Fall is for Feeding … The Soil.

Just as I’m about ready to get back into the pool… Summer is over!

In the turf business, fall has got to be everyone’s favorite season; it means we survived yet another tough summer.  I travel, a lot, and I see a lot of golf courses and a lot of athletic fields all over the country.  I talk to a lot of superintendents and a lot of sports turf managers; we discuss soils, sports, headaches, problems with the industry but mostly the weather!

The last two years the weather was not our friend and we all hoped this year would be better and… it wasn’t.  At least not much! EarthWorks turns 25 next year (stay tuned for more about that) and through all of those years the last three were the worst collection of growing weather I have ever seen. 

I was talking to friends in the Mid-Atlantic today and they all said that this was a very sneaky year, and a very hard year, and once again a year where we lost some grass and we all know how that just sucks!  Hot, dry, wet, gooey… we had it all this year.  So inevitably the conversation shifts to (because superintendents are never satisfied with all their hard work!) “How do I fix this?” or “What do I change next year to make this better?”  Consistently I answer with a ‘feed the soil’ response!   The fall/winter is one of the best times of year to recover from this year’s stress and avoid problems next year.

…recover from this year’s stress and avoid problems next year!

In the last week or two I have had multiple conversations with turf managers who have discovered the importance of carbon based fertility, but more importantly have embraced the value of using a winter feed in their program.

Golfing in fall

A golf course superintendent on Long Island was showing us areas on the course that used to thin out before he started using 17 bags per acre of the 5-4-5 program, stating that this winter feed program has changed his life.  Then after a recent Soil First Academy, a lawn care operator told me that he started applying 8-2-2 to his lawns in the winter months and he was able to reduce inputs, save money and as he described it “help to save our business.”  When I hear this kind of feedback it just gives me goose bumps!  After doing what we do for so long it never gets old watching guys discover ways to solve problems and make real changes in the way they do business.

I have been asked many times over the years “if you had one application to make a season when would you do it?”  I have consistently said “in the winter or dormant”.  Carbon based fertility is about raising the carbon to nitrogen ratio in the soil, then when we do use a synthetic fertilizer there is something in the soil to feed the microbes and get the product all the way through nitrification.

Much of what we know at EarthWorks we learned by doing.  When we built the business we didn’t know the value of winter-feeding.  Clients shared that with us.

Much of what we know at EarthWorks we learned by doing.  When we built the business we didn’t know the value of winter-feeding.  Clients shared that with us.  Early on a few superintendents told us that they were putting 5-4-5 on their fairways in the winter.  They would then see quick green up in the spring and stronger growing conditions all year-long.  That sounded good to me and we were off and running!

All right, we can’t fix the weather, and I know that it will continue to be a topic of unending frustration and conversation, but one thing we do know is that weather is the single most important variable.  So mess with Mother Nature by building buffers in the soil that take the sting off of her magic wand!!!

If you are not on our mailing list please sign up on our home page.  We will be discussing the values of dormant feeding and sharing some of the success stories we have heard over the years.