How To Fix Over-Fertilized Soil (Complete Guide)

It can be a hassle to fix over-fertilized soil, especially if you have no idea what you’re doing. Your soil can become crusted and drained of nutrients, your plants may begin to dry up and die, and your entire garden may become tainted. Luckily, there are easy steps to fix over-fertilized soil, making your life much easier. 

Follow these easy steps to fix your over-fertilized soil and mend your plant’s health: 

  1. Target the area of over-fertilization.
  2. Scoop out any extra fertilizer in your soil. 
  3. Water down and hydrate your soil for a week. 
  4. Watch over your plants for improvements. 
  5. Test your soil to find out the condition. 
  6. Return your soil and plants to a regular schedule. 

Preparing and cleansing your soil is never a fun task, but it can be easy with the proper knowledge and skill. Continue reading this article to discover more about mending your over-fertilized soil in greater detail as you care for your plants. 

1. Target the Area of Over-Fertilization

It can be a frightful experience to find your plants withering away from toxic soil. Fortunately, finding the tainted soil can be as easy as 1, 2, and 3. 

Like people, plants and soil will show specific symptoms when sick. Those symptoms often come from the toxic chemicals that are over-hydrating and suffocating nutrients to your plant. Watch out for these significant signs. 

  • Your soil has a crusted film over it, and it is hard. This film is residue from the extra fertilization and is, most likely, salt. If you touch the soil’s surface, it may also have a hard texture because it is dry. Crusted soil is a common symptom that soil shows when there is too much fertilization. 
  • Certain plants in your garden are beginning to wither away. When your plants’ decay, it is a scary experience. This is especially true for plant fanatics and gardeners. The roots on your plants may be a dark brown or black color from rotting, and the leaves on your plant may begin to curl inward.
  • Produce or seedlings will begin to decay and die. Soil can disrupt the growth of a plant and stop a plant’s production altogether. If your plant produces vegetables, fruits, or seedlings, they may begin to wither and die.
  • Your plant’s leaves are turning brown and yellow on the tips. Gardeners don’t always check the soil of their plants every day, which is why this symptom is the most common. Leaves will begin to change in color to show dehydration and lack of nutrients. 

Over fertilized soil most times leads to fertilizer burn. Over-fertilization may be why specific symptoms display in your plants. You can help your plant recover by detoxing the soil, if you can catch the signs in time. 

It’s also important to remember that one soil area can become over-fertilized while another area of your garden is intact. However, groundwater can spread fertilizer, so it’s best to catch it and cleanse it as soon as you can.  

2. Scoop out Any Extra Fertilizer in Your Soil

Fertilizer is a beautiful additive, and plants love it because it helps them stay healthy and happy. For this to happen, the proper dosage and application must occur. If not, your soil may become tainted and your plants will begin to suffocate. 

Your plant will show obvious signs when fertilizer becomes a bit much, and you might even begin to find extra fertilizer hanging out in the soil where you can see it. When you spot additional fertilization in your garden, it is time to take appropriate action.

Here are a couple of suggestions to guide you with this process. 

  • Take a small shovel and remove any fertilizer you can see. Removing extra fertilizer is especially appropriate for dry fertilizer. You can dig around the soil to see what you can find. If someone helped you with the fertilization process, you can ask them for further support as you look for extra fertilizer in the soil. 
  • Move the soil around to break it up. Fertilizer can come in wet and slow-release formulas and is not visible to the naked eye. You can break up the dry and hard soil to move it around and see the different textures. This step isn’t entirely necessary but can help you determine what’s going on with your soil. 
  • Check the soil around the root of your plant. Your plant’s roots are the most valuable because they are closest to the earth. The roots of a plant receive the nutrients. It is always best to check the soil around your plant’s root and remove any excess that you see. Conducting this process may help your plant have more time as you cleanse the soil. 

Although scooping out extra fertilizer might not seem like a big and accomplished task, it is a helpful step towards mending your over-fertilized soil. 

3. Water Down and Hydrate Your Soil for a Week

Water and sunlight are necessary ingredients for your plant’s health. When over-fertilization occurs, water is the magical cure-all ingredient that will save the day. 

Some plants, in theory, can manage for long periods without water. But, many plants need water daily and require hydration, primarily when fertilizer burns your plants or over-fertilization is present.

If you are experiencing the over-fertilization of your garden, use these tips when hydrating and flushing out your soil: 

  • Keep the water contained. Although you can add a ton of water to your soil, it is best to use your water sparingly. Fill your soil with water, but don’t allow the water to run off into other parts of the soil or garden. Over-watering your soil will cause more harm than good in the long run.  
  • Fill your soil with water until it is jam-packed and full. The main goal is to flush your soil free of any extra fertilizer that creates harm. Naturally, your soil will accomplish this process. The water helps it move quicker. In addition, rinsing your soil with water will hydrate your soil and fuel your plants. 
  • Flush your soil every day for a week, even if your plants are improving. Sometimes, the symptoms your plant and soil are showing may go away. Nevertheless, it is best to keep pushing forward with nourishing your soil. This is especially true for plants that live in a raised garden bed or a container. If you feel it is a necessity, you can test your soil halfway through the week.
  • Remove extra crust on the top of the soil before leaching. Leaching is the process of watering down the soil at the root. Sometimes, the crusted soil can prevent the process from occurring naturally. It is best not to remove too much soil. If you mess with the soil significantly, your plant(s) may suffer and weaken.  

4. Watch Over Your Plants for Improvements

Taking the necessary steps is essential for mending tainted soil. If not educated in the process, it can become challenging to decipher when your soil and plants have improved. 

