Does Potting Soil Go Bad? Quick Answer

Author:

Published:

Soil

Affiliate Disclaimer

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you. It supports the website. So, Thank you. ❤️

Does potting soil go bad? Yes and no. Potting soil can go bad but normally it doesn’t if it’s unused and if you’re willing to do a little potting soil rejuvenation. Even after several years of sitting around, old potting soil can be salvaged and used.

Potting soil is of the utmost importance when it comes to gardening and planting, especially if you’re creating a container garden or using raised beds.

Whether indoors or outdoors, you need excellent quality potting soil to ensure your plants get the best nurturing possible.

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B072XS3B4N&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=CA&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CAir?t=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CA&l=li3&o=15&a=B072XS3B4N q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B00GTDI9S2&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=CA&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CAir?t=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CA&l=li3&o=15&a=B00GTDI9S2

Plants are like family. They require quality care, proper nutrients, and an appropriate environment to grow in. Potting soil makes sure that the plants get what they need to live a healthy life with proper growth. The right potting soil doesn’t just ensure your plant has healthy roots – it feeds and nurtures the entire plant. An important question that people ask is does potting soil go bad?

Does Potting Soil Go Bad
Joanne Jensen

Growing plants, whether indoors or outdoors, requires top-notch soil to help the plants take root and thrive for many months to come. Plants are like babies in that they need the proper environment and nutrients to grow at the rate that they are meant to and to lead a long and healthy life. Potting soil is crucial to the success of any plant and can make or break the process.

So, one question many gardeners or aspiring gardeners ask themselves is, “does potting soil go bad?” Does it have a shelf life and, if so, how are you able to tell good potting soil from bad potting soil? Also, does the type of soil make a difference in if and when the soil turns sour? The short answer is, no, potting soil technically does not expire, however, the quality over time does diminish.

So,does Potting Soil Go Bad?

Earlier in this article, I stated that potting soil does not necessarily have a shelf life, but it can lose its texture, moisture content, and nutrient levels over time if not stored properly. So, it does not become completely unusable but the growing results may not be as good as they would have been with fresher soil.

All potting soils contain organic matter that, given enough time, will inevitably break down leading to a dustier consistency and can become denser.

Denser soil means there will be less ability for water and nutrients to circulate throughout the pot and gain access to the roots. It also means there will be less drainage happening which can lead to drowning the roots of your plants.

Now, it is worth mentioning that the time it takes for the organic matter to begin breaking down is dependent on where and the way in which you store your soil.

Whether the bag is opened, unopened, sitting in direct sunlight, sitting in a damp environment, or in a place where it can get rained on are all factors that affect the quality of your potting soil over time.

Opened bags of potting soil usually hold their highest quality for around 6 months to a year. Things like air and excessive moisture can reach the soil inside and begin to break down the nutrients and compress the soil at a faster rate than soil that is unopened for months before use.

The soil in an opened bag will not be rendered completely unusable and can be used for general use in your garden but potted plants certainly won’t receive the same benefits as they would have from fresher soil.

Unopened bags of soil will maintain their quality for much longer periods, keeping their value for about a year or two without being used. However, things like peat moss and other organic material are always actively breaking down even if you never open the bag.

There are some rare instances when your potting soil goes completely bad and should not be used on plants. You can tell if this is the case if you detect a rotten smell, see mold growing in the soil or have an abundance of gnats flying in and around the bag. This soil is the exception and should not be used on any plants.

All is not lost, however, if you have an open bag of potting soil or you have a bag you purchased, stored, and then promptly forgot about. There are some methods and tricks you can try to make your soil last the longest that it can or revamp older or used soil.

Bad Smell

The easiest way to check if your soil has gone bad is to smell it. The smell often reeks of rotten eggs when your soil has been damped in water for a long time. Bacteria in water immediately spoils and puts off a really bad smell which is a quick indicator of the soil gone bad.

You can, however, still use it. Spread the soil out on a plastic tarp in the sun on a dry, sunny day. The sunshine will kill the bacteria and you can easily use it once it is all dry.

