Milorganite vs Scotts

Milorganite vs Scotts (which is really best for your lawn?)

Most homeowners who take care of their lawn know about Milorganite and Scotts. They are both very well known brands in the world of lawn care and each company provides quality products to target different issues that one may face when maintaining their lawns. Among these products, both Scotts and Milorganite have their own fertilizer programs which aim to optimize lawn health, and in today’s Milorganite vs Scotts article I’ll cover the pros and cons of using each product on your lawn, why you may choose one over another, and more.

Trust and Accuracy Information

This article was last updated on by Lawn Chick Owner Sarah Jameson
Article content reviewed for accuracy by Certified Horticulturist Nicole Forsyth, M.S.

To be more specific, I will be comparing the formulas and procedures of the popular Scotts 4-Step Fertilizer Program, to the Milorganite Fertilizer program (which I recommend you apply 4 times each year for optimal results).

By the end of the article you should feel confident about which fertilizer program will ultimately be better for your lawn and understand why it will work well for you.

Let’s get right into it. is reader supported. If you make a purchase after clicking a link, I may earn a commission at no additional cost to you.

Milorganite vs Scotts (brand & product information)

Before we compare Scotts 4-Step to Milorganite in terms of their composition and efficacy, let’s go through a brief background as to what each product is and what each brand has to offer.

An Overview of Milorganite and Scotts Products, How They are Manufactured, and How They Work


Milorganite Logo Transparent

The Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District manufacturers Milorganite fertilizer. Their primary focus is producing fertilizer in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner, which I love.

Milorganite is a brand that took part in one of the nation’s oldest recycling efforts, and they are able to process sewage and create a safe and effective slow-release fertilizer that you can use on your lawn, flowers, and even in your edible garden with great results.

Milorganite is an organic product that turns sewage waste from the city of Milwaukee into some of the best organic lawn fertilizer you’ll find on the market.


Scotts Logo Transparent

A wide range of gardening and lawn care products live under the umbrella of the Scotts Lawn Care brand. This includes Scotts Miracle-Gro.

Scotts is a leading manufacturer for lawn care products ranging from grass seeds and fertilizers, to a variety of different lawn equipment such as broadcast spreaders (which you probably know about) and mowers and other power equipment (which you may not know about yet).

One of their most well known products is the Scotts 4-Step Fertilizer Program. The Program provides 4 distinct packages that, when used in that order, can yield incredible results for your lawn.

Scotts products are popular in large part because of their availability, and the millions they spend each year on advertising. You’ll see Scotts products in hardware and big box stores, and they’re also available online.

Homeowners love the Scotts 4-Step program because it takes the guesswork out of lawn care. It’s a great choice for homeowners who want to improve their lawn and aren’t super particular about staying organic.

Milorganite vs Scotts 4 Step (formulas & application)

Both brands use different formulas, ratios, and have different application methods in terms of how to distribute their lawn fertilizer products.

This includes both application rate, and application schedule.

I’ll get into the details here so you can start to get a sense about which may work better with your lifestyle.


As I mentioned earlier, Milorganite uses microbes to supply plants and soil with the nutrients they need.

Milorganite vs Scotts Comparison

Basically, the product is what’s left when its manufacturer takes waste and recycled water, filters out any harsh contaminants, and places the microbes in the water in order to absorb the nutrients from the water.

The microbes are pressed to get rid of excess water. Finally, the manufacturer heat-treats them to kill any bacteria so it’s safe to use on your lawn and in your garden.

It’s a slow-release fertilizer with some Iron (which helps your lawn achieve a dark green color when applied). This means that it’s a fertilizer you can apply without risk of burning sections of your lawn or killing your grass, even if you spill a little or apply more than you should.

In this way it’s pretty much a fool-proof option that will give you good results, guaranteed.

Application Schedule & Efficacy

As with most fertilizers, Milorganite should be used on your lawn about 4 times in a year. I have an article which details when you should apply Milorganite depending upon where you live.

Unlike other fertilizers, Milorganite really works with the weather conditions, the plant conditions, and the already existing conditions of your soil.

Is Going Organic with Milorganite Better for Your Family, Pets, and Community?
There’s definitely a peace of mind that comes with going organic if you have kids and/or pets

Since Milorganite is slow release, there are no guarantees that you will see results right away. Synthetic, man-made fertilizers give you quick results because they are immediately accessible to grass. Basically synthetic fertilizers feed your grass, and organic fertilizers feed your soil.

