Winterizer Fertilizer – Is It Just a Marketing Ploy?

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Winterizer Fertilizer – Is It Just a Marketing Ploy?


This time of year, the first thing you see when you walk into Home Depot or Lowe’s are several different bags of “winterizer” fertilizers. Advertisements make big promises about winterizer fertilizers, but do they really deliver? This article covers the most important details pertaining to fall fertilizing and whether or not you should buy one of these winterizer fertilizers.

Winterizer Background

The Scotts® company single-handedly developed a niche in the fertilizer business known as “winterizer”. According to Webster’s Dictionary, the word “winterize” means to prepare for winter. Scotts® has really branded “winterizer” fertilizers and even had the name trademarked. Initially, Scotts® was denied by the Trademark Examining Attorney, but an appeal reversed the decision. Scotts® now uses the name Scotts® Turf Builder® WinterGuardT Fall Lawn Fertilizer for their product. As far as I know, this is the same as their original winterizer. The company carries more than 60% of the U.S. fall/winter fertilizer market, which makes Scotts® the most popular brand in the U.S.

What’s the Difference?

Fertilizer bags always have three numbers printed on the front which represent the percentage of the major active ingredients in the bag. They are always listed in this order: nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). A common lawn fertilizer formula is 29-3-4, which means the bag contains 29% nitrogen, 3% phosphorus, and 4% potassium. Winterizer fertilizers are essentially regular fertilizers with more potassium and slightly less nitrogen. Scotts® WinterGuardT has a formula of 22-3-14.

What Does It Do?

Potassium plays a big part in winterizing because it has been shown to improve cold tolerance and enhance the root systems of turfgrasses. Because lawns use nitrogen more than any other nutrient, winterizers still provide plenty of nitrogen for late fall even though “winterizer” is usually associated with potassium.

Some experts believe that the winterizer application is the most important fertilizer application of the year. The extra benefit occurs because the roots absorb and store the nutrients as they grow until the ground freezes. Those nutrients are then available when temperatures warm in the spring for a quick green-up. Grass plants store up energy (or carbohydrates) in the fall for two main reasons. Blade growth slows down and less transpiration (or evaporation) occurs due to cooler air temperatures, but photosynthesis is still occurring. Scotts lawn care recommends a winterizer application can encourage grass plants to store more energy in the fall because temperatures are lower and blade growth is minimal. So, the intent of a winterizer application should be to provide nutrients for optimal energy storage during the fall season.

When Should I Apply Winterizer?

Winterizer should be applied sometime during October or November. Because every lawn is different and temperature varies between climates, here are some things to look out for before you fertilize. If your lawn has already shown significant discoloration due to low temperatures, you should skip a winterizer application this year. Also, if you have sandy soil, you may want to avoid fertilizing during the fall because sandy soil is prone to leaching nitrogen which can contaminate ground water. If you have over-seeded a warm season grass with a cool season grass, you should not apply a fall fertilizer.

Is Winterizing Necessary?

Winterizing has the benefits of strengthening roots for winter, lengthening the time your grass stays green in winter and inducing an earlier green-up in spring. Winterizing is sometimes a controversial issue and some experts discourage it, but I believe it can and will benefit your lawn.

What Brand Should I Get?

I recommend Scotts® brand because they make a quality product. Scotts® WinterGuard® comes in three different sizes; you can buy bags that cover 5,000 square feet, 10,000 sq. ft, and 15,000 sq. ft. It’s also available with a weed control formula. I purchased the smallest bag at Lowe’s for $11.97, and applied it in a matter of minutes. Now all that’s left is to sit back and enjoy the green grass a little while longer.

Author Bio

Matt Morrison is a lawn expert, homeowner, and website hobbyist from Texas. He enjoys working on his own lawn and helping others make their lawn the best it can be. You can read more of his articles here.

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  1. Can I apply scotts winterizer fertlizer in the spring. Thanks Jan

  2. I’ve been hearing great things about a natural liquid fertilizer called dr grow it all, it’s made from chicken manure, I tried to find it on the shelves but someone said they are only just starting to export it into the states. Are there any benefits of using this type of organic fertilizer all year round or maybe diluting it a bit? I’m in Nashville TN and my brother is in Orlando FL and we would both be using it. Thanks.

    • Hey John,

      I’ve never heard of that product before, but the organic fertilizer I use is poultry based too. The best thing about organic is that you can put it out heavy and often without much consequence. I don’t see why you can’t put it out year round, but you might want to consider that there will eventually be a point of diminishing returns.

