Does Fertilizer Expire?

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Fertilizing is an important landscape management practice that help plants and grass to grow optimally by providing all nutrients that may not be present in soil. Amending soil with fertilizers strengthens roots and shoots and increases flowering and fruit production. Plants like trees, shrubs and newly seeded lawns establish better with the addition of fertilizer. Fertilizers have a specific shelf life or storage life, and the expiration period differs with type of fertilizer.

Dry Fertilizer Expiration

  • Dry fertilizer comes in granular form and, according to the Scotts Miracle-Gro Company, these fertilizers have an indefinite storage life and do not expire. However fertilizers referred to as weed and feed that also contain pesticides or herbicides may not be stored indefinitely. Since the majority of pesticides are no longer potent after about four years, this is the expiration time of weed and feed fertilizers as well.

Liquid Fertilizer Expiration

  • As the name suggests, liquid fertilizer comes in a liquid form and has a faster rate of absorption in soil as opposed to the dry fertilizers. However, liquid fertilizers have the disadvantage of a shorter shelf life than dry fertilizers. These products expire in between eight and 10 years and cannot be stored indefinitely.

Choosing the Right Fertilizer

  • The decision to use liquid or dry fertilizer should be based on the absorption rate of the material in the soil. This decision is also based on the type of plants being fertilized and the season. Nearly all dry fertilizers take between 24 to 72 hours to get absorbed in the soil. Liquid fertilizers have a faster absorption rate, less than 24 hours.

Methods of Application

  • Plants use dry and liquid fertilizers differently. Dry fertilizers first get absorbed into the soil, and the nutrients are then gradually absorbed by the plant roots. Dry fertilizers are either applied mechanically with the use of broadcast spreaders and dry spreaders or scattered by hand. Liquid fertilizers are primarily absorbed by the plant foliage and are applied with spray bottles or hose end sprayers for larger landscapes.

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