When you apply Milorganite you’re playing the long game. You’ll see greener, stronger grass in a few weeks, but in a few years the results of regular application can be truly amazing.

This is because Milorganite begins to regulate with your soil and only releases nutrients when the roots need them.

Certain temperatures and moisture levels trigger this. When your lawn begins to need food, Milorganite is there to feed your grass.

Scotts 4-Step Fertilizer Program

The Scotts 4-Step Fertilizer Program is exactly what the name entails, a 4-step fertilizer and herbicide package that is designed to feed your lawn, block your weeds, and take the decisions out of lawn care so you can just enjoy your lawn.

Scotts 4-Step Fertilizer Program

Each step in the program has different ingredients and serves different purposes to target different problems that are common among homeowners, and they have different products tailored to different parts of the country (for example, there’s a 4-step program for southern lawns, the pacific northwest, etc.).

Nutrients common among all 4 steps include the big 3: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.

The 4 steps include:

  1. Crabgrass Preventer
  2. Weed Control
  3. Lawn Food with 2% iron
  4. Fall Lawn food

Each step is to be applied at the correct time of year in your area to see the full effects of the program.

Step 1: Crabgrass Preventer

Scotts Step 1: Crabgrass Preventer

Step 1 of the Scotts 4-Step Fertilizer Program is a crabgrass preventer. Crabgrass is a grassy weed that sprawls out and grows laterally, smothering your turfgrass.

By using Step 1, the germination and growth of crabgrass can be prevented.

Apply Step 1 between the months of February and April (your local weather and season timing will dictate what date is right for you).

Generally, this step should be applied when the temperature is still under 80 degrees Fahrenheit (early spring, before annual crabgrass seeds begin to germinate from warmer temperatures).

RELATED: Best Spring Lawn Fertilizers

Step 2: Weed Control

Scotts Step 2: Weed Control

While crabgrass can be prevented by using Step 1, there are other weeds that can sprout after the spring season.

These include dandelions and other broadleaf weeds.

Apply Step 2 4-6 weeks after Step 1. This product includes the addition of lawn food to support faster growth of healthy grass in your lawn.

This combination of fertilizer and weed treatment is regularly called “weed and feed” in the industry.

Step 3: Lawn Food with 2% Iron

Scotts Step 3: Lawn Food with Iron

Step 3 of the Scotts program is a “mid-season boost” for lawns.

This fertilizer product from Scotts adds additional strength to your lawn and prevents yellowing of grass in the summer heat with the 2% iron (you’ll recognize that strategy from Milorganite, which contains 2.5% iron in every bag).

In order to combat drought and heat, this step should be applied during the dog days of summer.

Step 4: Fall Lawn Food

Scotts Step 4: Fall Lawn Food

This is the final boost to combat weeds, drought, and heat after the lawn has been strengthened.

It also will give your lawn what it needs to sustain itself through dormancy over the winter.

Feeding your lawn in the fall can strengthen it, allowing your yard to come back strong the following spring.

This step should be applied after an additional 4-6 weeks, in early fall.

Which Costs More? Milorganite or Scotts 4-Step

A 32 pound bag of Milorganite is designed to provide 2,500 square feet of coverage for your lawn. So most properties will need multiple bags per application.

The Scotts 4-Step Program comes in a 4-bag kit that is sized for small (5,000 square feet), medium (10,000 square feet) or large (15,000 square feet) lawns.

Scotts vs Milorganite

You can use one of these online tools to measure your lawn square footage and determine how much you’ll need to order of each product and do a true price comparison for your property.

The Scotts 4 Step Program tends to be a little cheaper over the course of a season in my experience, but your mileage may vary depending upon local prices (if you try to get the products separately from local stores vs ordering online).

Milorganite vs Scotts – Can I Use Them Together?

It’s been said before (by me, and others) that lawn care is not “one size fits all.” There are many effective approaches that work for different lawns.

It’s important to understand that your lot is a microclimate that is unique. Nobody else has your exact sun and shade conditions, your precise grass, weather conditions, soil composition, etc.

Effective lawn care is really about learning your yard’s composition and needs. Pay close attention, test your soil every year (I use this kit from Amazon for my lawn). With time, you’ll learn what works best for your yard.

Is Milorganite or Scotts Better for My Lawn?

Both Milorganite and Scotts are great brands for lawn care, so why not use both?

Well, one important factor to note is that there is such a thing as over-fertilization.