  3. I have applied a spring (April) and summer (June 25) Scott’s fertilizer. The lawn became a bit brown over the summer so I watered the heck out it and now have a nice green yard, with a very few brown patches not growing back, (having to mow every 4 days!). My question is since it is the middle of August, can I throw another “summer” application down before November ‘Winterizer’? I’d like to continue to thicken the lawn and fill in: through “spreading” growth. I will continue to water so it doesn’t burn…suggestions?

    • Jim,

      You could definitely fertilize in between those applications. Before I was using organic fertilizer, I applied Scotts about every two months until Winter.

  4. when should I apply winterizer in Mn?

  5. We had a really hot/dry summer in Iowa and I have a lot of brown patches on my lawn from the grass going dormant. What steps would you take to ensure healthy growth in the spring?

    • Basically the same things that make your lawn healthy any time will help you now. Fertilize, water deep when the grass needs it, mow high and often (next Spring), and minimize foot traffic until it recovers. You should also put a thin layer of compost as a top dressing over your lawn (particularly the brown patches) to improve the soil and microbial activity. Good luck.

  6. I think that so called “winterizer” fertilizers are a scam. They make people think that you should apply these products IN THE WINTER when the lawn does not make use of them. Yes, fertilizing your lawn in early fall (EARLY FALL, NOT WINTER) is the most important fertilization of the year in that it strengthens the turf as it stores carbs that are used to break dormancy the following spring. But in most areas, high nitrogen synthetic fertilizers just was into the water tables from mid-October on. Winterizer applied in mid to late fall, or the winter, God forbid, is a waste of time and money, not to mention an ecological danger.

    • I agree that the term could be misconstrued, BUT it’s hard to blame Scotts or anyone else for people who don’t know the proper definition of the word (particularly when the definition is stated at the beginning of this article). So, no I don’t think it’s a scam, but otherwise I think you’re absolutely correct. Time is definitely a factor in diminishing returns. Thanks for your input C.L.

  7. In cold areas: The new recommendation that resulted from recent research by University of Wisconsin -Extension specialists. September 1st or Labor Day weekend should be the last fertilizer application of the year. Research shows that after that, the percentage of nitrogen taken up by the grass decreases dramatically and is, therefore, a waste.

  8. Thank you for your informative and unbiased summary regarding winterizing. This helped me a lot — and saved me some money.

  9. My lawn is covered 75% with leaves and they are still falling. Do I need to rake them all up before winterizing or will it do as well with the leaves blowing around?

    • I think it’s a good idea particularly if you have a complete layer of leaves covering the ground (a few scattered leaves won’t matter). The purpose is to get the nutrients to the root level so removing anything that might impede the goal should be done.

  10. My yard is covered with leaves do I have to have them raked up before winterizer is applied? Does it matter if the winterizer is liquid or granule?


  12. Do Winterizers expire? Will the leftovers from the previous year still be effective this year? Thanks.

    • They should be especially if you resealed the bag. If not, then you will need to break up the clumps before spreading 😉

  13. I’m doing a science fair project on what fertilizers make grass grow best in late november,early december. What fertilizers do you recommend???

    • It depends on the type of grass you’re growing and climate. If it’s warm season, then I recommend a fertilizer early to mid fall that contains higher levels of phosphorus and potassium. If it’s cool season, then I would go with a higher nitrogen fertilizer and try to apply it well before the ground freezes. I’m also a fan of using organic fertilizers. In my opinion, it’s going to be tough to find conditions that would warrant fertilizing in December.

  14. Is it too late to apply Winterguard? I live in North Texas, with a Bermuda grass lawn. I haven’t put down Winterguard. Last week we had temperatures in the 40s during the day, 20-30s overnight. This week looks to be a little warmer but I know the bag says apply when temps are consistently above 60 degrees. Please advise.

    • If you have some leftover, I think you’ll be okay this year with very mild Fall temperatures. However, I wouldn’t go out and buy a new bag at this point.

      • So what’s the risk of not putting down the winterizer? I hope my grass will survive the winter

  15. eric vent

    I actually don’t like Scotts at all. Have much better results with Lesco fertilizer or Ez Grow,,,,have used both for years. Have seen more companies switch to either one of these

    • I’ve actually switched to all organic and my results have been much better than all synthetic brands including Scotts.

  16. Randy Kozelka

    is it ok to seed the same day as putting down the winter fertilizer?

  17. What’s the difference between a winterizer 32-0-10 fertilizer and scotts bonus s 29-0-10? The numbers are close so can the winterizer be used again in late February or early March?

  18. I want to put down a 2nd application of Winterguard before winter sets in. How long do I have to wait to apply another?

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