Regularly fertilizing your container garden is essential to its growth, but before you grab that liquid fertilizer from last year, ask yourself if you’ve properly stored it. Improper storage is often the cause of liquid fertilizers going “bad,” meaning they will not offer your plants the nutrients they need to flourish.
Liquid fertilizer does not go bad over time but it will lose its potency if not stored correctly. If you do store it well, you can use the liquid fertilizer for 8 to 10 years. It will hold the same potency and add beneficial nutrients for the plants in your garden.
You’re probably wondering what’s the correct way to store liquid fertilizer to ensure it doesn’t lose its nutrients. Don’t worry; I’ll break down exactly how to store your fertilizer and when it’s time to throw it away. The health of your garden depends on it!
What Happens to Liquid Fertilizer that Goes Bad?
One of the biggest causes of liquid fertilizer going bad is freezing temperatures and overheating. In either of these conditions, a crystalline material will form, which signals that your fertilizer has begun to break down.
These inconsistencies in the nutrient composition of your fertilizer mean it will no longer offer your garden the correct amount of nutrients it needs.
How to Tell When Liquid Fertilizer Goes Bad
Any time before using any fertilizer, you should carefully inspect the bottle, especially if you are using a fertilizer that has been stored for an extended period. The chances are if it’s been kept outside, in freezing or extremely hot temperatures, it’s no longer good.
When inspecting the bottle, you want to look for any signs of crystals inside of the bottle. If you notice crystalline structures, then your fertilizer has been compromised, and you will need to dispose of it.
Safely Disposing of Liquid Fertilizer
If it’s time to throw out the old fertilizer, here are a few safe ways to do it:
- Add it to your compost pile. If you have a compost pile, you could add expired fertilizer there. Keep in mind that this will be your nitrogen source, so you may not want to add all the fertilizer at one time. If you do not have a compost pile, this may be the perfect time to start one or ask a friend or neighbor if they have it. Be sure you are only putting organic liquid fertilizer into your compost pile.
- Trash it. If your liquid fertilizer does not contain any chemicals such as nitrogen and phosphate, you can place it in a plastic bag and throw it into the garbage.
Important: You should never pour liquid fertilizer down the drain, even if it is organic fertilizer; the nitrogen and phosphate it contains are not good for our water supply.
How Do You Keep Liquid Fertilizer from Going Bad?
The biggest enemy of liquid fertilizer is temperature; overheating and freezing temperatures will destroy the quality of the fertilizer, and it will no longer be effective. When you are properly storing your fertilizer in a controlled environment, there is no reason why your fertilizer will go bad.
How Do You Properly Store Liquid Fertilizer?
The quality and potency of your liquid fertilizer will determine its effectiveness and how your plants react to it. This is why learning how to store your liquid fertilizer properly is the key to maintaining its nutrients and growing beautiful plants in your garden.
Without good fertilizer, your soil would eventually be depleted of its nutrients, and your once-thriving plants will wither away. After all, you chose this type of fertilizer for your container gardening because it’s the best way to deliver and control the number of nutrients you are supplying to your plants.
If you want to store your liquid fertilizer correctly, keep these essential tips in mind:
- Find a good spot inside where the environment can be controlled. This is going to protect your fertilizer from exposure to UV rays and eliminate the risk of freezing. These outdoor elements will weaken the product, and it will not work as it’s intended as the potency will be weakened. The best places to store your fertilizer is inside your home or in a well-insulated garage, but where you live often plays a vital role in where you end up storing it.
- Be sure that you are maintaining a temperature between 50 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Keeping the fertilizer at a consistent temperature is best. Fluctuations of temperature can cause some mineral buildup; while this is not bad, it can affect the potency of the fertilizer to some small degree.
- Make sure that the top to the bottle is on securely. This will prevent any elements from entering that might compromise your fertilizer, and therefore, your garden. It will also prevent any leaks that can be environmentally unsafe, depending on the type of fertilizer you’re using.
When stored correctly, there’s no reason why your liquid fertilizer won’t last on the shelf for 8 to 10 years.
Other Tips for Keeping Liquid Fertilizer Potent
- You should never store liquid fertilizer outside or in an uninsulated shed as the temperature cannot be controlled; freezing or overheating temperatures will destroy the fertilizer’s effectiveness and potency.
- We all live in different types of homes and different climates. Be sure to find the proper place inside your home to store your liquid fertilizers, especially if you live in an area that gets below 50 degrees or hotter than 80 degrees. If you are living in an apartment, think about storing it under your kitchen sink.
- When liquid fertilizers have not been used for a while, sometimes a type of sedimentation forms. This is the buildup of minerals that will collect at the bottom of the container. While this is not exactly harmful to your garden, it’s essential that you always give the bottle a good hard shake to mix any of these solids that settled at the bottom back into the liquid before use.
What Happens If I Use Expired Fertilizer on My Plants?
Using expired liquid fertilizer on your plants will not directly harm them, but that doesn’t mean you should continue to use it either.
Old fertilizer simply loses its potency and its effectiveness, which means it will not offer your plants the nutrients necessary to grow. As a result, the only way your plants suffer is by not receiving enough of the nutrients they need.
If you’re using expired fertilizer, you may want to increase the rate of fertilizing or the amount you use. However, it is highly recommended that you replace the older fertilizer with a fresh bottle to provide your plants with the maximum nutrients they need.
Fertilizers are a necessity for gardens. Even when you use the best soil, your plant will eventually become depleted of the nutrients as the plants grow. Using the right fertilizer and how often you fertilize can make or break your gardening efforts.
Liquid fertilizer is among the cheapest form of fertilizer, and while it doesn’t offer an unlimited shelf life when stored properly like some others, its nearly 10-year life span is more than enough to provide your plants with all the healthy nutrients they need for years to come. To ensure your liquid fertilizer lasts that long, though, follow the above tips for properly storing it to maintain its quality.