The last thing you want to do is spend money on fertilizer and end up burning or killing your lawn. If your lawn has plenty of nitrogen, the last thing you want to spend money on is more nitrogen fertilizer. Your money may be better spent on an Iron supplement to green up your healthy grass.

Too much of a single product is rarely ever good. But what you can do is use Milorganite fertilizer with one of the weed prevention products under the Scotts 4-step fertilizer program. This way you’re going natural and delivery a healthy, slow-release product to feed your lawn. The herbicides you use on your lawn will be effective and proven to work from Scotts line of products.

This will allow you to target specific issues such as crabgrass and other weeds. You’ll also fuel the soil that your lawn needs to survive with an eco-friendly organic product.

Just be mindful of the seasons and when you should be applying each product.

And if you’re applying Milorganite and a Scotts pre-emergent at the same time, make two separate passes with your fertilizer spreader. This way the coverage is even and you can adjust the settings to reflect the size of the granules in each product.

The Verdict (is Milorganite or Scotts right for you?)

When I or anyone else compares Milorganite vs Scotts, please note that neither product is bad for your lawn. Each one is a quality brand that has earned its popularity in the lawn care industry.

Both Milorganite and Scotts 4-Step Program have their distinct advantages. You’ll need to look at those, consider your goals, and choose which is best for you.

Milorganite or Scotts

If you are looking for a foolproof remedy where you just have to follow the instructions, then the Scotts 4-Step Fertilizer Program is probably your best choice. This solution is straightforward and easy to use. It’s popular for a reason.

However, if you are looking for an organic fertilizer where you can build and care for your lawn from the ground up (without having to worry about pets or kids playing in your yard), then I recommend Milorganite fertilizer for its organic and eco-friendly composition.

When it comes down to it, organic substances are better in terms of caring for the earth, and that’s what has guided me toward using Milorganite in my yard. I apply it four times annually, aerate and overseed my lawn and top-dress it with screened compost in the fall, apply a pre-emergent in the spring, and I’ve had great results.

But again – lawn care is about your budget, time, values, and goals and only you can determine what’s the right choice for you and your lawn.

Hopefully this article has helped you get a little closer to figuring that out.

At Lawn Chick, I am committed to publishing accurate, useful, and trustworthy resources for my readers. As part of this commitment, I’ve invited subject matter experts to review our articles for accuracy. I invite you to read our editorial policy and publishing standards which outlines in detail how every article on this site is sourced, edited, fact-checked, and vetted.



Sarah Jameson’s blog, Lawn Chick, is read by over 2 million homeowners each year and she is regularly cited as an expert source of lawn care knowledge by major publications. Her goal is to meet you where you are, and help you achieve a yard you’ll be proud of. Ready to take the next step toward improving your lawn? Grab her free lawn care cheat-sheet: What to Do When - Take the Guesswork Out of Lawn Care, or upgrade your garage by browsing her favorite DIY lawn care products.

16 thoughts on “Milorganite vs Scotts (which is really best for your lawn?)

  1. Laurie

    thank you for this valuable information! i need to work on my lawn. we have not fertilized or applied anything for the last 2 years. we have areas of bare lawn, sparse grass, shallow areas with no grass, and some areas with tufts of nice grass. its a mess. id like to improve it in the most natural way possible. i live in northwest ohio- do you think its an ok time to aerate and overseed? is thatching a necessary step? i would plan to add some topsoil to the bare areas prior to seeding.. would i want to fertilize after overseeding? so many questions, thanks in advance!

    • Hi, Laurie! Thanks for visiting and for the kind words.

      I think you’ll have better luck overseeding in the fall, but as long as you are able to provide some extra water to your young grass during periods of drought this summer I think you can still tackle this project in the spring and have success. If you tackle this project now, I’d recommend overseeding again in the fall (you shouldn’t need to aerate again) to fill in any areas which falter over the summer. That should set you up for a beautiful lawn next spring.

