Is It OK To Put Fertilizer Down Before Rain? (Pros & Cons)

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Hey there, fellow garden enthusiasts! Are you wondering if it’s OK to put fertilizer down before rain? Well, you’ve come to the right place.

Applying fertilizer before rain is acceptable and can be beneficial, as rain helps dissolve and distribute the nutrients in the soil. However, heavy rainfall can lead to nutrient leaching and runoff, which can pollute water sources and waste fertilizer.

Most beginners need help on this aspect to ensure life for their green patch. Keeping that in mind, let’s dig into the nitty-gritty of this topic and figure out the best course of action.

Pros & Cons of Fertilizing Before Rain

Fertilizers are meant to supply essential nutrients to plants, helping them grow and thrive. When it rains, water dissolves the fertilizer and carries the nutrients down into the soil, making them available to the plant roots. This is why rain can be a gardener’s best friend when it comes to fertilizing. However, there are two sides to this issue.

The Pros

Applying fertilizer before the rain has its advantages. Here are a few:

  • Improved nutrient uptake: Rainwater can help dissolve and distribute the nutrients more evenly in the soil, improving the chances of the plants taking up the nutrients they need.
  • Reduced risk of fertilizer burn: Applying fertilizer on a dry day can sometimes lead to “fertilizer burn,” which occurs when the salt concentration in the fertilizer dehydrates plant roots. Rain can help dilute the salts, reducing the risk of fertilizer burn.
  • Efficient use of water: When it rains, you don’t need to water your plants as much, which helps conserve water resources. Besides that, you also don’t need to water your freshly applied fertilizer as nature is doing the job for you.

The Cons

On the flip side, there are some downsides to applying fertilizer before rain:

  • Nutrient leaching: If the rain is too heavy or there’s too much of it, the nutrients from the fertilizer can leach deep into the soil, beyond the reach of the plant roots, essentially wasting the fertilizer.
  • Pollution: Nutrient runoff from excess rain can end up in nearby water sources, causing algal blooms and other water quality issues. This can be harmful to aquatic life and make water unsafe for human consumption.

I’ve also written a detailed article about if fertilizer can be applied to a wet lawn.

How To Find If You Need To Fertilize?

It’s important to determine whether your plants actually need fertilization before applying any nutrients. Over-fertilizing can lead to nutrient imbalances, causing more harm than good. Here are some ways to find out if you need to fertilize, along with a helpful table listing common indicators and their recommended course of action.

Soil Testing

One of the most reliable methods for determining if your garden needs fertilization is by conducting a soil test. Soil tests analyze the nutrient content, pH level, and other factors that impact plant growth. You can purchase a soil test kit from a garden center or send a soil sample to a professional lab for analysis. The results will provide you with specific recommendations on which nutrients to add and in what amounts.

Tip: I’ve written in-depth articles about why plants need nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Check them out!

Visual Inspection

Another way to find out if you need to fertilize is by visually inspecting your plants. Look for signs of nutrient deficiency or other health issues that might indicate a need for fertilization. Keep in mind, however, that not all plant issues are related to nutrient deficiencies. Pests, diseases, and environmental factors can also cause similar symptoms.

Plant Growth Stage

Consider the growth stage of your plants when deciding whether to fertilize. Different plants have different nutrient requirements during various stages of their life cycle. For example, many vegetables need more nitrogen during their vegetative growth phase, while flowering and fruiting plants may require more phosphorus and potassium.

IndicatorPossible CauseCourse of Action
Yellowing leavesNitrogen deficiencyApply a nitrogen-rich fertilizer
Purple or reddish leavesPhosphorus deficiencyApply a phosphorus-rich fertilizer
Curling or browning leaf edgesPotassium deficiencyApply a potassium-rich fertilizer
Slow growthMultiple nutrient deficienciesConduct a soil test, apply balanced fertilizer
Poor flowering or fruitingLow phosphorus or potassiumApply a fertilizer high in phosphorus & potassium
Soil test resultsSpecific nutrient deficiencyApply recommended fertilizer based on results

Remember, diagnosing the issue correctly before applying any fertilizer is essential. Misidentifying the problem can lead to improper fertilization, potentially harming your plants and the environment. When in doubt, consult a local gardening expert or extension office for guidance.

Tips for Better Fertilizing

Here are some tips to help you apply fertilizer more effectively before rain:

  • Choose slow-release fertilizers: Slow-release fertilizers, also known as controlled-release or time-release fertilizers, provide nutrients to plants over an extended period of time, reducing the risk of leaching and runoff. They are available in both organic and synthetic forms. Here are some examples of slow-release fertilizers – bone meal, alfalfa meal, and blood meal.
  • Apply fertilizer evenly: Use a spreader or other tools to apply the fertilizer evenly across the soil surface. This helps to ensure that the nutrients are distributed properly and prevents fertilizer burn.
  • Follow the recommended rates: Don’t apply more fertilizer than your plants need, as this can lead to nutrient imbalances and other problems.


Can I apply liquid fertilizer before rain?

Yes, you can apply liquid fertilizer before rain. However, make sure to do it when light to moderate rainfall is expected, as heavy rain can cause the liquid fertilizer to run off or leach.

If you want to learn more about liquid fertilizer, check out my article here.

How soon before rain should I apply fertilizer?

Ideally, apply the fertilizer a few hours before the rain is expected. This gives the fertilizer enough time to settle on the soil surface and be properly absorbed once the rain starts.

What should I do if I accidentally applied too much fertilizer before rain?

If you realize you’ve applied too much fertilizer, you can try to mitigate the effects by watering the area thoroughly before the rain starts. This can help dilute the excess nutrients and reduce the risk of leaching and runoff.

However, it’s important to remember that prevention is always better than cure. Be sure to follow the recommended application rates next time.

Should I avoid fertilizing before rain if I live in an area with frequent heavy rainfall?

In areas with frequent heavy rainfall, it might be best to avoid applying fertilizer right before rain, as this increases the risk of nutrient leaching and runoff. Instead, try to apply fertilizer during drier periods and use slow-release fertilizers to reduce the risk of nutrient loss.


Light to moderate rainfall can help distribute the nutrients evenly in the soil and reduce the risk of fertilizer burn. However, be cautious when heavy rain is in the forecast, as it can lead to nutrient leaching and pollution.

Remember, timing is everything. Keep an eye on the weather forecast, choose the right type of fertilizer, and apply it evenly to ensure your plants get the nutrients they need without causing harm to the environment. As always, happy gardening!

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