Does potting soil go bad?
Might sound like a silly question but ask any expert gardener and you’ll soon learn that it’s not.
Potting soil is the lifeblood of plants and the right potting soils nourish and sustain them as they grow.
Bad potting soil, on the other hand, might kill them.
But can potting soil go off? This is what we learned from the experts.
Signs Of Old Potting Soil Or Moldy Potting Soil
Does potting soil go bad? Yes, it does. In fact, it’s a good idea to pay careful attention to potting soil before using it in a potting mix.
Here’s four signs that something might be amiss with your old potting soil.
- It has an unpleasant odor
- It’s swarming with insects
- There is some sort of infection in it
- It’s overly dense and compacted
Let’s take a look at each of these signs in turn and what you can do if your potting soil is suffering from these problems.
The Smell Of Bad Soil
When you open bagged potting soil it normally smells a bit earthy but if it reeks like rotting eggs particularly when it’s wet?
That’s not a good sign. That means your potting soil has been contaminated with bacteria that might kill your plants.
So before you make your new potting mix, you need to treat the soil you have so that you can reuse potting soil.
It’s easy to do. Get a tarpaulin and spread it out in the sun. Then dump your soil out on the tarp and leave it to dry out in the sunlight. This will kill the bacteria. But it will also kill any helpful microbes in the soil too – so, you will need to add them back.
If you’ve been using neem oil on your plants then you probably haven’t seen any ugly insects for a while.
We also often plant individual plants that deter insects in our garden soil. However, in unused potting soil, it’s quite common to find that after it’s been left over winter that it’s full of insects.
This is usually an infestation of fungus gnats, which are completely harmless to you but if used in most potting soils that go with potted plants, they will kill them.
The good news is that you can get yellow sticky traps from Amazon that easily collect these bugs and separate them from the organic matter of good potting soil.
Diseased Or Moldy Soil
Diseased soil is usually moldy soil and that tends to happen if you left your own potting mix in too much moisture.
The good news is that take away the moisture and the fungus will die and this should prevent the organic material from introducing root rot into your plant’s roots.
Again, you just spread it out in the sun to dry or if you have the facility you can bake it to dry it.
The Soil Is Heavy And Compacted
It’s the peat moss in soil that causes heavy, compact soil. Peat moss decomposes pretty quickly and if you need to replace the peat moss in your potting soil then you need to add some coconut coir to it.
This is a very eco-friendly ingredient that lasts way longer than the peat and thus won’t need replacing any time soon.
We should note that coconut coir is usually sold in dry compressed bricks but may be sold loose – either way, it must be rehydrated in water before you add it to your potting soil.
How Should You Store Your Potting Soil?
The real trick to storing potting soil is simply to keep it dry-ish.
If the bag is unopened, it ought to stay dry and can be stored in the shed or garage, or storage area normally.
If not, dry the soil before you put it in the bag and then seal the bag.
You should also go through the soil before you store it and remove any bits of plant, sticks, etc. you can see – as this will rot and invite insect infestation.
Final Thoughts On Potting Soil
So, yes potting solid can go bad, and when it does? It’s not the end of the world.
The trick is not to panic or to throw out the soil but to use tried and tested gardening techniques to rejuvenate the soil.
This is not only eco-friendly but it’s also budget-friendly, while spending money on the garden is fun – it should only be money you need to spend, take care of your potting soil and you’ll have more to invest in the fun things for your garden!