Important Fall Steps for a Super Spring Season

By Michael Gardner, Senior Director of Huma Gro® Turf Sales at Bio Huma Netics, Inc.

[NOTE: This article first appeared in the October 2018 issue of Tee Times Golf Guide Magazine.]

Michael Gardner PortraitWith fall just beginning, it’s hard to believe that it’s time to think about spring. This is how far ahead local superintendents are planning, so that you, the golfer, can have the best playing conditions coming out of winter. Great early spring playing conditions are hugely dependent on the important techniques and action we take in the fall.

The consensus among turf grass specialists is the healthiest turf going into winter makes for the healthiest turf coming out of winter. Fighting against our best efforts is Mother Nature, with extreme temperatures, snow, wind, short days and long, cold nights.

We have been talking about and working on turf health throughout the long, hot, dry summer. Now is the time to start a fall program, before turf goes dormant for winter. The following are a few of the things that our local superintendents do to prepare for going into winter.

  • Balance nutrients.
  • Eliminate the thatch layer.
  • Maximize root systems.
  • Stimulate microbial diversity.
  • Eliminate and prevent fungus.

Balanced Nutrition

Balanced nutrition is important while turf and soil are still receptive. Balanced nutrition includes micronutrients in addition to the macronutrients: nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Most turf grass specialists recommend avoiding high nitrogen going into winter as it can feed winter molds, such as snow mold. At Huma Gro® Turf, we like to start with the balanced nutrients in Turfplex® VII, which has a guaranteed analysis of 7-7-7 with 8 micronutrients.

Eliminate Thatch Layer

In addition to balanced nutrition, turf needs access to water. A key component in helping turf grass survive the winter is eliminating excess thatch and organic matter. We do this because water has trouble penetrating thatch layers, resulting in dry soils and limited root growth and microbial activity. Excessive thatch also holds moisture at the surface, which is a breeding ground for disease.

In addition, when we have a thatch layer over one quarter inch, the crowns of the plants are exposed to the cold winter temperatures. Soils with less thatch keep those crowns deeper in the soil and protected from extreme temperatures.

Fertil Humus® is a great way to decompose thatch and organic matter, resulting in a fertile and humus-rich soil. Surf-Max® is one of the few surfactants on the market that allows water to quickly penetrate the thatch layer.

Maximize Root Systems

Root systems are the anchor of our turf grass. The more extensive the root system, the better chance we have to achieve plant health. Huma Gro® Turf Breakout® encourages a dense, fibrous root system through hormone stimulation and horizontal cell division.

Stimulate Microbial Diversity

Soil is its own complex ecosystem. The more diverse this ecosystem, the healthier the soil. This diversity must be focused on beneficial microbes, beneficial bacteria and fungi. When beneficial biology levels are high, pathogens are naturally suppressed. Huma Gro® Turf Zap® feeds and stimulates this diverse population of beneficial organisms, achieving a proper, balanced soil biology.

Fungicide

All the work to achieve overall turf and soil health can go to waste if we fail to protect our course against winter fungus. Turf grass specialists recommend a healthy dose of fungicide going into winter. At Huma Gro® Turf, we prefer to do this organically. Promax® is an OMRI-Listed organic fungicide that is effective against turf pathogens. Not only does Promax® control turf grass disease but, unlike other harsh pesticides, it also builds soil health at the same time –– a win-win.

In summary, healthy turf withstands the stresses of winter and the extremes of Mother Nature. These preventive steps help superintendents take a proactive approach to prepare for winter. A proactive fall program reduces or eliminates the need for reactive spring repair and recovery.

When you notice how great your local course looks in the spring, be sure to tell your golf course superintendent how much you appreciate all the planning and hard work.

5 Tips for Surviving the Drought

By Michael Gardner, Senior Director of Huma Gro® Turf Sales at Bio Huma Netics, Inc.

[NOTE: This article first appeared in the August 2018 issue of Tee Times Golf Guide Magazine.]

Michael Gardner PortraitLet’s face it, it’s hot! It’s also dry in many of our areas. Some say these drought conditions started last fall and continued through a cold, dry winter. Now that we’ve hit the hot, dry summertime, drought stress can kill our turf and our budget.

