Milorganite is one of the oldest, most trusted fertilizers. Its slow-release distribution of dried microbes into the soil provides nutrients to plants on demand only when needed, making it incredibly effective when used in the right conditions.
You can spread Milorganite fertilizer by hand, but it may not be the most efficient way. You should always wear gloves to protect your hands, but since milorganite is made from organic materials, it doesn’t hold as much potential for adverse health effects as other fertilizers.
The rest of this article will explain what Milorganite is, when and how it should be applied, how often it should be reapplied, and what makes milorganite different from other fertilizer options. I will also share a few alternative ways to spread Milorganite if you choose not to apply this fertilizer treatment by hand.
What Is Milorganite?
Milorganite is a nitrogen-rich fertilizer that is made up of dried microbes. The microbes consume organic matter that is found in wastewater in Milwaukee, making them rich in recycled nutrients. Next, they are heat-dried, forming into small pellets that are then used as fertilizer.
When applied to soil, these pellets are inactive until combined with water; whether from rainfall or intentional watering with a can or sprinkler system. The pellets are slow-release, only releasing nutrients into the soil when they are needed.
When the soil’s temperature is between 55° and 85° F (13° and 29° C) and moisture is present, the nutrients begin to release, where they can then enrich the soil and the roots of the plant, encouraging healthy, flourishing growth.
Another convenient use for milorganite is supporting reseeding. When applying grass seed, you can combine four parts milorganite to one part grass seed, reseeding and fertilizing at the same time to ensure successful growth!
How To Spread Milorganite by Hand
Before you start spreading milorganite by hand, you will need to gather some necessary supplies.
The necessary tools you will need to collect are:
- Working gloves
- A bucket
- Milorganite fertilizer
- Measuring tape (for calculating area and fertilizer needs)
To spread Milorganite by hand, you will need to:
- Calculate how much milorganite you need for your outdoor space. The recommendation for using milorganite is to apply no more than one 32 lbs (15 kg) bag per 2,500 square feet (232 square meters) of lawn.
- Fill the bucket with the proper amount of milorganite. Grab a bucket that is small enough to carry comfortably but large enough that you won’t need to go back for several refills throughout the fertilizer application process.
- Put on working gloves. When working with any type of fertilizer, you should always wear gloves to protect your hands from exposure to potentially unfriendly substances.
- Walking backward, sprinkle the milorganite on the grass. Maintaining a consistent, uniform motion is important here to ensure that your fertilizer sufficiently covers the entire lawn.
- Walk back and forth several times, always moving backward. Continue this same motion up and down in rows until you have covered your entire lawn. Be sure to walk backward so that you aren’t stepping in and kicking around the fertilizer immediately after spreading it.
- Repeat the entire process. Milorganite can be spread liberally, and applying by hand doesn’t provide as much coverage as a fertilizer spreader, so two passes through should help cover any missed spots.
- Thoroughly water your lawn. Milorganite doesn’t begin working until it has been exposed to water. For this reason, you should deeply water your lawn after milorganite application in order to ensure its successful release into the soil.
It is important to note that milorganite should always be applied after mowing. Once the lawn has been cut, follow it up with an application of milorganite. If it is very windy or rainy, wait until the weather clears before applying milorganite. A clear, calm day is ideal for the application of milorganite.
When Should I Apply Milorganite?
Similar to most other fertilizers, you should apply milorganite in the springtime, after the final freeze of the cold season. That being said, milorganite can be applied at almost any time of year without much cause for concern over potential damages.
Due to milorganite’s organic, microbial structure, it only soaks into the soil and provides nutrients to the plants when the conditions are right. If milorganite is applied when conditions aren’t suitable for optimum absorption, they will simply sit on top of the soil until the time is right.
How Often Should Milorganite Be Reapplied?
To encourage healthy growth year-round, milorganite should be reapplied 3 additional times throughout the year, making it a total of four applications per year.
After the initial application in the spring, milorganite should be reapplied in July, September, and November for optimal growth and plant health support.
Milorganite continues working for up to ten weeks after being applied, so it doesn’t need to be reapplied very frequently.
What Makes Milorganite Different From Other Fertilizer Options?
Milorganite is different from many common forms of fertilizer for a variety of reasons. These are some of the reasons that milorganite stands out among other fertilizer options:
- Milorganite only needs to be applied four times per year.
- Milorganite only releases necessary nutrients.
- The risk of an overabundance of nutrients is eliminated.
- Milorganite is made from organic materials.
- Milorganite keeps working for up to 10 weeks.
Milorganite Only Needs To Be Applied Four Times per Year
Milorganite operates on a slow-release system that gradually applies nutrients for extended periods. Since it works slowly, it also works for longer, meaning more time between the lawn treatment reapplications. This fertilizer only needs to be applied four times per year, saving you time, money, and hard work.
Milorganite Only Releases Necessary Nutrients Into the Soil
The slow-release pellets are only activated with proper distribution conditions. For the nutrients to be released into the soil, they must be surrounded by a moist, warm environment in the range of 55° and 85° F (13°-29° C). This means that if these conditions are not met, the milorganite will stay right where it is until the environment suits them.
The Risk of Overabundance of Nutrients Is Eliminated
Since milorganite only releases nutrients when conditions are right, the risk of over-fertilizing is very low. Other fertilizers with more harsh chemicals pose a threat to your plants, with the potential to cause burning or damage when the fertilizer is overused.
Fortunately, with milorganite, you can use copious amounts of it, and the risk of burning your plants still remains low.
Milorganite Is Made From Organic Materials
Milorganite is, quite literally, made from heat-dried microbes. There are no herbicides or pesticides added, giving you peace of mind that even after application, your lawn will be safe for your children and pets.
Milorganite Continues Working for Up to Ten Weeks
One day of application will reap 10 weeks of work from milorganite. After spreading the fertilizer, it will continue to work when conditions are right, for up to ten weeks! This means less time reapplying and more time enjoying your lawn!
Alternative Tools for Spreading Milorganite
Although milorganite can be spread by hand, there are many circumstances where using a fertilizer spreader would be far more convenient and make more sense. For more information regarding when you do and do not need a fertilizer spreader, see my other article: Do You Need a Fertilizer Spreader? (How to Decide)
A handheld fertilizer spreader is one of the best options for a smaller yard. These tools are excellent for fertilizing small areas or spaces that are more difficult to maneuver, like pathways, rockery, and gardens.
I recommend Scotts Whirl Hand-Powered Spreader (available on Amazon.com) for a handheld option. However, if you are planning to cover large areas with milorganite, you may prefer a push or pull-along fertilizer spreader such as Scotts Elite Spreader (available on Amazon.com).
Fertilizing by hand can be done, but it is very time-consuming, and the margin for error is far higher than when using a fertilizer spreader. Whether you choose a handheld option or something more substantial, using a spreader can be a helpful way to save time and increase effectiveness when spreading milorganite.
You can spread milorganite fertilizer by hand, but it may not be the most effective approach. When fertilizing a very small area, application by hand might be practical and just as easy as using a spreader. However, if you are covering ample lawn space, utilizing a fertilizer spreader is going to make your job much more manageable, will support even, uniform distribution, and will save you lots of time.