Posts Tagged ‘Turfhead’

Vulcan Guide to Soil Testing

Soil Testing. It’s that time of year when most Turfheads are gonna pull some soil tests. My experience is that for many (if not most) this is done as kind of a box check. You know you have to do it, because that’s what you do this time of year. A lot of Turfheads tell me that soil tests are one of those things that they understand as well as a fourth or fifth language. So let’s Rock our Spock and geek a bit with some ideas about soil testing.

The confusion hasn’t really helped anyone and if you don’t work with this kind of thing nearly every day, then the language (words like Saturated Paste Extraction and Mehlich-III and P-Sorbtion Curve) may as well be written in Klingon and we Vulcans don’t do Klingon.

Because of this lack of grokking, soil testing has gotten a bit of a bad rap. And inside of that, there are now all kinds of ideas and theory about how one should really read a soil test. The confusion hasn’t really helped anyone and if you don’t work with this kind of thing nearly every day, then the language (words like Saturated Paste Extraction and Mehlich-III and P-Sorbtion Curve) may as well be written in Klingon and we Vulcans don’t do Klingon. I don’t want to really get into the whole this vs. that thing here, but I’d love to address a few things that may help you when you go to collect some important data.

  1. Soil Tests are never a bad thing. People who don’t know how to read them are bad, but the tests themselves are good. Data is good.
  2. You get what you pay for. Want the cheap test? Get cheap or incomplete data. Paying a bit and perhaps even using a couple different methods on the same sample is worth it.
  3.  Sticking with the same lab is paramount. I can’t tell you the number of times a super will open up a big file of tests spanning several or more years from as least as many labs. Impossible to make the comparison.
  4. Bar Graphs aren’t really that important. A lot of people are looking for a picture of high or low or whatever in the form of an easy to use bar graph. Imagine if we approached all of your planning this way. Just let someone else tell you the highs and the lows and… oh wait, that’s Wall Street. Learn the numbers. It’s better for you.
  5. Pull enough samples. Unless you are on a regular data collection routine, make sure you cover your different soil types, indicator and good citizen greens and some clubhouse flower beds too. Data is good.
  6. Don’t always repeat the same samples. Repeat some, but always add a few areas in and set up a good rotation to get through all of your key areas in a 2-3 year cycle.
  7. Pre-season and Post-season samples are a good idea. Especially if you have poor water or a drought situation or that sort of thing.
  8. Sampling during the season is not a bad idea either. When your place is apt to change, a good sampling routine might tell you what’s happening. This is where I really love Paste Extracts, by the way. They show so much of what’s happening right now.
  9.  Not every number of that test sheet is an actual test. Some values are calculations. Make sure you know which is which. Your lab or your consultant can and should be able to help you understand which numbers are which. Use the actual tested for numbers for your test to test comparisons.
  10. Sampling depth is key. Make sure to let your lab know what your sample depth is and make sure you sample to that depth. Those calculated numbers I talked about above depend on you getting this right.

There are 10 things you need to know and may not have thought about in regards to getting soil test info that matters. If you wanna geek out with some of the numbers, comment below and throw up some questions. I’ll use them for fodder for future posts.

I believe that soil tests are an agronomic planning tool and not a fertilizer sales tool. That doesn’t mean your agronomic supply supplier can’t be involved, but if the material coming to you looks like it is driven to create a list of things to buy read number 1 and number 2 above. Rinse. Repeat.

A Moment of Gratitude

To this day, I really don’t know what happened. I’ve heard some stories and have a few paper trail type details, but that’s it. After a string of 2,000 mile weeks, a notable in the golf world fumbling the ball and blaming everyone else including me and a bunch of other little and big things, I started not sleeping. For me, that’s nothing new. I’ve not really been into sleep that much and for what it seemed, my body didn’t need much.

But then came one big hassle after another and not only was I not sleeping much, for about 7 days I didn’t sleep at all. That program might be OK for some crazy backwoods tweaker who has nothing to do but shoot at stumps all day and has the help of meth to make the body do things, but for me, I continued to work and didn’t supply more than the usual foods to my system along with a bunch of coffee and some Red Bull. When the rubber band snapped on this program, I found myself now not knowing who or where I was. Actually, I didn’t find myself, others found me.

It’s been 12 months since all of this went down. I get what happened now and have heard most of the stories. Some much needed time off and some good treatment and things got straight pretty quickly and I emerged a different person. But taking a little time off during August is kind of one of the things that lots of Turfheads, myself included, don’t really like to do. But in this case, I didn’t really have a choice.

“What I remember most about that time, is the outpouring of love that I received from my friends. Most of whom are Turfheads. Because, that’s who I usually choose to hang with.”

What I remember most about that time is the outpouring of love that I received from my friends, most of whom are Turfheads. Because, that’s who I usually choose to hang with. And without fail, each and every one of them asked me why I didn’t speak up or ask them for some support. Truth? When you are in the middle of the pickle jar, you don’t know you are really the pickle. And that’s the truth. I didn’t ask for support, because well, I didn’t know I needed it.