You may be a golf course superintendent, professional landscaper, or a homeowner caring for your yard. Drought conditions affect us all. Our differences may be our access to water, our water costs, and our budget. But they’re all tight. The sooner we alleviate turf stress, the better.

Drought is crippling the Southwest United States. As a matter of fact, water costs have gotten so high in the San Diego area that Carmel Mountain Ranch Country Club closed indefinitely on July 9.

To avoid similar circumstances, we must make the water that’s available to us stretch to meet our needs – without killing the turf. How do we balance availability and cost against acceptable conditions?

1. Have a Plan

Good water management practices include a drought plan. In fact, if your region requires a water-withdrawal permit to irrigate, you’re probably required to have a drought management plan as well. Water conservation practices might include the following:

  • Lined ponds
  • Moisture monitoring systems
  • Irrigation inspection and maintenance
  • Scheduled aeration
  • Alternative water sources (effluent and brackish water)
  • Turf tolerant to brackish water
  • Drought-tolerant, no-mow turf
  • Raised mowing heights
  • Decreased mowing frequency
  • Naturalized grass areas with good soil conditions
  • Root-pruning trees to avoid water competition
  • Application of growth regulators before wilt/dormancy
  • Soil improvement
  • Root mass improvement
  • Suspension of fertilizers and pesticides when turf is dormant
  • The use of surfactants to increase water penetration

2. Use a Surfactant

Of that plan, one of the most important and quickest drought recovery aides is a high-quality soil surfactant. Surfactants decrease the surface tension of water, so it can penetrate and move through the soil more effectively. This makes available water more useful, productive, and efficient.

I’ve worked over 35 years in turf and agriculture and I’ve never seen a better surfactant than Huma Gro® Turf Surf-Max®. Surf-Max® works in a unique way, moving water horizontally before pushing water down through the soil profile. This has many benefits. On sand-based greens, we don’t lose water straight down through the soil profile. More water is kept in the root zone. In clay soils, Surf-Max® helps water penetrate with less pooling on the surface. Surf-Max® also moves water quickly and efficiently through thatch layers that are traditionally difficult for water to penetrate. Additionally, Surf-Max® increases the availability of nutrients and soil conditioning products in the soil as they are able to move freely with the water through the soil profile.

3. Improve Soil Health, Feed (beneficial) Fungi

In conjunction with surfactant treatment, soil needs to be conditioned to be more receptive to water. At Huma Gro® Turf, we take a sustainable approach of improving soil structure and soil health. Healthy soil allows better water infiltration and has better water-holding capacity. We accomplish this with Huma Gro® Turf Fertil Humus® to stimulate the beneficial fungi in the soil. Fertil Humus® also breaks down and recycles organic matter in the soil, producing humus-rich soil.

4. Feed (beneficial) Bacteria

On the other hand, Multi-Purpose™ improves soil structure by feeding the beneficial bacteria in the soil and stimulating microbial activities. The combination of Fertil Humus® and Multi-Purpose™ produces a long-term, healthy soil environment that saves water, makes nutrients more available, and sustains healthy turf.

5. Increase Root Mass

Finally, a superior root system should be developed. The more mass to the root system, the greater the water and nutrient uptake and overall plant health. Huma Gro® Turf increases root mass with a product called Breakout®. When applied to soil, Breakout® promotes a dense fibrous root system.

Recap

The sooner we start preventive and recovery measures, the sooner we see results. Here’s the recap:

  1. Preventive – be prepared: Have a drought plan.
  2. Quick fix – surfactant: Surf-Max® aids water penetration and distribution.
  3. Long-term – soil health (fungi): Huma Gro Fertil Humus® feeds beneficial fungi in soil.
  4. Long-term – soil health (bacteria): Multi-Purpose™ feeds beneficial bacteria in soil.
  5. Long-term – root mass: Breakout® promotes root growth.

Product trials for water infiltration and water savings are available upon request. A thatch infiltration bench test of Surf-Max® demonstrated by Dr. Johann Buck is available on YouTube: http://bit.ly/HGT-SurfMaxVideo

Let’s use water as efficiently as possible as soon as possible. Whether in drought or abundance, we can do more with less both on the golf course and at home.

