Fertilizing your lawn and garden is amazing, and can give you a whole season’s worth of delicious fruits and veggies, not to mention gorgeous flowers and a lush, green lawn.

But what happens to the old, leftover fertilizer when it’s time to close up shop for the winter?

And what about fertilizer that doesn’t work for your garden? Are you supposed to just keep the bag forever, or throw it in the trash?

The answers are no and definitely not!

There are ways to properly dispose of leftover or unwanted fertilizer without it landing in the dump or contaminating anything. Pesticide-ridden fertilizer can seriously harm the wildlife in your area, and even organic fertilizer can have negative effects.

Luckily for you, you’re about to learn about multiple ways to dispose of your unneeded fertilizer! Keep reading to learn more about how to safely dispose of fertilizer.

In this guide you’ll learn:

  • Why you should take care to properly dispose of fertilizer
  • The many ways you can safely dispose of old fertilizer
  • Why throwing old fertilizer in the trash is bad for the environment
  • And so much more!

Why Should You Properly Dispose of Old Fertilizer?

I know what you’re thinking: can’t I just throw it in the trash? The answer is this: legally, I cannot stop you, but I have a moral obligation to say NO!

There are tons of reasons why you shouldn’t just throw away unwanted fertilizer. It’s bad for the environment, and it’s wasteful in so many ways. Keep reading to learn more about why you should properly dispose of your leftover fertilizer.

It’s Bad For The Environment

Okay, I know this sounds weird since fertilizer is meant to go in your garden, but dumping large quantities in unsuitable places is bad for the environment.

Putting inorganic fertilizer in your trash means all those chemicals and pesticides will go into the landfill. Landfills unfortunately tend to have a lot of runoff when it rains, and since a lot of fertilizer is water-soluble, that means those chemicals will be absorbed into the water. Ick!

Those pesticides can go pretty much anywhere from there. They can find their way into rivers and streams, contaminating the drinking water for wildlife and even humans. Remember in Nemo when the fish says “all drains lead to the ocean?” They really don’t, but fertilizer can still impact our oceans.

Large-scale coastal farming has long-attributed to the deterioration of our oceans, but even small-scale gardeners can cause damage if the chemicals from their fertilizer find it’s way into the sea.

Fertilizer can cause algal blooms on the surface of the water (both saltwater and freshwater) which can lead to toxic conditions for aquatic life and even those who simply live near them. The excess phosphorus and nitrogen in fertilizer are what cause this to happen. This video on algal blooms explains what they are and why they happen:

Yuck, right? Now, I won’t pretend that small home gardeners are the sole cause of these blooms. Large agricultural businesses are the leading contributors, but we can all do our part to prevent these harmful (and gross) algal blooms!

Oh, and let’s not forget that the chemicals and pesticides in inorganic fertilizer can (and will) be consumed by wildlife. Obviously, these chemicals are toxic, and can even kill small animals if enough if ingested.

Still not convinced? My next point about why you should properly dispose of leftover fertilizer makes economic sense!

Read More >> What is the right fertilizer for your Orange Trees?

It’s Downright Wasteful

There are two things in life I claim to truly hate: black coffee, and wasting things unnecessarily. (I really love my cream and sugar, I’m sorry).

There are usually no reasons to just throw away fertilizer you don’t need anymore. Of course, there are tons of reasons to get rid of fertilizer—it’s not right for your garden, the season is over, or you simply bought too much.

But, in my humble opinion, none of those are valid reasons to waste fertilizer. By chucking it in the trash, not only are you harming the environment (see above) but you’re also wasting a good quality product.

Even if the fertilizer you bought wasn’t the right fit for your garden, it’s definitely the right fit for somebody else’s. There are valuable nutrients in there!

Let’s not forget that you also spent hard-earned money on that fertilizer. Throwing it in the garbage is the equivalent of just tossing a handful of cash in there. Can’t stomach the thought? Then don’t throw it away!

Of course, there really isn’t a way for you to re-earn the money you spent on that fertilizer (unless you sell it, but most people won’t buy opened fertilizer), but there are plenty of ways to give it a second life instead of just wasting it.

I’ll get into the specifics in just a bit, don’t worry. But don’t throw it away yet! Stick around to learn more about disposing of old fertilizer, and what you need to know to do it properly.

Read More >> Best Fertilizers for Blueberries

What Do You Need To Consider When Disposing Of Unwanted Fertilizer?

There are a few things you need to consider when planning to dispose of unwanted fertilizer. You should think of what kind of fertilizer it is, where you live, and how much you have. So let’s get into some specifics!

What Kind of Fertilizer Do You Have?

There are two main types of fertilizer: organic and inorganic. Both can cause environmental damage when not properly disposed of. Even organic fertilizers, especially ones with a high phosphorus content, can cause problems.

