How to Reverse Over Fertilization? (Step by Step)

I know lots of you have heard that over-fertilizing is bad, but what do you do if your plants are over-fertilized? How can you reverse it? In this article, I outline a few different ways to reverse over-fertilization.

Can you over-fertilize plants?

Yes, you can over-fertilize plants. It’s a common gardening mistake that’s easy to make because fertilizer makes plants grow like crazy! But the fact is, too much of a good thing can really hurt your plants.

You’ll recognize over-fertilization when your plant starts to develop brown spots on its leaves. If the problem is minor and caught early enough, your plant might survive with just some tender loving care.


What are the signs of over-fertilization?

There are a lot of signs that you’re over-fertilizing your soil, and it’s good to pay attention to them. The most common ones are:

  • Defoliation
  • Browning leaf tips and margins
  • Yellowing and wilting of lower leaves.
  • Growth of the top of the plant but not the root system
  • Ground cover dying out

If you see any of these signs, it’s time to stop fertilizing!

What happens if you use too much fertilizer?

Too much fertilizer can lead to a variety of issues for your plants. The application of excessive fertilizer in the soil can result in higher soil salt concentrations than normal.

This is not good for plants because their root systems are very sensitive to the salts, and over time salt buildup will hinder healthy growth. Excessive fertilizer may also result in a variety of diseases, as well as an increase in weed and pest problems.

You are also introducing a large amount of nitrogen into the soil, which could potentially damage the plant’s root system, or dry out leaves and stems.


How can over-fertilization be corrected?

Over fertilization is an easily fixed problem. There are a couple of things you can do to quickly remedy the situation:

 Remove the fertilizer

Removing the fertilizer is the first step in fixing over-fertilization. The best way to remove it is to use a hand rake and gently pull away from the excess fertilizer. Make sure you get as much of it up as possible so there’s no risk of burning the grass below it.

Water the area well

Once you’ve removed the excess fertilizer, water the area well to wash away any residue and help dilute any that was still left in the soil. Watering will also help activate beneficial microbes and other organisms that help break down organic matter into usable nutrients for your lawn.

Aerate or top dress

If your lawn doesn’t look much better after watering, consider aerating or top dressing with compost. These steps will help push nutrients deeper into the soil where roots can access them more easily.

How to reverse over-fertilization

If you over-fertilize your plants, there are several steps you can take to reverse the damage. This guide will walk you through how to save your plants so you don’t have to start all over again.

  1. Plant Cover Crops. If some of your plants are in particularly bad shape, consider removing them and replacing them with cover crops. Cover crops thrive in soil that is low in nutrients and help improve the soil quality overall by adding nutrients back into it.
  2. Get Rid of Any Visible Fertilizer. If there are granules or other fertilizer remnants visible on the surface of the soil, rake them off with a leaf rake. Removing as much fertilizer from the top surface helps prevent further damage from occurring to nearby plants and prevents animals from ingesting it.
  3. Leach the Soil with Water. Leaching is a process by which water is used to flush out nutrients from the soil that is no longer needed by the plants. To leach your soil, water it heavily for about two weeks after you remove visible fertilizer (but not during extremely hot weather—watering too much during hot weather can stress your plants).
  4. Eliminate Damaged Leaves. Another important step in reversing over-fertilization is cutting off any leaves that have been damaged by the high levels of nutrients in your soil. Removing these leaves helps prevent further damage to the plant, and it helps keep the plant healthy while you’re treating it.


Over fertilization can cause major damage to your plants, and depending on how much fertilizer you use, it might actually kill them.