Photo: Tyler Johnson

In 2014, while attending Cultivate’14 in Columbus, Ohio, Tyler Johnson was looking for a fertilizer supplier for the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden. There, Johnson is the lead horticulturist and oversees what he calls an “eclectic” greenhouse. One of the garden’s main plants is coleus; Johnson estimates its collection is one of the largest in the world.

Around that time, the botanical garden was in the process of being completely overhauled after a change in ownership. Only two employees from the previous team were still on staff and an entirely new growing plan had to be developed.

Johnson hadn’t planned on visiting the BioWorks booth specifically. But when he stopped by their booth after seeing a BioWorks presentation on organic fertilizers, he found a company that he wanted to work with.

“I talked to them and really liked them,” Johnson says. “They were all really helpful, knowledgeable and easy to work with.” He adds that the botanical garden orders most of its products through BFG Greenhouse Supplies and BioWorks was easily able to send its products through BFG to Johnson.

“It wasn’t a huge hassle,” Johnson says.

BioWorks was also able to supply Johnson with exactly what he was looking for in a fertilizer. Because the botanical garden is, in Johnson’s words, “the beacon of horticulture” in Des Moines, their work extends beyond growing. In the summer, there are camps and classes for kids to learn about plants. Throughout the year, there are other sessions for city residents to attend. With this in mind, and because more growers he knew were using them, Johnson knew that he wanted to use organic fertilizer.

“It wasn’t a huge cost or out of the way cost for us to go that route,” Johnson says. “And we have a lot of classes here, so we can talk to visitors about organics and the impact they have on the environment.”

Additionally, he says BioWorks’ fertilizer was easy to use and fit what he needed for the botanical garden.

“Part of it, too, is that their formulations were a lot higher than the [others that were available], giving it a slow release,” Johnson says. “It makes it easy to use.”

Fast forward to today and Johnson is still happy to partner with BioWorks. He says BioWorks is always willing to offer troubleshooting help over the phone or via email. Johnson also says that when BioWorks debuts a new product or he wants to try a different fertilizer, they’ve always been willing to send him samples to trial. And the relationship extends beyond fertilizers; Johnson says the botanical garden gets most of its pest control products from BioWorks.

“I’ve worked with four or five different people [from BioWorks] and it’s always been super easy,” Johnson says. “It’s never, ‘I can’t talk to you [right now]’ or ‘I can’t help. ’”