The fertilizer you purchased should clearly specify whether it’s organic or inorganic. It will also have three numbers on it that look like this: 10-10-10. These numbers represent the composition of your fertilizer. Respectively, they symbolize the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

If that middle number is really high (it usually is for tropical fertilizer), that means it has a high phosphorus content. Definitely don’t throw that in the garbage! Phosphorus is one of the main contributors to those harmful algal blooms I mentioned earlier.

I highly recommend learning more about organic versus inorganic fertilizers. No matter what, they should stay out of the trash, but it’s one of those things that we, as gardeners, can never learn enough about!

Where Do You Live?

Are you a balcony gardener in the city, or do you have sprawling acres of land to tend to? (If you’re the latter, I am so jealous!)

Your location does impact your options when disposing of old fertilizer. If there’s nobody around for 300 miles, you have fewer options than say, a suburbia herb gardener. I’ll get into your options in a bit, but just keep this in mind as you keep reading.

How Much Fertilizer Do You Want To Get Rid Of?

This is also really important when considering your options. If you have 100 pounds of old fertilizer, you’ll have less options than someone with half a bag they want to get rid of.

Again, I’ll be detailing your options in just a moment, but keep this in mind as you read ahead.

Read More >> Which fertilizers to use for Raspberries?

What Options Do You Have For Disposing Of Fertilizer?

There are three main options you have when disposing of fertilizer. Keep reading to learn about them and determine what option is right for you!

Option 1: Gift It To A Friend

This is my favorite option, hence why it’s on the top of the list! If you’re lucky enough to have friends or family nearby who share your green thumb, ask if they’d like the leftover fertilizer.

This keeps your fertilizer out of another processing plant, and out of landfills. It also helps out someone you personally know, and you’ll get to actually see the benefits of your good deed.

This option doesn’t work for people who don’t have friends in the area, of course. It’s also not great if you have a bad product. For example, if you realize the fertilizer you purchased is prone to mold, that might not be something you want to give to a friend.

However, if the product just simply isn’t right for your garden (too acidic for your soil, or too gentle of a formula, for example), there’s no harm in rehoming it to a friend or relative. In fact, it’d probably make their day to get some free fertilizer for their garden. I know it’d make me happy!

Donate It To A Local Nursery/Garden Center

Where I’m from in southern New Jersey, we have locally-owned garden centers everywhere! I mean, you cannot drive more than 20 minutes without finding one, especially in the summer (it’s pretty awesome, but also terrible for my bank account).

Nurseries and garden centers, especially family-owned ones, could usually use your fertilizer. And given the state of the economy at the current moment, I’m sure they’d really appreciate it.

Make sure you call before just showing up with a bag of fertilizer though. Some people might get offended and think that you think they need a handout. If that’s the case, just explain to them that you don’t need it and you don’t want it to go to waste. If they’re still insulted, just call the next place.

They also might ask some questions, such as:

  1. Why don’t you want this product?
  2. What’s the composition?
  3. What type of plant is it formulated for?

Of course, if you’re calling a local tree farm and offering them hibiscus fertilizer, they’ll probably turn you down. But it shouldn’t take more than a few quick Google searches to find the right place!

Take It To Your Local Toxic Waste Plant

You heard me. Fertilizer is actually considered toxic/hazardous waste, so you can dispose of it at these locations.

To find one, just Google ‘household hazardous waste disposal near me’, and a location should pop right up (mine is about 15 minutes away).

If this is the route you choose to go when disposing of unwanted fertilizer, there are a few things to keep in mind. Remember to keep your fertilizer in its original container (if unopened, even better).

It’s also good to call ahead of time, just like when taking fertilizer to a nursery or garden center. I usually call ahead with things like this so I don’t waste my time—nothing worse than driving all the way out there just for them to not accept it.

Read More >> How to Make Fertilizer from Kitchen Waste?

My Final Thoughts On How To Dispose Of Fertilizer?

Properly disposing of excess fertilizer is super important for the environment. It eliminates waste in landfuls, and keeps harmful chemicals out of our waterways and oceans.

Gifting your unnecessary fertilizer to a friend or family member is a great way to give them a little surprise, while being kind to the earth at the same time. Win-win!

You can also donate to a local nursery or garden center, or take it to the nearest household hazardous waste plant. There are tons of options for properly disposing of your fertilizer, just make sure it doesn’t land in the trash.

I hope that when it comes time for you to purge your shed and dispose of any old fertilizer, you keep these three options in mind and show the planet a little love by keeping chemicals out of our environment!

Emma Grace

Emma Grace

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Emma Grace

Emma Grace

About Learn Planting

Here at Learn Planting, I review the best planting tools and products so that you can get everything you need to create your vibrant garden, whether indoors or outdoors!

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