GardenLine Profile: Southwest Fertilizer
With the weather warmer-than-normal this February, it begs the question: Is it too early to be applying the EARLY GREEN UP 15-5-10 that I promote in my fertilization schedule? Obviously, if you are a seasoned GardenLine listener, youíre already familiar with the schedule and its successes. If you just so happen to be a new subscriber to these email tips, and/or are only vaguely familiar with said SCHEDULE, here is that link.
But I sensed a couple of very important issues needed to be set straight or cleared up before we dive head first into the schedule with that 15-5-10. And in no particular order, but due in large part to the numerous emails on the subject, here are the three topics, as relayed to me in the form of email questions:
1. Randy, you hinted that it may be time to put down the 15-5-10, but isnít it too early considering your own schedule says "end of February, early March?"
2. I keep seeing 15-5-10 in the form of weed and feeds, either with Trimec or Atrizine, which one do you prefer Randy?
3. Iíve been following the schedule, and the results have been great. In fact, my yard is already greener than everyone else near me, so do I really need to do the 15-5-10?
Answer to #1: That goes to my point in the very first sentence in todayís tip sheet: Itís warm enough, and even if we get another cold front, which is expected this weekend, it doesnít look like anything is on the horizon that will take us below freezing for extended periods of time in the near future. Itís mostly about soil temperature in the release of the 15-5-10 fertilizer. Thus, one night at 35 degrees for an hour or so, is not enough to reduce the soil temperature that has warmed considerably in the past few weeks. Plus, it will be mid-month by the time youíre reading this tip sheet, so even if you wait another week, we are technically going to be "at the end of February." So, yes, you can apply now without any problems and you can most certainly wait and stay true to the schedule while also watching the weather forecasts with a critical eye.
Answer to #2: The 15-5-10 I want you to use is considered a "fast-acting-fertilizer-only" formulation. I donít recommend Weed-and-Feeds anyway, why in the world would I recommend a 15-5-10 Weed-and-Feed? I suppose the problem is that not everyone even sells the fast acting 15-5-10 in the first place, but the one I recommend is most commonly found in a Nitro Phos Fertilizer Bag, known as Nitro Phos Imperial 15-5-10. The only caveat to all of that may lie in answering the question "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 & Feed in the Aqua Blue Bag. But please avoid the dark blue bag that is Atrizine-based. If you follow the schedule long enough, and have a healthy yard, you donít need Weed & Feeds in the first place.
Answer to #3: Again, if youíre a long-time GardenLine listener, email tip subscriber or just downright successful in all your gardening work, you may already know the answer to this. The Early Green Up 15-5-10 is totally, completely, undeniably and most certainly OPTIONAL. If you have success with the basic Slow Release Fertilizers and Winterizer, you do not have to put out the fast-acting 15-5-10 at all. Itís only good for 30-45 days anyhow, and if youíre green now and you put the April 1st Slow Release Formula out per the schedule then, you are doing just fine, and no one is going to force you to do anything else. Nor should they! Itís OPTIONAL!!!
If that doesnít answer your 15-5-10 questions, then by all means come ask your question in person this Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Southwest Fertilizer. Itís on the corner of Bissonnet and Renwick, south of 59 and West of the 610 Loop. We are doing our first GardenLine appearance of the New Year at this Houston gardening institution. We will be there courtesy of our friends and organic specialists Garden-Ville.
So, come ask your question, "get a pair of eyes on it" as we are known to say, inviting you to bring your problems for identification and come get some free goodies to boot. This also leads perfectly into our first GardenLine Profile for the New Year as well. Plus, if you print this tip sheet out and bring it with you this Saturday, Iíll have a special gift for you, courtesy of KTRH GardenLine.
A Houston Lawn & Garden Tradition since 1955
First, donít let the name fool you. This store has a whole lot more than just fertilizers. And itís more than just an old-fashioned feed store. In the front always seems to be a nice selection of current vegetables and bedding plants. But where Southwest Fertilizer really shines is in its selection of lawn care products, especially for those who aim towards the organic. Almost anything an organic grower might need is available, and at good prices. Whereas many stores offer small packages of organics like greensand and bat guano, Southwest Fertilizer usually will have the 50 pound sacks at a fraction of the cost per pound that you will pay for small bags. The selection in this store has to be seen to be believed.
To explain a bit further, while Southwest Fertilizer is not a true "garden center" by most peopleís definition of what a garden center might be, it certainly has entrenched itself as Houston-based lawn and garden institution. Back in the day, before mass merchandisers ruined mom-and-pop garden centers, Texans always knew they could, at the very least, consider feed stores to be a source to pick up fertilizers and seeds as well as vegetable transplants. Fast-forward 50 years and while some feed stores still carry a few fertilizers Southwest Fertilizer carries every imaginable fertilizer, every imaginable seed, every imaginableÖ You fill in the blankÖthat applies to agriculture, horticulture and gardening in Houston. Yes, Southwest Fertilizer can still be considered a feed store, because they still sell tons feed and seed. They blend their own bird seed daily and they carry feed stuffs for all the local FFA chapters so every imaginable animal can be fed properly from rabbits to chicken to lambs to cattle to goats to horses. To this day they still are one of the few places to stock Llama. And they have these incredibly loyal customers who may work in Houston during the week, stock up on their feeds on Thursdays and Fridays and take them to their ranches and farms for the weekends. And they still are one of the few places that isnít just a feed store that carries all those amazing liniments, balms, creams and rubs that most livestock-knowledgeable people use with a passion (and sometimes on themselves).