There’s not a day that goes by that I’m thankful for the community that I’m fortunate enough to call myself a part of. I’ve seen the folks in our business go far out of their way to take care of each other. A lot of that comes from the fact that when you spend most of your days working without a net, it feels good to help someone else. That’s not rocket psychology, it’s just a human truth.

Every one of us has experienced some kind of life drama. Everyone does. And everyone discovers surprising and unknown facts about themselves. That’s what revelation is. I consider the revelations that came to me in a very difficult time to be of huge value. I learned a lot about Dave Wilber. Some stuff I didn’t want to know and other things, surprisingly wonderful.

It’s August. And most of us know that August has an ass-kicking way to teach us things. If you’ve grown grass at any level and haven’t had some kind of lesson in this form, then it’s really not a matter of “if”, it’s more about “when”. I’ve gotten more than a few of those experiences. The technical lessons are there. Don’t ever spray that again… etc. But the emotional lessons are a bit harder to see. There isn’t a winter turf conference for these lessons to be examined. So that’s why I’m grateful for my friends and my support network and the Great Mystery of Faith. Therein lay the education that I most often need.

If your world and your August are giving you a beating, there really isn’t any shame in reaching out for support. I wish I had known this. But at the same time I’m eternally glad for the lesson and humbled by the opportunity to share it here.

Tonic for Spring Confusion

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.  Read the rest of this entry »

Of Salts and Trees and Magic BioStimulants

I received this today in my email from a source that shall go unnamed because she/he/it is dumb enough to use the word Doctor around my name. Kind of like using the word Beautiful around Susan Boyle. She can sing, however. I can’t.

“Dear Dr. Wilber

In a post in the TurfNet Turf Blog Aggregator this week, Sean McCue of Castle Pines said, “While driving around today I noticed an interesting phenomenon from applications of iron and other biostimulants to some of our trees. We have been treating a handful of weakened trees as a result of using effluent water for irrigation purposes on the golf course. We have been applying this special mixture every two weeks to help buffer the salts found in the water and soil that is harming the trees. and saw…”

I don’t understand how iron and biostimulants can help buffer salts.  I thought that was a calcium thing. Or were they just present in the complex applied and happened to cause the green-up he saw?  Please explain.

Thank you.

From one of the thousands of turfies eager to suck knowledge from your brain.”

Ok so…first off, If you don’t know Sean, you should. He’s an amazing guy and hats off to him. He’s like all those guys in Colorado, not much to do this time of year (kidding) (sorta). Read the rest of this entry »

There Is Stuff To Be Thankful For And Stuff To Loathe

This is the time of year when people find reasons to list what they are thankful for.

I’ve never been much for doing what everyone does. And I’m not real big on lists either. The creative types and Perez Hiltons of the world are apt to take the opportunity to list what they aren’t thankful for. Some of them don’t seem to be thankful for much of anything.

In further evolution of the species, a lot of people seem to be thankful for is the ability to miss the annual family show down. The option is to stand in line at Wal-mart all day Thursday for the Black Friday deals.

I’ve got something left over in my brain from Mad Magazine or something like that wherein I often think of things as Hot and Not . You know, kind of an ongoing brew of what’s really happening and what is to dislike.

Here it is in list form, because this blog won’t Vulcan Mind Meld as of yet:


  1. Apple Products. You can’t deny the innovation.
  2. Foster The People. Great band, great guys, including my friend Sean Cimino on guitar.
  3. Mini Cooper. If there’s ever a car for the future, the Mini has made a statement.
  4. Phosphites. Nothing has made more of a difference in more spray programs.
  5. Organic Fertilizers. Never a better time for choices and cost-effectiveness.

Not So Hot:

  1. Professional Sports. Yes, you all don’t make enough money—so stop playing and go work in the chosen profession of your college major.
  2. The Irrigation Industry. Control Systems=FAIL. (see #1 above for an option). Cost=FAIL (if we are ever gonna build golf again it has to be different).
  3. Hybrid Cars. Sorry Prius and Voltheads, but #3 above and the TDI and small turbo engines from VW, BMW and Ford are winners without 900 pounds of battery cells to worry about.
  4. General Managers. That’s right, ask for your Super to save the club another hundred grand.
  5. Trade Shows. I’ve never really understood them, but even the big ones are on life suppport. Ever meet a vendor that likes a good trade show?

I’m pretty sure that neither one of those lists covers it. But it is a fun exercise to put your mind around. For most people the cold list is much easier than the hot list.

Personally, I have a lot to be thankful for and a lot that needs to change. Isn’t that always the case? Most of all, I’m thankful for the friends and clients that I’m close with. Those people who have embraced Turfheadism, not as a disease to be hidden from our “non Green” friends and unturfheadlike families are unique and wonderful. Who couldn’t be thankful for them and those like them (us)?