How Long Should You Wait To Water Liquid Fertilizer?

Liquid fertilizer is an ideal option for most gardens and landscapes—providing your plants the immediate access to the nutrients they need. With its quick activation and simple application, liquid fertilizer is a popular choice—but to maintain effectiveness, how long should you wait to water liquid fertilizer after application?

After applying liquid fertilizer, you should wait at least 2-4 hours, but no more than 24 hours before watering again. When you water, you will need to add about ¼ to ½ inch (0.6-1.2 cm) of water to your soil. Alternatively, you could apply your fertilizer timeously before an expected rain. 

Liquid fertilizer has the added benefit of being used by the foliage of a plant and readily absorbed by its stomata and epidermis for an all-around nutrient boost. The rest of this article will share some helpful tips for watering after fertilizing and explain why watering is necessary after applying liquid fertilizer. I will also discuss proper preparation for liquid fertilizer, including how to prepare the soil by watering. 

Key Takeaways

  • Watering After Liquid Fertilizer: Wait 2-4 hours, but no more than 24 hours, before watering after applying liquid fertilizer. Add about ¼ to ½ inch (0.6-1.2 cm) of water to the soil.
  • Application Tips: Apply liquid fertilizer either in the early morning or evening to avoid leaf burn. Ensure plants are dry before watering and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
  • Soil Preparation: Water your lawn or garden thoroughly a day or two before applying the fertilizer. Complete other yard work like mowing, aerating, and weed removal for optimal results.
  • Ideal Fertilizing Conditions: Choose a cool, overcast day or a day with expected light rain for fertilization to ensure effective absorption and minimal risk of sun damage.
  • Regular Watering Schedule: Resume normal watering routines after the initial post-fertilization watering to maintain healthy hydration levels in the plants.

Ideal Timing for Watering

Liquid fertilizer is different from other fertilizers, which typically soak into the soil, nourishing the plant from the roots. With liquid fertilizers, you have the other option to spray it directly onto the plant’s foliage, where it is absorbed and moved through the plant system. 

Because of this unique distribution approach, allowing the fertilizer enough time to soak into the leaves or soil before watering is essential. Watering too soon after applying a liquid fertilizer can render your fertilizing efforts useless, as you wash the fertilizer away before it has a chance to get its job done.

When watering your lawn after an application of liquid fertilizer, you should follow these necessary steps:

  1. Wait until the plants are dry before watering.
  2. Do not wait more than 24 hours to water after fertilizing. 
  3. Review the manufacturer’s recommendation for watering.
  4. Add ¼ to ½ inch (0.6-1.2 cm) of water to the soil.
  5. Resume your regular watering schedule as the soil dries out a bit.

For more detailed information about these steps, let’s take a closer look:

Wait Until the Plants Are Dry Before Watering

Liquid fertilizer must have sufficient drying time before watering to ensure successful integration with the plant system. If you water before the plants are dry, you may wash off the fertilizer, preventing the nutrients from soaking into your plants. 

By waiting until the plants are dry, you ensure that the fertilizer has thoroughly soaked into the plant. However, ensuring that you don’t expose the fertilizer to excessive heat is crucial, which can cause your plant’s leaves to burn. Try fertilizing in the cool of the morning before sunrise rather than midday to prevent heat exposure. 

Once the plants are dry or mostly dry, it is time to water. Typically, waiting about 2-4 hours is a healthy amount of time for fertilizer absorption—and you can resume watering safely. That said, waiting 12-24 hours usually won’t cause any adverse reactions or issues, especially during cooler weather.

Do Not Wait More Than 24 Hours to Water

While waiting 12-24 hours to water is usually okay, it is essential not to wait more than 24 hours to water your soil after applying liquid fertilizer. Waiting too long can cause unintentional burning from overexposure to the fertilizer and can prevent fertilizer from getting nutrients to the entire plant system due to lack of water. 

Water is essential for washing the excess fertilizer off the soil or plant leaves or grass blades. The remaining nutrients run off into the soil, providing additional health support to the roots deep beneath the surface. 

Review the Manufacturer’s Recommendation

Most fertilizer options will include the manufacturer’s recommendations for an ideal watering schedule. Review the information provided before fertilizing your lawn so that you are prepared to apply the fertilizer correctly.

While most liquid fertilizers follow the same recommendation of watering once the plants are dry, some will vary depending on the makeup of the fertilizer, so be sure to double-check before you begin. 

Add ¼-½ Inch (0.6–1.2 cm) of Water to the Soil

Be prepared to thoroughly water your soil after applying your liquid fertilizer. Once the plants are dry, you can use a sprinkler system or manually water your lawn or garden area until you have added about ¼ to ½ inch (0.6-1.2 cm) of water to the soil. 

