Recently, I posted this picture on Facebook. It's a shot of what we affectionately refer to as “The Back 40” at my house in Rosehill.
I have mentioned that I only use organic fertilizer on this roughly 1.5 acres of grass and weeds because we often have kids and all kinds of animals romping through it. And, for the past couple of years, I have exclusively used Sweet Green from Nitro-Phos.
After the post went up, a smattering of folks who had never heard of Sweet Green spoke up. Some accused me of only using Nitro-Phos products because, they suspected, I’m a part owner. Let me assure you, I don’t own any part of any company I endorse on my radio show.
For anyone unacquainted, here’s an overview of Nitro-Phos Sweet Green 11-0-4.
I speak so highly of this product because I consider it a legitimate game-changer in lawn fertilization. However, if you've been having success with Nitro-Phos Imperial 15-5-10 — the standard early green-up fertilizer — I say "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." Likewise, if you’re happy with the results you’re getting from any other organic fertilizer, keep “dancin’ with the one whut brung ya.”
First, a little history. I have been hosting GardenLine for over 22 years, and this is the first organic fertilizer I’ve found that meets all three of my top criteria for an endorsement. I have endorsed many organic fertilizers that have met two of the three, but I always had a hard time gushing compliments for them. And I will never back one that fails in all three.
Here are the criteria:
- It can't smell bad. Although exceptional in fertilizing abilities, most poultry-based (chicken poop) organic fertilizers smell to high heaven. The odor will gag the average person.
- It has to be usable in a typical broadcast spreader. I can name at least a half-dozen manufacturers who have, over the years, pitched products to me that looked like extruded rabbit food (and in some cases, rabbit poop). They could never be dispersed in a broadcast spreader. And many "chicken-poop" varieties, while spreadable, leave a mess.
- It needs to be cost-effective. Several entrepreneurial con artists who emerged over the years thought they could overcharge for their products because they were the first "true organic fertilizer" in the Houston market. Thankfully, most of them no longer exist, although their pricing scheme does — some organic fertilizers cost $30 for a bag that covers only about 1,500 square feet. There are many good organics on the market at roughly $30 per bag covering around 3,500 square feet. While that's much better, a $30 bag of Sweet Green covers nearly 5,000! Now, I wasn't a math major at Texas A&M, but it doesn't take a PhD to figure out which is the better deal.
As I said, I have no ownership in Nitro-Phos or Sweet Green. But I actually did help name it. The Nitro-Phos folks came to me about seven years ago to ask if I’d test their “new organic fertilizer.” Wait! What? I said, “Hey, you guys know I’m not a fan of many organics because they smell bad, don’t spread evenly and are not cost-effective for larger properties, right?” They assured me that it was none of those things and provided some samples in clear, unlabeled bags. I was hyper-skeptical, but I tested it on my property and was pleasantly surprised by the smell, the spreadability and the wide coverage. A week later, BAM … the grass was green!
They asked if I could suggest a name more inspired than "Nitro-Phos Organic Fertilizer." Remembering how great it smelled and how effective it was at greening things up, I proposed “Sweet Green.” I wasn’t smart enough to claim the trademark or anything - I simply agreed to get Sweet Green for my Back 40” whenever I needed it as my compensation. Oh, well.
So, why does Sweet Green smell so sweet? I liken it to a combination of coffee and molasses, but it’s actually derived from molasses and sugar beets. It also has the highest nitrogen content (the "11" in 11-0-4) of any true organic fertilizer available. Previously, 8-2-4 was the highest among all-purposes fertilizers. There are some 9-0-0 organics ... nothing but nitrogen ... but I couldn't recommend those for my fertilization schedule. Also, because Sweet Green is produced in perfectly sized prills, it is one of the easiest organic fertilizers to distribute in a broadcast spreader. It also doesn't generate a putrid cloud or leave a sticky, dusty film in the broadcast spreader as do poultry manure-based fertilizers.
Okay, so now you're asking, "Do I use it instead of 19-4-10 or 15-5-10 fertilizers?"
Yes! No! Maybe so!!! Does that clear it up for you?
Seriously, if you've been successfully using Nitro-Phos Super Turf 19-4-10, or any of the other approved fertilizer called for in my Lawn Fertilization Schedule, keep doing what you’re comfortable with. But, if this is the year you've decided to go more organic, Sweet Green is the best first step. It's completely interchangeable with any of the fertilizers on my schedule ... even the winterizer. You can mix and match - it just doesn't matter! That's one of the beauties of this new product. But there's one big no-no! Don't mix the two during the same application time. Choose one or the other for each specific application period.
You should be able to find it at almost any retailer that carries other Nitro-Phos products.I know that many organic fertilizers are darn good at their jobs, but they’re often private labels sold only by one retailer with limited outlets. Since GardenLine is heard over a very wide region, the products I endorse must be available at many different locations. Finally, let me emphasize that Nitro-Phos Sweet Green 11-0-4 is for the lawn. While it can be used for trees and shrubs, it is not a fertilizer for vegetable gardens, fruit trees or flowering plants that need significantly more balance and, in some cases, far more phosphorus - the middle number in a fertilizer’s ratio.