Posts Tagged ‘Wilber’

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.

Water Is No Good If It Cannot Get In The Ground

Coming into summer, I’d like to talk about water for a few posts. It’s the thing that I seem to get the most questions about this time of year and it’s the thing that I see the most mistakes being made with. I’ll try not to get too carried away with numbers and calculations. There are some, but this is more of an example of how I approach the agronomy of water quality.

Knowledge is power. For $50-80 bucks a sample, it’s information you can’t afford not to have.

Water Test. That’s right. Test the water. Get a great water test from a great lab. I’m going to keep saying this. Even if you “think” you have good water, test it. It doesn’t have to be complicated. If you have various water sources, test them all. If you prefer, get a sample out of a quick coupler and keep it simple. Every situation is different so use a little common sense in your sampling. Read the rest of this entry »

There Is A Big White Sandwich-Making Sweater-Folding Elephant In My Truck

The largely unrealized goal this year was to write more blog posts. Inside of that goal has been my deep-seated desire to make Maestro Peter happy. He’d be hog slop happy with more agronomy writing from me. “Agronomy, Wilber” is often the two word email that I get from Peter. It’s fine. I think he, like a lot of people think that every day, all day, I think about growing grass and that every conversation I have with everyone I see has to do with large bore topics like how to really deal with your LDS and the absolute best and only way to use growth regulators in a particular zip code and how organic fertilizers will eventually save the planet.

My problem is that there’s this big ass Elephant that has taken up residence in my truck and in my brain.   And because he’s there, hot agronomy topics like Read the rest of this entry »

Time For A Little Transition

Its time for all of us to go through some kind of Transition. 

For the Turfhead, it usually happens sometime before Memorial Day. Regardless of what sort of climate you find yourself going to war in, there is going to be a metamorphosis, wherein somehow, some way, your turf goes from something to something else.

Warm season grass jockeys have always understood things along these lines pretty well… and today are fortunate enough to have some tools to induce transition like the end of a long awaited bus ride. It wasn’t always easy before this. 

Cool season folks have some of the same, wherein grass wakes up to the thrashing of the dew whips and flogging of the spray rigs after a long winter nap. It may not be as dramatic as Bermuda emergence, but there is still a move from what was… to what will be.

 Second, (and this is the really tough one), you need to stop doing things for Miss Spring Turfgrass of Right Now and begin courting Miss Dog Days of Summer of Job Keeping.

It’s the “what is” (now) that gets missed. I’ve blathered on about the soil thermometer enough by now that you know I feel anyone not getting deep into soil temp data is going to miss something. So that’s a “given”, as it were. What else can get missed? How about not looking at your fertility moves with an eye as to what “creating some now” may do to you later. Yup, Wally the Grass God, those big cheap apps of ammonium sulfate seemed like just the ticket for the Cinco de Mayo Scramble and Macarena Dance attendees to be able to revel in the amazing green grass of your creation. But when the grass is knee deep for the Independence Day Backwards Course Challenge, then who really wins? Dead even perhaps? Let’s hope for no high soil temps in your future if you decide to play this game. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »


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