Plants, especially ones rooted in the earth, usually do not show signs of improvement right away. Two or three days of watering down the soil are generally necessary before any modification becomes visible. 

As you mend your plants from toxic soil and fertilizer burn, you can watch over your plants to confirm that everything is on track. Here are a few things to remember. 

  • Brown and black decaying plants may not fully recover. Plants usually wither, and leaves will curl at first sight of over-fertilization. If not caught in time, your plant’s roots may blacken, and your leaves can fade away with no chance of returning to prominent health. If you don’t see any clear and visible signs of repair, that may be why. Re-planting may be something to consider.  
  • The roots of your plant are most important. You may have lucked out if all you notice is the browning or withering away of your plant’s leaves. Leaves can always recover with soil mending and trimming. When watering down your plant’s soil, pay attention to the color of your plant and the texture of the soil. Visible signs will be present here. 
  • If unsure if your soil is recovering, test your soil at home. Sometimes, it can take time to see visible symptoms when washing your soil free of fertilizer. If you are worried about your plant during the mending process, you can always do an at-home pH test on your soil before testing it through a professional laboratory.
  • Foliage will not recover from flushing the soil’s over-fertilization. If fertilizer has withered your leaves, produce, and seedlings, they will not recover from the flushing out of fertilizer. Trimming your leaves and discarding any decaying produce is the best way to help your plant grow. Your plant will grow new foliage once it returns to total health. 

Every plant is different during the mending process, and some will recover while others may not. If you are concerned about your plant’s overall health during this process, you can always consult with a professional that might know more about flushing soil than you do. 

5. Test Your Soil To Find Out Its Condition

Every gardener hopes to see their plant recover at a rapid pace, but that does not always happen. Plants grow and mend on their own time, and, unfortunately, do not always show the symptoms of flourishing health right away. 

After a week of watering your soil and flushing out the extra fertilization, you can take your soil to a professional for testing. If you have already conducted a test at home, it can still be a good idea to have your soil tested at a professional lab. The results of the test can tell you a few things. 

  • A soil test will measure the pH levels of your soil. Healthy soil should have a balanced level of pH between 6.0 and 7.0. If the pH levels in your plant’s soil are higher or lower, something might need to change. The pH level of the soil will help gardeners and plant owners determine how accessible nutrients are for your plant. A high level of pH that becomes worrisome is 8.0. 
  • Soil tests will provide information on your soil’s nutrients. Every soil’s condition is different, depending on its treatment over time. Some soils are high in certain nutrients while others are low. A soil test can help you determine what your soil and plants may need to flourish and what the condition is since experiencing fertilizer burn. 
  • It can help with adjusting your fertilization schedule and dosage. There are many different types of helpful fertilizers (you can add a link here), and every kind of fertilizer has varying ingredient dosages of N-P-K. The condition of your soil can help with planning future fertilization as well as a way to create precaution from future over-fertilization. 

There are many different soil tests on the market to choose from. Some can be sent to a laboratory while others are at-home tests. After draining your soil of fertilization, it is best to find a test that helps determine what is needed. 

6. Return Your Soil and Plants to a Regular Schedule

The ultimate goal is to rehydrate your plants and return them to optimal health. If you sent soil in for testing and it came back with positive nutrient levels and pH, your plants may be ready to return to their normal food schedule. 

Sometimes, it is best to evaluate your garden and switch up the fertilizer routine that your plants are on before returning to a normal schedule. Speaking with a professional in the gardening industry may also be best, unless your over-fertilization was an accident or something unusual. 

When returning your soil and plants to a regular schedule, here are a few great suggestions. 

  • Consider switching your fertilizer from synthetic to organic. Synthetic fertilizers have many chemicals in them, and can be harmful for your plants. At first glance, synthetic fertilizers are the recommended option but can lead to further issues such as overfertilization and the natural decay of growth. Organic fertilizer can act as a protective mechanism for your plant, even though certain additives will still be incorporated. 
  • Research different fertilizers and consider switching to a milder option. There are many different types of fertilizers out there (you could add link here). After evaluating your plant’s health, switching to a new fertilizer might not be a bad idea. Each fertilizer has a different dosage of nutrients, and that can be the perfect change for your plant. 
  • Figure out why your plants were over-fertilized. Targeting the solution can be as simple as targeting the problem. If you had a slight spillage or measuring issue that was accidental, your plants may not need any major changes. Instead, having more awareness might be the easy fix. 
  • Research your plant’s species to find out more information. Sometimes, having a professional’s opinion and advice can make a world of difference. Certain plants, also, do well in certain conditions. This could be related to the sunlight, its location, and if it is planted in a pot, garden bed, or the ground. Sometimes, your plant might do well with certain quirks that you may not realize. 

When returning your plants to their normal schedule, the most valuable thing you can provide them with is awareness. Sometimes, over-fertilization happens without us even knowing it because we aren’t always paying attention to the small details. 


Plant owners love helping their plants thrive in any environment. Luckily, the right knowledge and skill can help anyone mend their plants from the worst conditions. 

Here are some suggestions for helping your plants and soil remain in optimal health: 

  • Test your soil frequently and check the your plants’ condition and health.
  • Hydrate your plants often and check up on their soil, leaves, and roots.
  • Speak with a professional to find the best fertilizer.
  • Use natural additives instead of a fertilizer with large amounts of ingredients.  
  • Get to know your plant and the environment it is in. 

Alexander Picot

Alexander Picot is the principal creator of, a website dedicated to gardening tips. Inspired by his mother’s love of gardening, Alex has a passion for taking care of plants and turning backyards into feel-good places and loves to share his experience with the rest of the world.

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