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About this blog

Joe Fearn is Head Groundskeeper at Drury University in Springfield, MO. We writes about reconciling economic, aesthetic, functional, and environmental needs in the landscape.

Entries in this blog

 

You Can't Play Baseball in a Tallgrass Prairie... and Killdeer Won't Nest on a Soccer Field

We are pleased to welcome Joe Fearn to TurfNet as a contributing blogger. Joe is the Grounds Supervisor at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, and is an ISA Certified Arborist/Municipal Specialist and PGMS Certified Grounds Manager.   Several years ago I was talking to a local member of the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). I was asking about a quandary I was faced with and I wanted another perspective. I had recently taken note of a patch of neglected and disturbed ground

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

Wow, You’ve Done A Lot Here...

Wow, You’ve Done A Lot Here...

Groundskeeping is a challenging profession. We are impacted and affected by horticultural limitations, weather and environment, organizational imperatives, laws and regulations, budgetary constraints, seasonal influences, etc. We are in a constant battle of managing inputs, stressors and outcomes. In all of this grind, we must occasionally factor in a crisis of the now, where we focus on where our operation currently is and what lay immediately before us. Recently I had an opportunity to st

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now...

Wish I Knew Then What I Know Now...

On June 27 this year I turned 55. Now this isn’t a defining age as much as say 21 or 65, but is significant. I am not a person who puts all my stock in chronological age. I definitely think there can be an old 30 or a young 70, but again I say 55 is significant. I am now seriously contemplating retirement although I can’t see how I won’t have to work until 70 (or longer) if anyone will have me. I have been in commercial grounds management since I was 23. I know there are many people who have mor
 

What’s Griping Me?

That's it. For this blog I am not going to take the high road. I am not going to say to myself "put yourself in their shoes". I am not going to look to understand the other perspective. I am not going to be a good soldier. This is going to be a vitriolic, hate-spewing, anger-filled, lament of many of the idiotic things I have to put up with as the head groundskeeper at a university. I am looking to vent, and vent big. So, to my fellow groundskeepers, sit back and see if you don't say "been there

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

 

What I have learned from TurfNet...

Please do not think this blog is shameless pandering to a site I am a member of. I joined TurfNet first as a user also contribute now as a blogger. I found TurfNet while looking for resources on general turf maintenance and sports turf. While TurfNet is focused on the golf industry, there is much information applicable to these other fields.   One of my main interests is in an organic-based approach to turf management that focuses on natural processes over chemical intervention. Fortunately I

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

 

Water Conservation on Campus: A Tale of Irrigation and Slow, Spread, Soak

As of February 28, 64% of the State of Missouri is in the moderate drought category according to the U.S. Drought Monitor. This is up from 50% the week before, and as of this writing the remainder of the state was in the abnormally dry category.   By contrast, California, which had been in a several years-long drought, is now declining in all drought categories. 75% of the state is not rated at all and even the stubborn droughty areas of Southern California are getting moisture. In fact, many

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

Turning Over a New Leaf

Turning Over a New Leaf

My official title here at Drury University is Assistant Director of Facilities – Grounds. I much prefer to call myself the Head Groundskeeper. I believe this job title says something about my philosophy of grounds management. Including 'Groundskeeper' in my title reminds me, and more importantly my crew, that I am to some extent like my team. We are all focused on “keeping the grounds”. Unfortunately, sometimes a rift can develop between us. The crew and I can have differing opinions on how well

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

 

Thinking on Quality...

To start, I want you to please imagine a car. Imagine a Toyota Camry, XLE package. For those of you that have a little bit more imagination, maybe even a Toyota Avalon XLE. This car has leather interior, power everything, a full touring package and even a Bose stereo. I think we all would agree this is a nice car. This isn't some trumped-up entry level car with plastic goodies on top trying to convince you it is nice. This is a NICE car. But it isn't a Mercedes. The Mercedes (go ahead and imagin

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

 

These Geese Were Cooked… Literally

About midway through my green career, I spent a year working on a golf course here in Springfield, Mo. While this length of time doesn't warrant me any position of golf management authority, it did give me some appreciation for my brethren in golf, and some empathy for what golf course workers of any capacity might face. I know that there is almost nothing that compares to the intricacy of managing a green. I loved mowing greens, even double cutting in the dark before an early tee time. I did no

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

The Morton Arboretum: World Class

The Morton Arboretum: World Class

Chicago, IL is fabulous city. Because my home in Springfield, MO is relatively close (8 hours drive, which in the Midwest US may as well be next door) and because I have a sister who lives there, I make the trip 2-3 times a year. Perhaps my favorite aspect of the city is the architecture, including that of the landscape. One of my favorite classic landscape architects, Frederick Law Olmsted, practiced there, and work of one of my favorite current garden designers, Piet Oudolf can be seen there (

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

 

The Grounds as a Social Force

Most people are already well aware of several areas that landscaping is used for the common good. Most landscapes are interested in planting trees, shrubs and flowers in order to support their surrounding ecosystems. Landscaped areas, certainly including golf courses and sports fields, are well known for their ability to decrease pollution and other environmental benefits. The mental well-being of visitors and patrons can be much improved by exposure to the natural environment we all work in and

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

 

The Budget/Quality/Sustainability Paradox in Grounds Management

Grounds managers make a living balancing components in the landscape that can have undesirable effects if not maintained in the right doses or at the right time. For instance, irrigation is needed in the correct amount, but too much can result in disease, drowning, or shallow rooting. Plants need nutrients in the proper amounts, but availability can fluctuate by leaching, soil pH, timing, etc. Most of the cultural practices necessary to create a high quality product require the right efforts, in