As for that 58-year history: Southwest Fertilizer started in 1955 with Ray Martin and his family. In 1995, Mike James purchased the store and has been the owner since. There was a brief moment in time when Southwest Fertilizer opened a location in Pearland, but it didnít stay open long enough for most folks. When pressed for an answer James and his long time General Manager, Bob Patterson, donít hesitate for a second to say that if they would have kept it opened "it probably would have killed one of them." Mike and Bob run an incredible operation at the original location, but it does take the two of them to make it work so well. In my estimation, they just couldnít spread themselves that thin. Plus, I just donít think they ever really found anyone they could trust with the reigns to run the store and still keep the reputation so sterling. So, they did the sane thing and re-focused all their energies to the original location of Southwest Fertilizer.
Itís amazing to look back over those 58 years, to see how many times they were the "FIRST TO CARRY" specialty garden products in Houston that have, over time, become very commonplace. They were the first to introduce a fast-acting 15-5-10, as noted in the above tip sheet, and still sell their very own brand of that 15-5-10. They were the first to bring us the 2-in-1 pre-emergent herbicides with barricade. The first to introduce the slow-release 3-1-2 ratio fertilizers. Lately, theyíve were ahead of the curve when it came to beneficial bacteria as a means of controlling Take All Patch. Their system is commonly referred to as the SLAP method.
If youíve been to Southwest Fertilizer, I realize Iím probably preaching to the proverbial choir, but if you havenít ever been there, maybe you should listen to some great comments from customers who obviously will go back time and time again. While I may be focusing on the products at Southwest Fertilizer, that are fertilizer, feed, fungicide, seed, insecticide related, donít forget they are probably one of the best lawn mower shops in town. Not only do they sell riding mowers, push mowers, reel mowers, string trimmers, edgers, chain saws etc., they also have the finest repair shop in town to keep those lawn tools in tune.
I also hesitate to mention that they have a great website (two actually, but they go to the same location. www.southwestfertilizer.com and www.yardgeek.com; because while you can order things from them and have them shipped for a fee, itís always well worth visiting in person Ė at least for the first time.
Speaking of websites, here are just a few comments regarding Southwest Fertilizer, pulled from a website dedicated to "reviewing" and "evaluating" garden centers all over the United States. But before those quotes here are the particulars on Southwest Fertilizer.
5828 Bissonnet (corner of Bissonnet & Renwick)
Houston, TX 77081
Mon - Sat 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Sundays 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
"Quite possibly the biggest selection of fertilizers and stuff for the garden. I never leave without a packed SUV. Sometimes buying 40 lb bags of alfalfa pellets, or bark mulch can be difficult, but not here. Just point to the article, and it is swooped away into an area waiting for you at check out. Service continues as they load it up in your mode of transportation."
"If you're having trouble finding a certain fertilizer, rooting hormone--whatever, call SW Fert. and they will likely carry it. They do mail order on a limited basis. Staff is professional and helpful."
Southwest fertilizer has the widest variety of Garden products in a single location I have ever seen. The customer service mentioned in the above review must be consistent, as my experiences there are a pleasant one. They have a computer on hand and will help you narrow choices if need to. The Hibiscus fertilizer is an 18-10-28 is a great product, and works great on most tropicals. The most surprising is Papaya trees. Another great product I've still not seen at another retailer to date is Alfalfa pellets, that are infused with Sea Weed extract, molasses, fish emulsion and cotton seed. It is an excellent product, and certainly having these ingredients combined, saves money down the line. Great Place!"
"I usually go to SW Fertilizer twice a year Spring and Fall, completely stocking up." "I think I'm most impressed with is their staff. Everybody is well trained, and if they don't know something they go find somebody that does. This is the place where I buy stuff I can't find anywhere else. Totally recommend this place." "The website is good, but if you live within driving distance, don't pass up a chance to visit the store. It's not fancy from outward appearances but it is very well-stocked with fertilizers, soil amendments, bulk and packaged seeds, as well as onions and seed potatoes."
"But the most impressive thing to me was the excellent customer service. The guy who helped me was knowledgeable, friendly, and very helpful. Too often I've been to other places where I've been greeted with impatience, but not here. I'll shop there again ASAP." "Southwest Fertilizer is a fabulous resource that caters to gardeners often-obscure requests. They are for instance, the only supplier I have found in the area to provide quality composted sheep manure. They also carry many regionally customized products such as Space City Hibiscus Fertilizer, formulated by the members of the Space City Hibiscus Club in Houston, this water-soluble product has an 18-10-28 analysis and all the trace elements needed to maximize the quantity and quality of hibiscus blooms."
"SWF carries green sand, bean inoculants, worm castings, and 50 lb bags of corn meal for about $10.00. Rather than drag a cart all over creation and piling it to the rafters with purchases as is the case with big box stores, they helpfully assist the customer with a series of designated open computer screens dedicated to recording your every purchase desire. The customer need only tell the employee "20 bags of sheep manure, five of this item, and seven of thatÖ.." and they will efficiently keep track of the gardenerís needs until they tally the damage at checkout."
"After checkout, another employee efficiently collects your purchases and loads them onto a dolly then places them into your vehicle."
"They carry everything from Bag Balm to soothe dry garden hands, to riding tractors and motorized equipment."
"They are a wonderful local resource for gardeners."
Until next issue, here's to Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard exclusively, 6-10 a.m. Saturdays and 7-10 a.m. Sundays, only on NewsRadio 740 KTRH.
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