Keeping Greens Healthy

By Michael Gardner, Senior Director of Huma Gro® Turf Sales at Bio Huma Netics, Inc.

[Note: This article first appeared in the March 2018 issue of Tee Times Golf Guide Magazine.]

Greens are the most valuable real estate on a golf course. Keeping them in top condition is a priority for every golf course superintendent. We always try to be proactive, to address known potential problems before they become actual problems that the members and patrons notice. But even with the best planning and prevention measures, unexpected problems come up. And if a problem is on the greens, then it’s “all hands on deck” time.

Technology is available to help us maintain the health of our greens, not to mention our entire courses. I’m a big fan of soil and plant analysis, using science to its fullest to help create and maintain good plant health. Soil analysis, in particular, can be a big help, because many turf diseases stem from soil conditions that are known to be conducive to pathogens. These conditions should always be on our radar so that we can deal with them before serious problems arise.

Soil is where all things good and bad begin for turf. It is the foundation of almost everything we do to create healthy, playable conditions for all to enjoy. Analysis not only gives us a view of nutrient levels, but also gives us a view into our soil structure, organic matter, our soil’s potential for health, and much more. These analyses can also help us to look into the future to see if there is an emerging environment conducive to pathogens that can lead to turf disease.

Huma Gro® Turf has developed a standard turf health program for greens that has been successful all over the world. The focus is on soil health and nutrition along with plant health and managed growth. The program is a package of four products, all powered by Micro Carbon Technology® for quick plant and soil response. They include MULTI-PURPOSE™ for soil health, BREAKOUT® for turf density and increased root mass, TURF IRON™ for color, and TURFPLEX® VII for balanced nutrition. These liquid products are simply poured into a sprayer tank prefilled with water—no dissolving needed, no compatibility issues, and no clogging of nozzles. Better yet, no watering-in is needed. These products can be applied in your normal application routine and can be watered in as part of a standard irrigation program.

One of the benefits of the Huma Gro® Turf products is that the Micro Carbon Technology® protects the nutrient molecule so that leaching and runoff become less of an issue for your course. This results in less wasted product and makes the courses much more environmentally friendly.

With the best plans in place and with the best of intentions, problems can still arise from time to time. Sometimes these are the result of inherited problems caused by years of mismanagement, and sometimes they are the result of extraordinary circumstances that are out of the superintendent’s control.

One such challenge is fairy ring.

Fairy ring can be caused by multiple types of fungi. When large numbers of these fungi colonize in a particular location, the soil becomes hydrophobic, or water repellent. Fairy ring can be a simple nuisance in the early stages, but it can lead to turf death along the rings when not confronted. When signs of fairy ring first emerge, it’s important to begin treatment before turf damage occurs. One proven intervention is Huma Gro® Turf’s PROMAX® product—an organic, OMRI listed, broad-spectrum fungicide that can be applied any time without harm to the turf or the environment. It has a zero-reentry interval, meaning that golf play can resume the same day as treatment. PROMAX® is both a curative and preventive product. When applied once a quarter, PROMAX® can also help to keep a healthy soil environment that is pathogen-free.

When spot-spraying PROMAX® or any other fungicide for fairy ring, it is important to treat both sides of the ring—fairy ring travels as the fungi seek out new food sources. It is also important to get product deep into the soil environment. Fungi can be present in the thatch layer down to 10+ inches deep in the soil. Once the fungi have been dealt with, it is important to address the hydrophobic “dry spot” they created in the soil. This can be dealt with by applying SURF-MAX®, a surfactant that brings moisture back into the soil and allows healthy hydration and nutrition uptake to resume.

Another preventive measure that can be taken to minimize the threat of fairy ring is proper management of the thatch layer itself. Huma Gro® Turf’s FERTIL HUMUS® product can aid in this management by decomposing the thatch layer and building a humus-rich soil.

Although any turf disease is a complex situation that may require special interventions, the steps and products I’ve described here provide additional tools for the superintendent’s arsenal in achieving overall soil health—the first step to creating healthy greens.

A complete list of Huma Gro® Turf special programs can be found at https://humagroturf.com/special-turf-programs/.