Let’s Not Be Mindless About….Milorganite

Uh-oh–now what’s wrong? Can she really be talking about a brand name product here? And is that a good idea?

Here’s how this post came about: I was visiting my sister over the holidays and we were in a garden center, wandering around looking at all the great things garden centers have. We walked over to where the large bagged goods were stored (I think we were looking for some soil) and we saw, among other things, Milorganite.

I said something like, “that’s an organic fertilizer, but it’s not approved for organic gardening in Connecticut because of what it’s made of. Lots of folks use it as a deer repellent.” So naturally she asked what it was made of and I said, “Look at the name. Mil-Or-ganite. It comes from the Milwaukee sewers.”

She shrieked and said, “Does it say that?!” and I told her to flip over the bag and read it for herself.

And it’s not quite the Milwaukee sewers–it’s the Milwaukee sanitation system.

Now actually, this is a great product and it is at the forefront of the way we should all be thinking. We should be using rain barrels and re-using our gray water and it would be great if more towns could find useful ways to use the by-products of their sanitation systems. After visiting my sister, I went on to Vail, Colorado, where they heat the sidewalks and streets with heat produced, at least in part, from their wastewater and sanitation systems. More power to them (no pun intended!)

An update: less than a week after I wrote this post the good folks at Milorganite contacted me. They wanted my readers to know that they were so much more than “poop in a bag.” (Their words, not mine, and I hope I didn’t leave you all with that impression)

This actually is the problem with organics. I’ll address that in April. But I digress here for a minute. Tina from Milorganite directed me to a video on their web site (which I actually am familiar with) that shows how it’s made. I attach the link for you here (they actually have a whole video library for you if you’d like).

She also sent along some literature saying that Milorganite is perfectly safe for use on vegetables. And again, it’s here that we have the issues with organics. I know lots of organic gardeners that won’t even use animal products (bone meal, blood meal and chicken manure) on their edibles. Others are fine with that but get a little squeamish when they hear the source of Milorganite.

I make no judgments. What I go by is my state NOFA rulings. They have decided that for my state, Milorganite is not considered an organic fertilizer for any purpose–not for lawns, not for ornamentals and not for edibles–not even as a deer repellant. Therefore, I personally do not use it even though I am on a deer trail.

I do however, greatly appreciate the opportunity to clarify things.

2 thoughts on “Let’s Not Be Mindless About….Milorganite

  1. deliciousdaydreams March 24, 2014 / 8:35 pm

    Wow. I’ve used that stuff. I don’t have any more, but I’m glad I saw this in time for Spring! Thank you for this timely and thoughtful post.

    • gardendaze March 25, 2014 / 6:42 am

      You’re welcome. When my sister didn’t realize what was in the bag, that’s when I knew I had to do the post. I knew she wasn’t alone.

      And as I said, it’s a perfectly fine product for lots of things, but you definitely want to be sure to keep it away from the edibles. Lots of folks here use it as a deer repellant and it’s great for that–in addition to being a fertilizer.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.


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