      If you plan to aerate and top-dress with some topsoil this spring here’s what I recommend:

      1. Rake the lawn and mow it low (if it needs mowing). This will loosen the soil and eliminate some dead grass. It’ll also get your established lawn grass low enough that your seedlings can catch up in height by the time you do your first mow in about 3 weeks.
      2. Do your core aeration. I have a guide for this here, and another specifically about aerating and overseeding here which may be helpful.
      3. Spread your grass seed and starter fertilizer before you top-dress. This ensures great contact and allows some of the seed and fertilizer to fall into your aeration holes which will get you a better result. In the spring I recommend using a starter fertilizer with a crabgrass inhibitor. You have to be careful about what you use as some pre-emergent herbicides block grass seed from germinating – there’s a Scotts product I’ve used that works well and you’ll find a link to it in the aeration/overseeding guide I just shared.
      4. Top dress with some topsoil, peat moss, or screened compost (guide on this subject here). You want a very thin layer (about 1/4″) so you don’t bury the seed too deep … just enough to get good contact and help keep the seeds moist after watering.
      5. Water 2 times per day for about 3 weeks to keep your seeds from drying out. Once your new seedlings germinate, start to water a bit longer and a bit less frequently. This will encourage your new grass to develop longer and stronger roots as it seeks out the water deeper in the soil. I have a guide on this topic right here.
      6. When you first mow (when your grass gets 3+ inches) adjust your mower to cut no more than 1/3 of the grass blade and bag your clippings. At your next mow still cut 1/3 of the grass, but you don’t need to bag your clippings any more if you have a good mulching mower.

      Hope this helps! Good luck!


  2. Gee

    Hello Lawn Chick,

    I live in Maryland, I put down Milorganite 1 week ago on May 1 and now I want to put down Scott’s turf builder weed and feed on May 15. In my area, I was told to put down Milorganite during May (Memorial Weekend) , July 4th weekend, Labor Day Weekend and Thanksgiving weekend (which equals 4 times per year).

    Is it okay for me to put down Scotts Lawn food fertilizer a week or so after I put down Milorganite during July 4th weekend?

    Is it okay for me to put down Scott’s Fall Lawn Food a week or so after I put down Milorganite during Labor Day Weekend or is this to much fertilizer for my lawn?

    Can I put down Scott’s Crab grass preventer in April and then put down Milorganite and then Scott’s Weed and Feed during Memorial Day weekend to start the Spring season all over again?

    Long story short, can I use Scott’s 4 step program and use Milorganite 4 times per year?



    • Hi, Gee

      Thanks for the comment. That’s a question I actually get a lot so I’m glad you asked – other readers may have the same concerns. The short answer is that yes – you should be ok to follow the Scotts four step program and supplement with Milorganite. Milorganite is a great fertilizer because it doesn’t burn your grass, so as long as you’re following the application instructions from Scotts you shouldn’t have a problem with burning your lawn. The only question is whether or not you’ll be able to keep up with mowing!

      That said, every lawn is different so if you notice unusual growth or some brown areas, definitely back off with one or the other.

      If you’re following the Scotts 4-step program I’d suggest that you don’t need to do the full 4 applications of Milorganite each year. I think if you do 1-2 applications in spring/early summer, and do a final winter feeding around Thanksgiving you can skip Labor Day weekend.

      Good luck!

  3. Margaret Mary Hartnett

    I live in Northeast PA and have Red Thread that has spread across my entire 3/4 acre lawn. I’ve read multiple articles about getting rid of it, and everyone seems to think a fungicide killer just won’t work. They even think it will harm my lawn. I have a mulching riding mower so I can spread it that way, but I don’t have a choice to bag it due to the large size of the yard. I know inadequate Nitrogen can b e a cause for it continuing every year. Lawn Dr. does my lawn and they said the Nitrogen % is around 18. Apparently that is not enough to control the R.T. Would Milorganite added to my lawn before my professional fertilizer 3 x’s a yr. make a difference. I only use Milorganite 1x per year.

    I’m at my wits end. Please help!

    • Hey, Margaret!

      I hear you. Red Thread is tough – especially if you have the problem across your entire lawn. Is your grass primarily Perennial Rye? While Red Thread can affect any turfgrass, that variety is especially susceptible.

      Here are a few of my go-to tips, which may help:

      • Cut down on how often you water your lawn (if you do). I’d aim for 2-3 deep waterings each week instead of more frequent and less deep waterings. You want to get about 1″ of water on your lawn total each week – some combination of rain and irrigation.
      • Cut a small section of the lawn and examine the thatch layer. If it’s too dense your water is sitting on the grass blades and isn’t getting down to the roots. This can contribute to the problem you’re seeing. Plan to do some dethatching and overseeding this September.
      • If your lawn is primarily perrennial ryegrass, consider mixing in some Kentucky bluegrass the next time you have Lawn Dr. overseed or slice seed. It’s more disease resistant, spreads laterally, and over time it should help the appearance and resilience of your lawn.
      • Finally, as you mentioned red thread is pretty common on lawns that don’t have great soil. You could do a soil test to check, but regardless of what it says my best advice is to top-dress your lawn with a light (1/4″) layer of screened compost. I like to do this after over-seeding to help protect the new seed from birds, keep it moist, and give the new seed a great start. If you top-dress with compost annually for a few years you’ll be AMAZED at what a difference you’ll see. That rich organic matter will transform your soil and your lawn will respond.

