When a Fertilizer Hardens: What To Do?

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You open a bag or container of fertilizer in the spring and it’s a disaster! The fertilizer has set (hardened). Is it still usable?


You’ll notice that there is no expiration date on most fertilizers because they are made of minerals and minerals don’t break down. Simply take a hammer or pestle (a simple piece of wood can be used) and grind your fertilizer into a powder again.

Theoretically, liquid organic fertilizers could decompose and some manufacturers give an expiration date of 8 to 10 years after manufacture. In fact, if they do break down, it is to be reduced to minerals… and therefore, they are still useful to plants. However, solid particles can eventually settle on the walls or the bottom of the container. Simply shake the container to mix the deposits with the liquid.

Fertilizers combined with herbicides

Herbicide fertilizers are still widely distributed, especially in the United States.
The exception to the rule is for “weed and feed” fertilizers, which are fertilizers that are combined with herbicides. Usually, these products have an expiration date of 3 or 4 years, but it is the herbicide that loses its effectiveness, not the fertilizer.

Note that fertilizers containing synthetic herbicides have been banned in Canada and in many other countries, at least for consumers. Only fertilizers containing organic herbicides, such as corn gluten, remain on the market, and there is no expiration date for these. Reduce these powdered herbicide fertilizers if they harden off.

To prevent hardening

Fertilizers harden in contact with moisture. Much of this hardening can be prevented by keeping them in the house in the winter (in a shed, there is often condensation when temperatures drop in the winter). Or, you can attach a bag or two of silica gel to the inside of the container to absorb excess moisture.

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