Does Fertilizer Go Bad or Expire? 5 Tips for Storing Fertilizer


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Granular fertilizer storage

Is it necessary to buy a new bag of fertilizer each spring for garden plants even though last year’s pack has still enough to suffice? At some point, most gardeners might start wondering if fertilizer really goes bad. A bunch of techniques can come in handy when it comes to the effective storage of fertilizer so that it stays viable for multiple seasons.

An expiration date is not typically listed on the package of fertilizer. So does fertilizer go bad? Fertilizer will not go bad as long as it’s stored properly.

At the end of the summer, when it seems like gardening chores are over, be sure to pay attention to storing leftover fertilizer. There are also some potential issues to be aware of when planning on using the same fertilizer next spring.

Different Types of Fertilizers and their Expiry

The makeup of different types of fertilizers plays a role in determining whether it can be used for multiple seasons, and how long it will stay viable. Let’s take a look at how the different varieties compare according to their shelf life:

Fertilizer varietyPure dry fertilizerWeed and feeds fertilizerLiquid organic fertilizerLiquid mineral fertilizer
Shelf lifeIndefinite shelf lifeHerbicides included in the composition shorten its shelf life to four yearsVaries from brand to brand, will be mentioned on the package.For as long as ten years, shake the bottle before use since minerals settle at the bottom.

Benefits of Storing Fertilizer

So why go through storing leftover fertilizer and use it next spring when brand new packages are available to purchase at the store?

It saves money

This is the most obvious reason. Instead of spending money buying new plant feed every growing season, the better option is to make use of what was already saved from last season.

Reduces fertilizer waste

By using up old fertilizer instead of throwing it away, gardeners do themselves and the environment a favor. Organic fertilizers are harmless to the environment, but chemical fertilizers include substances that aren’t easy on the environment. Using the leftovers from previous seasons will reduce a good deal of negative impacts on the environment.

Note: even if gardeners don’t plan on using the leftover fertilizer the next season, they should consider giving it away instead of throwing it out. If the fertilizer goes bad because of improper storage or if there’s any other reason to discard it, follow the instructions on the package to dispose of it properly. When in doubt, simply take it to a nearby hazardous waste site, and they’ll know what to do. 

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.

Genesis 2:24

5 Tips for Storing Fertilizer Effectively

Organic garden fertilizer

Unless fertilizer has herbicides and pesticides included in them, they are made up of natural nutrients and can be stored and used season after season. When planning on reusing it, however, effective storage is the key. Here are some useful tips to follow to ensure its longevity:

1.  Choose a suitable location

  • Choose a cool, dry spot for storing unused fertilizer for the next season. The temperature shouldn’t exceed 30 degrees as some varieties are sensitive to high temperatures.
  • An enclosed space, such as the garage, that’s protected from direct sunlight and weather extremities will work perfectly for storing fertilizer leftovers.
  • Make sure there are no pesticides or other chemicals next to it.
  • Keep the surroundings free of dust and dirt.
  • Make sure rainwater or moisture doesn’t reach it, otherwise it will make the fertilizer lumpy and lower it’s spreading capabilities.

2.  Container to store it in

  • The best container to store fertilizer is the one it came in – unless it’s damaged. This will help gardeners remember the product type, its use, and other essentials as long as the label is still readable. 
  • If the original packaging is damaged, transfer it to a different container and copy all the useful information from the original packaging to the new one to help use it properly.
  • Store the container upright.
  • Preferably, place it over a shelf so that the container isn’t damaged in case any moisture is present.

3.  Seal it

  • Open a new fertilizer package using scissors or a utility knife to prevent the packaging from damage.
  • Seal partially used fertilizer packages properly to protect it from dust and moisture. After closing the original container, place it in a larger container or a plastic bag, and seal it tightly.

4.  Prevent liquid fertilizer from freezing

Liquid fertilizers can easily freeze if the temperature goes too low in winters. Place it somewhere warmer where the temperature is maintained above the freezing point of the liquid.