Since it’s standard procedure to dilute liquid fertilizer in water, you shouldn’t add too much water to avoid oversaturating the soil. It’s recommended to use 0.15-0.3 gallons (0.6-1.1 L) of water per square foot (0.09 sqm) of soil. That’s typically enough to saturate the upper 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) of soil.

Ideally, you should time your fertilizer application with anticipated light rainfall, as this is the best way to encourage even, thorough watering. Apply fertilizer for at least a few hours before you expect rain. This method will ensure sufficient water application and make your job much easier. 

Resume Your Regular Watering Schedule

After fertilizing, allowing the fertilizer time to dry, and watering for the first time, you can comfortably resume your regular watering schedule. It is best to keep a regular watering schedule that encourages the fertilizer to move throughout the plant and supports healthy plant growth.

A healthy watering schedule usually means watering thoroughly and deeply, but not every day. Allow your soil to dry out a bit between watering, usually once every 1-2 weeks, so as not to encourage the overgrowth of fungi or shallow roots.

Understanding Liquid Fertilizer: Foliar and Soil Absorption

Watering after using liquid fertilizer is necessary because it washes the fertilizer product off the grass blades or plant leaves, allowing it to move into the soil and provide additional nutrients and growth support underneath the ground level. 

People often get confused with liquid fertilizer because of the word “liquid” in its name. The fertilizer is a water-soluble powder mixed with water to create the ability to spray it into the foliage or work quickly through the soil and roots.

However, this is not a substitute for watering, regardless of the amount applied. Because the fertilizer is mixed in with the water, it becomes something different altogether and lacks enough water to provide adequate hydration.

Watering after the fertilizer dries is essential to prevent burning leaves or grass blades and encourage the fertilizer to deliver essential nutrients not only to the foliage but also through the roots. 

After fertilizing and completing the first watering cycle, hop back into your regular watering routine to encourage the fertilizer to continue working in the plant system and soil. 

Prepare Your Soil by Watering in Advance

Before you apply liquid fertilizer, it is essential to thoroughly and deeply water your plants or lawn. You should take this crucial step a day or two before you plan to fertilize to prepare the soil for fertilization. 

Before watering, you should also be sure to mow the lawn and complete any other necessary yard work to prepare for the full acceptance of the fertilizer.

This might include the following tasks:

  • Aerating your lawn
  • Pulling pesky weeds
  • Dethatching the grass
  • Removing dead or damaged foliage
  • Clearing the soil of plant debris

Completing these steps before applying liquid fertilizer will increase the likelihood of successful fertilization and encourage your plants to take up the fertilizer and use the nutrients to grow healthy and strong. 

When Is the Best Time to Fertilize?

The best time to apply liquid fertilizer is in the early morning or the cool of the evening, starting about 2 hours before sunrise or a few hours after the sun has gone down. This schedule should keep your soil temperature between 55 and 65 °F (13-18 °C) on average during the spring and summer months. 

Fertilizing during the afternoon will likely cause your plants or grass to burn, as you will expose the plants to excessive amounts of heat, which may cause leaf burn. So, it is best to fertilize outside of direct sunlight. 

If you plan to water your soil 2-4 hours after fertilizing, it might be best to start the process in the evening so that you can water the plant before sunrise. That way, the moisture can seep into the roots instead of being lost to the heat of the sun.

Although that might mean a late night for you, it will prevent direct sunlight from interfering with your plant’s fertilization.

To avoid the issue of excessive sunlight altogether, choose an overcast, mild day to apply your fertilizer to avoid any unpleasant problems. Days with an expected light rainfall are excellent because the sun won’t be intense and the rain can gently rinse the excess fertilizer off the foliage or work the fertilizer into the soil.

Watch out for windy days as well—as the wind may displace the liquid and render it ineffective. 

Final Thoughts

After using liquid fertilizer on your lawn, garden, or other outdoor space, you should wait at least 2-4 hours for the fertilizer to soak in and completely dry. Once dry, you can safely water the excess off the foliage, allowing it to drain directly into the soil and continue delivering nutrients to the plant.

In most cases, you can wait to water for up to 24 hours after applying liquid fertilizer. After the initial watering, you should resume your regular watering schedule to ensure proper nutrient absorption and maintain a healthy level of hydration in your plants.

Dr. Moritz Picot

Dr. Moritz Picot is a horticulture enthusiast and the founder of TheGrowingLeaf.com, where he serves as the lead content writer. He established the website in 2022 as a valuable resource for both gardening aficionados and beginners, compiling all the gardening tips he has accumulated over the past 25 years. Alex has a passion for nurturing plants, transforming backyards into inviting spaces, and sharing his knowledge with the world.

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