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You Just Aren't Dirty Enough, Monkey

Dave Wilber



I'm a big fan of having the numbers before making the diagnosis. It just makes sense, really to try and eliminate guess work from a business that often fosters licking one's finger and sticking it in the air or throwing some grass blades in the wind to determine what shot to hit or application to make. We do bad things to ourselves with these actions.


But sometimes things are just too clear cut. Case in point, at a recent early morning meeting, I was asked to grab some soil samples to submit to the lab. Said Turfhead didn't have any soil bags, so we rebagged the samples at his desk, making sure to spill some material onto this desk to get the full turfhead desk effect. Later I'm sure someone would bring a quick coupler and lay it there to fully make the acceptable desk mix.


1a09527d3d85ebd20e661a5e4ef2d3a9-.jpgWhile rebagging, two green samples jumped out at me. I know this client and I know that the green on the left has been a source of difficult times. The one on the right, a solid citizen. The difference? Lefty is a new green, built out of the same materials as Righty, but just a youngster.


Look and color: completely different. Smell: not the same. Feel: not at all similar. Texture: same. And having done the physical analysis for construction of both of these greens, I know we didn't hit it in the lake with the greensmix. It's the same stuff.


So, common sense tells us a few things here. And the biggest thing is that something is up with biological development. Not to say that there isn't any for sample on the left. There is, or it wouldn't grow grass at all. But clearly there is a difference. And in the field, the green on the left has been the bad actor, not easy to irrigate, prone to some disease, saw insect activity when other greens did not and isn't as strong as it needs to be for traffic.



Off to the lab the samples go because while the desktop observations are valid, I'd like a little more data to see what's what. And the numbers, while predictable, were startling.


The young blonde sample shows up with .18% organic matter. It had more than that prior to planting. Ditzy. And thus the flighty characteristics and the tendency not to do what you want it to do.


The sample on the right, the experienced brunette, shows 1.22% organic matter. Not quite push up Cougar level, but certainly this one has been to the puppet show and knows how to attend the rock show or spend the evening in front of the TV watching Downton Abbey.


So the biggest mistake we could make now would be to treat our Blonde and our Brunette the same and expect the same results. Insanity. And the rest of the soil testing proves this, with the more experienced dance partner carrying minimum sufficiency levels of what's necessary and shucking off the rest. Blondie doesn't know what to do and in rescue mode, is hanging on to the good and the bad and therefore, wandering aimlessly around the club. Sand, after all is just rocks broken into small particles. It's parent material for soil. It wants to go through the process of maturation. And it will, one way or another. Best that we help it along by supporting the concept of air, water, light and organic matter needed for the entire plant growth system.

Sand, after all is just rocks broken into small particles. It's parent material for soil. It wants to go through the process of maturation.

The younger sample needs some carbon in the diet to feed and develop the system that will provide the end product of biological activity and degradation. Humus. Not too much, but enough that this green stops being a pain. The more experienced sample needs a few adjustments to hair and makeup, but is hanging pretty solid. If we treated them both the same, the problem child wouldn't come around and will always struggle. So, in this situation, addition of some carbon-based fertility and some work to remove some undesirable minerals (sodium and bicarbonate to start), will have the OM % on the rise and an overall energy structure supporting a dynamic life system.


A lot of people would look at this situation and really over think it. And the current velvet ropes outside the club have some people getting the wrong idea, that you can't or won't make a difference in all of this. Just apply Nitrogen, light fuse and get away.


Really? If that's true then why does the soil on the right look and act so different? A little bit of getting dirty enough to support biology got that soil to be a rock star in the first place. I'm pretty sure that we want life to get easier, and not more complicated.


(PS - I just want to thank everyone for the influx of monkey pictures sent lately. Good material. Although, Maestro McCormick told me in a meeting at the GIS that my days of Monkey Posting may be over, he's actually been inserting his own monkeys into my posts of late. Go figure.)

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