5.  Store away from children and pets

Many varieties of fertilizers are toxic. Store it somewhere safe if children or pets are in the house. Placing it in a metal can inside your garage can keep it out of reach of children and pets.

Follow these tips, and there’s no reason the fertilizer shouldn’t be in top shape when the package is opened next season.

Thinking about storing compost as well? Check out this article we wrote – Can Compost Go Bad? 9 Tips for Storing Compost to learn some useful tips on effective compost storage.

Liquid fertilizer or dry fertilizer?

Milorganite lawn fertilizer

You’ve already seen how these fertilizer varieties compare as far as the shelf life is concerned.  Let’s see some of the other features and establish whether one is better than the other.

Accessibility to the roots

The nutrients, such as phosphorus that aren’t very mobile are not easily accessible to the plant roots in granular form.  In the case of liquid fertilizers, the nutrients are absorbed into the soil and easily accessible to the roots.

Uniformity

The nutritional composition is identical throughout the liquid fertilizer. Dry fertilizer isn’t uniform for every granule since each granule is a separate nutrient component.

Price

Dry fertilizers are usually cheaper as compared to liquid fertilizers. Together with the fertilizer’s price, the handling equipment for liquid fertilizer also adds to the overall fertilizing cost.

Starter application

Liquid fertilizer is usually preferred for starter applications because of their uniform consistencies. Granular fertilizers can be too “hot” for the initial stages of seed development; roots move further away from points with higher concentrations of nitrogen and potassium.

Slow-release

Slow-release options are available for dry fertilizers only. Many gardeners prefer slow-release fertilizers for the various benefits of nourishing the soil over the course of time.

Sedimentation

Sedimentation is a problem associated with liquid fertilizers, especially if they have been stored through the winters. Minerals will settle at the bottom of the container while the fertilizer is sitting unused. When using it, give the container a hard shake to mix everything uniformly before applying it to plants. This problem isn’t a concern if using dry fertilizer.

For those who are unsure as to how to start a garden and when to apply fertilizer, check out our amazing step-by-step guide – How to Start a No-Till Garden: A Complete Step-By-Step Guide, it will walk through the entire process.

What to do with old, clumpy fertilizer?

If the partially-used bag of fertilizer from last spring ends up being caked together in chunks, no need to panic. It must have absorbed moisture due to improper storage, but the problem isn’t a big one. Just break it up using hands or hammer it into granules and it will be as good as new. Old, clumpy fertilizer is ready for use. Spray it out on vegetables or flower garden as normal.

Although clumping of dry fertilizer granules does not tamper with its effectiveness, it can be avoided if the fertilizer bag is sealed properly. Moisture in the air clumps the granules together. As long as air isn’t allowed to reach it, it will be grainy and fresh season after season.

Conclusion

See how easy it is to store the surplus fertilizer through the winters and use it again next season? The effectiveness of most fertilizers isn’t affected even after being stored for years. The money saved in buying fertilizer the coming season can go into buying some new flower seeds. Why not save money in buying plant feed and adorn the garden instead? Think about it!

Check out Our Favorite Products page to find everything you might need to help make your garden a success!

References

https://homeguides.sfgate.com/fertilizer-expire-86120.html

http://ipm.ucanr.edu/QT/gardenchemicalscard.html

https://ag.umass.edu/greenhouse-floriculture/greenhouse-best-management-practices-bmp-manual/fertilizer-storage-handling

https://www.yara.us/crop-nutrition/fertilizer-handling-and-safety/fertilizer-storage/

http://bayharbormgmt.com/2016/01/11/how-to-store-fertilizer-in-your-garage-safely/

https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/pros_and_cons_of_granular_and_liquid_fertilizers




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Corey Leichty

Hi, I’m Corey and I love using gardening as a way to provide food for my family, learn life lessons alongside my wife, Andrea, and teach life lessons to my two sons. Do you have gardening questions? Not finding what you are looking for? Please feel free to Ask a Question (Click Here!) and I will get back with you as soon as I can!

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