Infected by Insects

If you see lots of small flying insects in your soil you may have a fungus gnat infestation. Fungus gnats don’t bite and are generally seen as harmless to people. Unfortunately, they lay their eggs in the soil and large numbers of fungus gnat larvae may damage your plant’s root

Fungus gnats live in moist soil and the larvae are usually only present in the top 1-2 inches. Allowing your potting soil to dry completely, and remain dry for several days, should kill off the gnat infestation.

Fungus gnats are attracted to the color yellow, so you can use a yellow sticky trap to catch adult fungus gnats. Insecticides may be used on adult gnats if you want to use insecticides on your soil.

I put out yellow sticky traps to help with a bug problem and there were fungus gnats stuck to the paper before I even got the trap staked into the ground! They’re somewhat unsightly and definitely low-tech, but sticky traps can work.

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07KRRJT5J&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=CA&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CAir?t=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CA&l=li3&o=15&a=B07KRRJT5J

Infected by Diseases or Mold

Potting soil can become moldy. Mold can grow if your soil has too much moisture. This tends to happen if your soil is in a bag for a long time, especially in warm weather.

Kill off the mold by allowing the soil to dry. Spread it out in the sun and let it dry completely.

Can I Use Old Potting Soil?

You may see differences in the growth of your plants if you use old potting soil. Even if you stored the soil properly, you may see changes in the following features of the soil:

  • Nutrient levels 
  • Moisture
  • Texture

Nutrient levels will gradually decrease over time when potting soil is stored.

That still doesn’t mean that the potting soil is unusable, it just means that it will affect the plants just a little differently than perfectly new potting soil would. You can correct this by adding nutrients to your old potting soil. 

How to Store Potting Soil

  1. If you are storing unopened and unused potting soil, you can just place the bags in the can or bag you are using. If you’ve already opened the soil bags, you can pour in the soil in a container. A large, opaque plastic bin works well, or you can use an unscented trash bag. After filling it with soil, close it and store it in a dry place.
  2. If your bags are open, make sure the soil is dry. Spread it out on a tarp or cardboard in the sun to dry it before storage.
  3. Before storing the soil, make sure the soil is completely free of any old plants, rotes, sticks and leaves. It should just be the soil you are storing. If you had a half used bag of soil sitting open, it may have gathered some detritus over the summer.

How to Rejuvenate Old Potting Soil in The Spring

Don’t just dump last season’s potting soil into your containers and get planting. The soil needs some boosting before you can use it.

If your soil is heavy and compacted, add coconut coir instead of peat moss. Coconut coir is a renewable resource and is widely considered more eco-friendly than peat moss. It also lasts longer so you won’t need to replace it each year.

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07QZNQGYR&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=CA&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CAir?t=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CA&l=li3&o=15&a=B07QZNQGYR

Coconut coir frequently comes in dry compressed bricks but is also available loose. It is almost always sold dry and needs to be hydrated.

Combine potting soil and hydrated coconut coir in a 1:1 ratio. Your coconut coir should have specific rehydrating instructions, so read and follow the directions.

Even if your potting soil was never used, it may need additional organic matter and nutrients. Compost, worm castings, and organic fertilizer are all good choices.

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B00NP3W7AA&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=CA&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CAir?t=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CA&l=li3&o=15&a=B00NP3W7AA q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B07PHNQSP9&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=CA&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CAir?t=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CA&l=li3&o=15&a=B07PHNQSP9

Specific nutrient requirements vary depending on what you intend to grow in the soil. For absolute best results, use a soil test kit and amend the soil based on your plant’s specific requirements.

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B09885V6JK&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=CA&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CAir?t=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CA&l=li3&o=15&a=B09885V6JK q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B088P2RBZR&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=CA&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CAir?t=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CA&l=li3&o=15&a=B088P2RBZR

FAQ

How Do You Know if Potting Soil Is Bad

The easiest way to check if your soil has gone bad is to smell it. The smell often reeks of rotten eggs when your soil has been damped in water for a long time. Bacteria in water immediately spoils and puts off a really bad smell which is a quick indicator of the soil gone bad. You can, however, still use it.

