I would warn you that I do not attribute to nature either beauty or deformity, order or confusion. Only in relation to our imagination can things be called beautiful or ugly, well-ordered or confused.
Baruch Spinoza (Dutch Philosopher of the 1600’s referring to the Tulip Breeding of the time)
Often spring comes and with it a good deal of Turfhead confusion about fertility. It may seem a simple reaction to whatever weather is or is not happening at the time. And certainly, warm or cool season climates have interesting spring weather and interesting challenges. That’s nothing new. So why all the questions, consternation, hand waving and intimate part length measuring that seems to go on every spring? I’ve tried to figure out what causes this and have a few answers.
(by the way, if you haven’t read Frank Rossi’s latest piece on not giving in and being true, I suggest you do that ASAP. Here is the link: Rossi’s True Piece)
Think you maybe remember those late season apps last year, but haven’t really done the math as to how much nutrient really went out? Buzzzzt. Wrong Answer.
1. Turfhead Can’t Or Won’t Remember Last Year (Or Years): I get it. Last summer or any number of memorable summers before it was, on some level, so bad that all you really want to do is forget. But the truth is there have to be some details that you must find a way through the pain and access now. In your efforts to keep your job via your spray rig, what actually went in (or didn’t go in) the spray tank? What went (or again, didn’t) go out in the spreader last fall whilst you were hooked to IV Jack Daniels in your office? Is this Spring’s weather really that different from Springs of the past? Yes, everyone says its different, but is it really and if so, how? I get your brain is fried. But there are and should be records for these kinds of things and its a good idea to do some work with them. Think you maybe remember those late season apps last year, but haven’t really done the math as to how much nutrient really went out? Buzzzzt. Wrong Answer. Don’t know if you have carryover N from last season? Bzzzzt. Wrong Again.
The need to get out there and do something if you’ve been locked in all winter is a strong force akin to getting salmon to swim upstream.
2. Turfhead Listens to Historical Gabbing Rather Than Flying By The Numbers: In making decisions about agronomy, timing has nearly everything to do with success. From our agricultural roots, when to plant and when to harvest are key decisions. But the farmers I know (or turfheads) who really get it, will listen to the tales of “never seeing it this cold” or “never seeing it this warm” at the coffee shop and head to their specific place of business to look at the real indicators. A soil thermometer doesn’t lie. You can package it any way you want into technology, but at the end of the day, that little soil thermometer, if it actually makes it out of the cupholder of your cart more than once a week, can tell you tons about what the real agronomic trend really is. Yes, the calendar is really nice for the planning of the 9-hole Couples Club’s Post Easter Ozzfest, but it won’t tell you if the greens may need some extra incentive to heal when you aerify 2 weeks prior to the event. Close your ears and open your eyes (and again) records. Most of what people say is just plain not accurate, just fueled with excitement or whatever.
3. Turfhead Just Can’t Stand It and Gives In To Performance Art: I get it. Painting tee markers and grinding reels and all that winter stuff just gets old. The need to get out there and do something if you’ve been locked in all winter is a strong force akin to getting salmon to swim upstream. And hey, you are tired of the sales monkey showing up all the time complaining about how slow it has been, so why not pick up that fertilizer a little early and get him out of your office and get yourself into a place of sanity on spreader or sprayer. That sort of thinking usually earns me a phone call or a dozen, wherein we figure out what to do as it snows on the 1/2 pound of N you just put out. There just isn’t any reason to rush into primo grade fertility. I guess this move right here is why I’m such a big advocate of some kind of dormant feeding and in most cases doing it with some carbon in the works. Because nature has this amazing trick of giving us what we need and not always what we want.
Let’s be all Zen and live in the now and what better way to show the world than to simply want more for all your grass children.
4. Turfhead Just Has To Change The Program: Doesn’t seem to matter is last year was complete boon or bust, a lot of us just want to change for the sake of change itself. I mean, gee Wally, you went to all those meetings and trade shows and seminars and they all had cool new stuff to talk about and so, why not try that new product you’ve never even seen before for your first applications. Oh and why trial with it, everyone else is using it, just rock the roll. Makes perfect sense to me. Of course that same thinking runs ships into icebergs, but hey, it’s only grass, right?
5. Turfhead Want More: Hulk Smash! This I get as well. Whatever success you had last year is last year. This is this year and this year is by Gopod gonna be better! Let’s be all Zen and live in the now and what better way to show the world than to simply want more for all your grass children. I get it. I do. This is typical “Type A” behavior. And there are so many of us out there. But the point is that this kind of agression, while being hard on shirts with nice logos when you turn all green and stuff, often makes for numbers 1-4 above to combine in a can of mental spinach that has you pushing for radical May conditions and opening yourself up to a radical summer of no love. There isn’t any reason to go to hard. We can and often we do, but that peaking too early thing has real disadvantages. When the Turfhead combines the Zen of being in the moment and the Tantra of holding back a bit, it’s usually a great combination.
Ok, so what’s the agronomy of this? The practical is pretty simple:
1. Go back into your records and make sure that you have accounted for every 100th oz. of fertility that went out last year, or didn’t (which is usually the case) and think about making some adjustments. Missing the key Potash app. Not so good.
2. Look at the historical weather as it applies to the weather you are having now and make honest assessment. What you will learn is that there are differences and if you can access exactly what they are, you can plan the key applications needed for the times they need them.
3. Soil Temperature doesn’t lie. A few hot days, a few cold days, but what are the soil temps doing? What’s the trend? Invaluable info.
4. Rushing things with Nitrogen rarely works. At the same time, not having any carryover can be a dark hole. Don’t know? Test.
5. Sorry, but spring isn’t the time to be trying something new wholesale large scale. Trials are good. But if you don’t have any experience with it, your spring temptation may lead to summertime disaster.
6. Observe. Things like clipping yield can tell you a ton about timing. Tie this observation into soil temps and historical info and you just might become Amish enough to not believe the hype.