for garden use. Fish emulsion or fish fertilizers, kelp fertilizer, bone meal, and blood meal, are liquid or water-soluble fertilizers that you can also use.

Dry fertilizers sold for mixing in water are numerous from Scotts, Miracle-Gro Plant Food, Dyna Gro, and Schultz.

Which is the best liquid plant food or solution to grow a plant is difficult to say?

1-2-1 Ratio A Good Choice

A number of years ago large number liquid foods were compared for use as transplanting solutions and the largest yield was obtained with a 1-2-1 n-p-k ratio (nitrogen phosphorus and potassium). This mixture is comparable to a 5-10-5 dry fertilizer which is commonly used for growing commercial crops.


In deciding which one to use, the only thing I can say is to figure out where you get the most units of plant food for a dollar. These dry mixtures are a little more expensive than dry fertilizer applications because water-soluble salts are more difficult to get.

Liquid plant fertilizer solutions sold in bottles, jugs or barrels are a different story. A gallon of these liquids is now made up to contain 10 pounds of fertilizer. They are highly concentrated liquid fertilizer and must be diluted before they are used.

Here again, I can only say that the 1-2-1 ratio has given excellent results. Whether this ratio of plant nutrients will stand up under close scrutiny is still somewhat of a question.

One important factor to keep in mind, however, is that any fertilizer applied dry or in solution will not do much good if the soil is already fertile enough.

“NO fertilizer Should Be Used Unless There Is A Need For It”

Liquid organic fertilizers or not, do not administer if the soil or plants do not require it. And before application, always conduct a soil pH test.

Liquid lawn fertilizer applications have given a good account of themselves when used as transplanting solutions or as starter solutions when applied directly on the seed when sown. [source]

Transplanting solutions contain the equivalent of 6 to 8 pounds of 5-10-5 in 100 gallons of water or a tablespoon to a gallon. About 1/4 to a pint of the solution is applied to the roots before they are covered.

Two precautions to observe, however, are:

  • Don’t have any dry fertilizer in the soil surrounding the roots
  • Don’t press the soil around the roots when they are set with the solution

I have gotten yield increases of 2 to 3 pounds per plant with transplanting solutions over using plain water. On sweet potatoes, I have harvested 35 bushels more with the transplanting solution. Shrubs, trees and flowering plants may be fertilized with trans-planting or starter solutions.

Organic liquid fertilizer applications may, likewise, be used for side dressing or any other purposes where dry fertilizer is used. The crop usually dictates the concentration.

They may be used as they come or diluted with one or two parts of water. In most cases 10 pounds in 50 gallons are sufficient. These solutions may also be placed in a deep furrow and the plants set over it with 2 or 3 inches of soil between the solution and the roots. This method has given exceptionally good results on unproductive sandy soils.

Liquid Fertilizer Advantages Over Dry Fertilizer

Liquid fertilizing solutions have other advantages over dry fertilizers. When superphosphate is applied to the average soil we can expect to obtain between 20 to 25 percent back in our plants. When the same amount of superphosphate is applied in solution, we can recover practically all of it.

For this reason I have obtained as good yields with 500 pounds of 5-10-5 in solution as I got with a ton of dry fertilizer where phosphoric acid was deficient and nitrogen and potassium were not limiting factors.

I had some misgivings about applying liquid fertilizer on acid soils, because I expected to see the phosphorus become unavailable. This did not happen. If anything, the response was better than on a limestone soil.

Also when using liquid applications we must keep in mind that magnesium and calcium are not present in the liquid forms and, if needed, we must supply them in the form of limestone.

The newest development in the use of liquid plant feeding and applications of course, is the spraying of the solution on the foliage and produce great results. Such, methods offer possibilities of growing more crops with the same amount of fertilizer.