Does Potting Soil Go Bad if It Freezes

Most likely, containers are a solid material that could crack when the temperatures freeze and the soil expands. It is also recommended to let the soil dry out to prevent mold and mildew problems. If you are storing unopened bags of potting soil, you can just place the bags in the container. does potting soil go bad if it freezes

Does Unused Potting Soil Go Bad

Yes and no. Potting soil can go bad but normally it doesn’t if it’s unused and if you’re willing to do a little potting soil rejuvenation. Even after several years of sitting around, old potting soil can be salvaged and used.

Does Potting Soil Go Bad in The Bag

Usually, an opened bag of potting mix will retain its highest quality for around 6 to 12 months. Air and moisture break down the plant material in the soil and compresses it faster than soil, which is unopened. Unopened bags of potting soil maintain their moisture content for longer, around one to two years.

How Long Does Potting Soil Last in The Bag

If you have bagged potting soils stored on your shelves, you can count on the opened bagged soil preserving itself for about 6 months before it starts degrading while unopened bags can last one or two years.

How Long Does Unused Potting Soil Last

The useful life of potting soil depends on whether or not it is currently in use. Unused potting soil lasts roughly six months before it degrades in quality, while used potting soil should be replaced every year or two.

How Do You Know if Potting Soil Is Bad

The easiest way to check if your soil has gone bad is to smell it. The smell often reeks of rotten eggs when your soil has been damped in water for a long time. Bacteria in water immediately spoils and puts off a really bad smell which is a quick indicator of the soil gone bad. You can, however, still use it.

Can Potting Soil Get Moldy

Your potting soil itself can cause mold problems. While soil should have some microorganisms, it’s possible for it to become contaminated before it even lands in a pot.

Is Dried out Potting Soil Still Good

Use the dried-out soil as filler in the bottom of the large container you plan on planting.  After planting and watering, the dried-out soil will become moist. By the time the plant’s roots reach it, it will be able to provide nutrients from the slow-release fertilizer as well as moisture.

Does Miracle Grow Potting Soil Expire?

Unopened bags of Miracle Grow potting soil kept in proper storage conditions should keep for five years or more. As long as the bag stays dry, the fertilizer cannot release the nutrients. … Err on the side of caution and use up any Miracle Grow potting soil within a year or two.

q? encoding=UTF8&ASIN=B00GTDI9S2&Format= SL250 &ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=CA&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CAir?t=joannejens0d9 20&language=en CA&l=li3&o=15&a=B00GTDI9S2

Conclusion

As you can gather from the information above, the question of whether potting soil goes bad or not is not as black and white as we would like. Potting soil certainly does lose its potency and freshness, like any other product.

However, unless it is stored improperly and becomes completely rotten, potting soil that is older or used can either be revamped or used in a garden for general purposes. So, don’t throw out that potting soil that’s been sitting in your garage for months just yet!

Latest Post

About the author

Latest posts

  • How to Build an Amazing  Raised Bed Vegetable Garden  

    How to Build an Amazing Raised Bed Vegetable Garden  

    How to build a Raised Bed Vegetable Gardening: A Step-by-Step Guide is a comprehensive guide for those interested in starting their own vegetable garden. This guide will take you through the process of building your own raised beds, from selecting the right location and materials to choosing the best plants for your climate and soil […]

    Read more

  • How to Properly Prune and Trim Your Herb Garden

    How to Properly Prune and Trim Your Herb Garden

    “How to Properly Prune and Trim Your Herb Garden: Essential tips and techniques for maintaining a healthy, productive herb garden. Learn the benefits of pruning, how to prune different herb types, and common mistakes to avoid. Maximize the yield and flavor of your herbs with these helpful pruning tips.”

    Read more

  • 10 Herb garden pests and how to control them naturally

    10 Herb garden pests and how to control them naturally

    Herb gardens are a great addition to any home landscape, providing a variety of flavors and scents for cooking and natural remedies. However, just like any other garden, herb gardens can fall victim to pests that can damage or destroy plants. Fortunately, there are many natural methods for controlling herb garden pests, which are safer […]

    Read more