|Full room at Cheshire Park and Rec!|
We had a great turnout last week at our first NOFA Advanced Workshop on Organic Turf and Athletic Fields, held in Cheshire, CT at the Parks and Recreation Department. Over half of the attendees were municipal employees who actively manage town parks, properties and athletic fields, and the others were Accredited Organic Land Care Professionals who are looking to learn more about new developments in organic fertility and lawn care.
After the soil test review, Chip discussed some of the parameters for a municipality to plan for organic turf management. He also stressed the reality of working within town budgets and taking a longer-term approach to improving soil health, such as selecting priority fields to put resources into, and choosing to re-seed one year, perhaps fertilize the next year, and select aeration in year three, as examples of spreading practices over time. Chip shared his view of what turf management has evolved to, including the following innovations:
- Creating programs which address short and long term needs of the turf, while addressing soil health
- The combination of liquid and granular applications as a strategy
- The improvement of liquid fertilizers now available on the market in powder and liquid forms
- The very strong emphasis on providing food and resources to foster healthy microbial life within a turf program.
|Jenna and Jeff|
|Bad lighting, but glad to have a picture of so many intelligent land care professionals together!|
|Soil cores will disintegrate in time|
|Left to right, Peter, Lee and B.G.|
|Peter Schmidt and Gregg Twehues|
Next, Peter Schmidt from Compostwerks, talked about the process of brewing compost tea, which is utilized as a fertilizer and a source of microbial biological life forms that are critical for nutrient cycling in the soil. Very early in the morning, the tea needed to be brewed prior to the workshop, due to its short life span of 6 hours.
The tea is kept in a tank with aeration in order to keep the biology alive and oxygenated until the application. They have 3 tanks on their truck which allows for different blends to be brought to a property. Some plants require a fungal-dominated biology and some require more bacteria to thrive, so each brewing is a unique and calculated blend. Additional amendments were displayed, such as molasses, which they added to the tea right before applying to provide food for the biology to thrive. Gregg Twehues, co-owner of Compostwerks, demonstrated the application process as he walked back and forth across the fields with the wand and hose, spraying the compost tea evenly.
|Gregg is applying the compost tea, which smelled very sweet due to the molasses|
|Fred Newcombe from PJC|
|Joe Magazzi, Green Earth Ag&Turf|
Next, we had Joe Magazzi from Green Earth Ag & Turf speak about
how organic fertility products have come a long way in their development, how the price points have come down, and he described how they work differently than synthetic fertilizers. He distributes a product called Quantum Growth which is very popular these days, being used on professional sports fields around the country. His company also offers organic and biological pest control products as well.
Peter Schmidt discussed the process of brewing compost tea in greater depth than in the outdoor demonstration. In addition, he shared with the group when to select compost or compost tea as the application of choice. Compost is great for adding organic matter, but you should not apply more than a 1/4 inch topdress per application, with concern over adding too much phosphorus in the soil and getting into our waterways. However, compost tea adds the biology alone and there is not a concern for adding too much.
Our speaker from Hart's Seeds was not feeling well, and unfortunately we missed his presentation. However, we should mention that Hart's Seeds is a Connecticut based seed company which offers many blends of grass seed in bulk shipments. We hope to have Paul back another time!
Chip Osborne and Frank Crandall provided a wrap-up for the day, reminding students that an organic program can be achieved at a variety of prices, and is in direct relation to the level of expectations which the land manager is being held to. A high level of expectation will require a high level of inputs, cultural practices, and over-seeding and will thus require a higher level of spending. This is a conversation which must be had between a municipal employee or a contractor and the decision makers involved. Frank then told the group to provide the best budgets and estimates possible in order to communicate in financial numbers to town managers all costs involved.
It was a great day, thanks to all for coming!