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

The 3 Rs of Sustainability

The 3 Rs of Sustainability

Most people will recognize the title of this blog as a cornerstone approach to pursuing sustainability. Reduce, reuse, or recycle represents three different approaches for resource management that if instituted wisely diminish resource consumption in an operation or household. In my experience, recycle is the step that seems to get the most attention and is also practiced (considered) more frequently than the other practices. But these “3 Rs” are not just arbitrarily ordered so they roll off the
Talking to The Crew

Talking to The Crew

Recently our crew got together for what is a regular but somewhat infrequent occurrence. We came together to discuss how we might improve our operation, and foster an atmosphere where the crew can freely speak their minds. As I am sure most Grounds Managers can attest to, the crew loves to talk and express their ideas. Groundskeepers are rarely shrinking violets with their opinions. What is difficult is not getting them to talk, but channeling that talk first into positive contribution, and then

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

 

Sustainable Landscaping Withstands Scrutiny...

Sustainable landscaping isnt about mowers that burn liquid propane, efficient irrigation systems, compost teas, or even native plants. While all of these efforts, and others like them, are steps along a continuum moving towards sustainability, they will all ultimately fall short of the goal of real sustainability. Sustainability is not a superficial strategy that can be implemented by taking a few small steps. Sustainability is a complex web of interactions that reflect the ability of man and na

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

 

Sustainability, Budget, and the Landscape Design Concept

Writing a recent blog about the future of grounds and landscaping got me thinking about how potential future changes could alter what my grounds management looks like. It then lead me to wonder about sustainability (what in the world does that mean?), and how that could change my grounds management too. The possible changes stem from the pursuit of sustainability that is being advocated by both those in our industry and those outside of it. But which pursuit the right one?   Sustainability...

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

Sustainability Tectonics

Sustainability Tectonics

For any geologists reading this blog, I am not speaking about tectonics from the geology standpoint. I am not going to discuss whether the continents derived from the supercontinent Pangaea, or how plates thrust together to form mountains. For my purposes here, tectonics refers to the widespread impact of something and speaks to the pervasive influence of some factor or affect. Sustainability tectonics (my term) are those inescapable factors that influence an operation or landscape and its abili

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

Sustainability Reluctance 

Sustainability Reluctance 

I believe wholeheartedly in sustainable landscaping. Despite the definition of sustainable landscaping being subject to many interpretations, for me it simply rests on several key premises. Does the management of the landscape seek to decrease resource consumption? Will the landscape continue to grow as we (the organization) need if we decrease intervention? Lastly, does the particular iteration of grounds management meet the long-term goals/needs of the parent entity? If these questions are ans
 

Sustainability Baby Steps...

Sustainability continues to be a hot topic in the Green Industry and here at Drury University. Every aspect of how we manage and maintain our landscapes is affected. I read about amazing things happening all the time and wonder what I can do? How can I share in all these amazing steps taking place on college campuses, golf courses, parks, businesses, etc.? I sometimes feel I am getting left behind. But sustainability is not only about liquid propane mowers, compost tea, and native plants. As I s

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

 

Stem Girdling Roots (SGRs)

I have planted hundreds of trees in my career. Actually I think there is a real possibility I have planted in the thousands. Not multiple thousands mind you, but more than one thousand. I have also had to take care of those trees for many years after installation, and have had an opportunity to track many successes and some failures. My survival rate for the trees I have installed is very good, over 95%. Also as an ISA Certified Arborist, I have to study about tree culture, and am ethically boun

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

 

Spring Fever...

I admit it, I have Spring Fever. Just this past week on January 28, here in Springfield, Missouri we hit 67 degrees. The Drury University Grounds Crew was out doing a number of jobs that were more about preparing for spring, and less about killing time in winter. We mulched leaves, cut back perennials, spread some mulch, and even continued work on a stone patio that had been idle for more than a month due to conditions. I even started determining quantities of seed and fertilizer for some early

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

 

Riding with the boss...

I recently toured campus here at Drury University with my boss. The touring was nothing unusual as I try to see the whole campus on a regular basis. What was different this time was what I learned on the tour. I saw the campus through another person's eyes, and an important person's eyes at that. I came away with a conclusion that I didn't particularly like. Campus never looks as bad as when I tour with my boss. He saw things that I had seen, but had put a different priority on. He also saw thin

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

 

Rethinking Restoration

Here at Drury University we have several tracts of land that we want to restore. When I say restore some may say restore to what? Many people conjure up images of native meadows or woodlands. Our campus project has the meadow option in mind. In our work, restore also generally means to return an area to some previous state of vegetation, and to repopulate with some various native plant material. Restoration can be carried out for several reasons and is widely recognized as a viable option in gro

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

 

Rest in Peace, Beaver

Here at Drury University we are very interested in supporting the ecology of our area. This effort is challenging in our urban setting. Regardless, it is an effort we see as critical. We install native plants and trees that appeal to pollinators, and act as food sources to the local insects, birds and animals. We evaluate the surrounding neighborhoods and see where we might build larger sections of habitat by creating green corridors. Over the five years I have been here I have seen the results

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

 

Remember When You Enjoyed Your Job? (!)

Here at Drury University in Springfield, Missouri, we are in the middle of a spring droughty period. While 13 days without rain is not too hard to manage, I am beginning to feel the initial twinges of water concern. Knowing that we will be experiencing a normal hot/dry spell in summer, I count on spring rains. I am sure everyone understands what I mean.   While we have started our irrigation on our high value turf (the native plants are just fine), much of our mowing and blowing is still dusty

Joseph Fearn

Joseph Fearn

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