      Finally, I do think that treating your lawn with Milorganite annually will help improve the soil. It’s not just about adding nitrogen to your soil with red thread … it’s about unlocking all of the micronutrients that are there, and compost and Milorganite will both help you get your soil where you want it to be.

      Hopefully some of this information is helpful — good luck!

  4. Jose M Vega

    Hi Lawn Chick:
    I enjoy reading your recommendations. I have a question for you: I’m doing an over seed around October 1st, the Scotts Step 4 application is due around the 17th. Can I use the Step 4 application in place of a start-up fertilizer, should I use a start-up fertilizer and forgo the Step 4 application, or use a start-up fertilizer on October 1st and delay the Step 4 until say mid November?
    Looking forward to your thoughts!

    • Hey, Jose!

      Thanks for the comment, glad you’re enjoying the blog.

      The Step 4 fertilizer is high in Nitrogen and Phosphorus, which should complement your overseeding project and support the growth of your seedlings. If it were me I’d just use the Step 4 fall fertilizer at the same time you overseed your lawn this fall.

      Good luck!

  5. Roy Guerra

    I have been using milorganite for 2 years now. My neighbors constantly tell me I have the nicest looking lawn in the neighborhood.

  6. Amen Teter

    Great stuff Lawn Chick. Thanks for the helpful info. If you’re still answering q’s on this page, I wondered if you had any thoughts on using Milorganite only on lawns throughout the summer and if thats enough for the average otherwise unfertilized lawn. Seems like some people are happy with that approach but wondered what you thought.

    • Hey, Amen!

      Yes, I think you most people can see great results just using Milorganite on their lawns. I suggest you follow the 4x annual schedule recommended by the manufacturer which I detail right here.

      And if you want even better results by building upon your Milorganite schedule, grab my free cheat-sheet which includes suggestions for what else you can do to enhance the performance of your lawn.

      Good luck!

  7. Matt P


    I’m curious if I made a mistake here. My lawn is looking great this year. I applied a crabgrass pre emergent with lawn food on May 15th and today (May 31st) applied milorganite. My concern is, will this burn my grass because of the excess in nitrogen? Thanks.

    • Hey, Matt!

      Milorganite is slow release and it’s very hard to burn your lawn with it, so I think you should be ok.

      If you’re concerned about it, though, one thing you could do is to spread some uncharged biochar. Biochar is a natural material (it’s essentially ground up charcoal) that has the capacity to effectively take in some of those “extra” nutrients and micro-nutrients in your lawn, holding them until the conditions in your soil are right for those nutrients to be utilized, and then releasing them back into your soil.

      It’s an excellent soil amendment for turf because it improves your soil’s capacity to catch and hold nutrients and micronutrients that you apply, reducing run-off and holding on to that Nitrogen, Potash, etc. until your soil is running low on them. It sounds like you’re on a regular fertilization schedule, so if you haven’t tried Biochar yet, it might be a great way to make the most of the fertilizer you’re buying and applying and be sure that nothing is wasted.

      I use and recommend Biochar DG from The Andersons, but see that it’s out of stock right now, so you could try this product instead.

      Good luck! (and I’m glad to hear your lawn is looking so great)

  8. Denny

    Sarah, I’m a picky yard guy and spend my enjoyment in the yard and garden. I am sold on Milorganite. So do I still put down a synthetic pre emergent each spring or just stay with applications of Milorganite? Thank you. Denny

    • Hey, Denny!

      Yes, if your lawn is like mine you’ll still probably benefit from a pre-emergent application in the spring. This year I’m planning to use a natural option applied via hose-end sprayer from Lawnbright called Weed Wipeout. I tested it last season and found it to be effective (and I like that it’s natural and kid and pet friendly – though I recognize that isn’t a priority for everyone. If you decide to give it a try, my readers can save 15% at Lawnbright’s website with discount code LAWNCHICK15 at checkout. You can also review my list of recommended pre-emergents here (I’m working on an update for this season) and our newly-updated spring fertilizer recommendations here in case either is of interest.

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