Over 1.4 million Houstonians garden for a hobby or pastime, and GardenLine is where they listen for advice and information on gardening and landscaping.
Every Saturday and Sunday morning from 6 to 10, GardenLine's Randy Lemmon answers listeners' questions on everything from aphids to zoysias. He's Houston's absolute expert on lawns and gardens, offering help to listeners both with and without "green thumbs."
Randy's a Texas Aggie who truly KNOWS plants and flowers. He explains them with ease and candor, and is as competent a "plant person" as there is. He studies, and he practices. He embraces "new methods" as well as the "old" ways of dealing with problems. Call for Randy's solution for your question ... 713-212-KTRH (5874).
With this warmer-than-normal January, is it too early to apply early green-up 15-5-10 fertilizer or the new organic, nitrogen-rich Sweet Green 11-0-4 that I promote in my fertilization schedule? (If you're a seasoned GardenLine listener, you're familiar with the schedule. If you're a new subscriber to these email tips, or are only vaguely familiar with the schedule, here it is.)
By the way, let me first cover my backside by warning that this advice is strictly for the Houston area. The last time I discussed this without announcing the regional specificity, a curmudgeon in Dallas wrote a wicked response, claiming my advice was the worst ever. That may be true for the Dallas area, but my tips are for Gulf Coast gardening.
So, there are two important applications you will do over the next few days. First is the "early green-up" fertilization with either Nitro-Phos Imperial 15-5-10 in the original orange/red bag, or the new Nitro-Phos Sweet Green 11-0-4. The second application is a pre-emergent herbicide. Nitro-Phos has a Barricade-based product I have been recommending for years, but there are other fertilizers and other pre-emergent herbicides that are applicable too.
But based on many Facebook and email questions I've received, there are a few very important issues I need to clear up before we apply the 15-5-10 or 11-0-4.
1. Isn't it too early to put down the 15-5-10? The schedule says "end of February, early March."
Answer: It's warm enough, and even if we get another cold front, this is all about soil temperatures. They've been on the rise and will go right back up again after any coming cold nights. One night at 39 degrees for an hour or so is not enough to reduce current soil temperatures. You may ask, "But Randy, if the grass greens up and we get a freeze, won't it turn brown?" Probably, but that doesn't mean squat to the soil temperatures. Even if that happens in two or three weeks, the grass will not die. Rather, it will try to go dormant again. But as soon as another week of 70- and 80-degree temperatures come, the grass will green right up again after a mowing. By the way, currently the lowest high temperature projected through Feb. 10 is 69 degrees.
2. There are 15-5-10 weed-and-feeds with Trimec or atrazine. Which one do you prefer Randy?
Answer: I don't recommend weed-and-feeds at all, so why in the world would I recommend a 15-5-10 weed-and-feed? If you follow the schedule long enough, and have a healthy yard, you won't need weed-and-feeds. The 15-5-10 I want you to use is a fast-acting fertilizer only. I suppose the problem is that not everyone sells a fast-acting 15-5-10 — the one I recommend is Nitro-Phos Imperial 15-5-10. But, how bad is your weed problem? If you have lots of broadleaf weeds, you have a very small permission slip to use the Trimec-based Nitro-Phos 15-5-10 weed-and-feed in the aqua-blue bag. Please avoid the dark-blue bag that is atrazine-based.
3. I've been following the schedule, and the results have been great. In fact, my yard is already greener than any other near me. So, do I really need to do the 15-5-10?
Answer: If you're a longtime GardenLine listener, email tip subscriber or just successful in all your gardening work, you may already know the answer. The early green up 15-5-10 is totally, completely, undeniably OPTIONAL. If you have success with basic slow-release fertilizers and a winterizer, you do not have to put out the fast-acting 15-5-10 at all. It's only good for 30-45 days anyhow, and if you're green now and you put the April 1 slow-release formula out as scheduled, you are doing just fine. No one is going to force you to do anything else. Nor should they! It's OPTIONAL!!!
Now, are these the only products you can apply? No. There are other 3-1-2 ratios out there, and there are a myriad of organic fertilizers that can also help with an early green-up. These are simply the tried-and-true versions I stand by and can all but guarantee will bring success. By the way, if you'd like to know why atrazine-based weed and feeds should be avoided at all costs, take a moment to learn how environmentally destructive they are. You can do that by simply reading the bag they come in. You will be enlightened! There's also a great web piece on the dangers of atrazine from a few years ago. Read it, and you will understand why I consistently slam its use.
It's appropriate that we are visiting Langham Creek Ace Hardware, 18020 FM 529 at Barker-Cypress, 11 a.m.-1 p.m. this Saturday. Ace Hardware stores are the home of the Randy Lemmon Lawn Fertilization Schedule, and the Langham Creek store will have all three of the products mentioned above discounted by 25 percent Feb. 1-3 only.
Plus, during our visit, you could get a free bag of Sweet Green, Imperial or Barricade! We will have a drawing every 30 minutes during the appearance courtesy of our friends at Nitro-Phos. You don't have to be present to win, and registration will begin at 11 a.m. This is also a great opportunity for me to "get a pair of eyes" on samples of your plant, weed or insect issues.