Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Green Greens...And More

January 1, 2009
American Way Magazine
Green Greens
by Jeff Carlson Vineyard Golf Club Walter Walodyka Jim Snow
Martha’s Vineyard course takes a swing at golf, without pesticides oran abundance of water.
In a scene reminiscent of the film Caddyshack, Walter Walodyka drivesaround the Vineyard Golf Club at night in his pickup truck, trackingthe “enemy varmint.” This time, the enemy’s not gophers wreaking havocon the greens but skunks and crows. Walodyka gets out of his truckwearing night-vision goggles and inspects the traps he laid theprevious night, baited with barbecue sauce on white bread and cheesecrackers. Fate for the unfortunate critter stuck in his cages is theinevitable, for Walodyka has the license to kill.
“Walter actually met the character Carl Spackler in person, when BillMurray played here,” says Vineyard superintendent Jeff Carlson.
The skunks and crows come to Vineyard Golf Club, seven miles off thecoast of Massachusetts on the island of Martha’s Vineyard, not to trytheir hands at the par-72 course but to dine on grubs. The insects,along with errant weeds and rough patches on the greens, are a few ofthe maladies Carlson faces in maintaining one of America’s onlyorganically managed golf courses.
Water quality and amount of use are important issues on Martha’sVineyard, especially since the island’s sole source of water issupplied by one underground aquifer. When the Vineyard Golf Clubapplied for permits to build a 70-acre course in 1999, the governingbody on the island, the Martha’s Vineyard Commission, insisted on anall-organic turf-care regimen and limited water use to 150,000 gallonsa day. Not exactly ideal conditions to create a verdant Augusta GolfCourse look, considering that the typical 18-hole private course inthe United States uses considerably more water during a course’sgrowing season.
“I was a little nervous, to be honest with you,” Carlson says. “No onehad ever done this in the country without any pesticides.” Yet,Carlson, a winner of the President’s Award for EnvironmentalStewardship from the Golf Course Superintendents Association ofAmerica, was the ideal candidate for the job. The bulk of his 40-yearcareer was spent on Cape Cod at the Brewster Golf Course (now theOcean Edge), where he had to deal with strict environmentalregulations. Then, in 1998, he was chosen to help build the Widow’sWalk course atop a sand-and-gravel pit in the coastal town ofScituate, Massachusetts. The former landfill, now replete withrecycled materials like used carpeting for the bunkers, has reapedaccolades for its sustainable design.
A year later, Carlson was on the Vineyard working with a Britisharchitect to create the links-style Vineyard Golf Course. Prevalent inthe U.K., links golf takes advantage of the natural contours of theterrain to provide a bump-and-run style of play, where the fairwaysare wide and firm and the ball stays close to the ground. Involved inthe initial planning stage of the project, Carlson knew full well toselect turf that was resistant to disease, including good old fescue,a cool-season grass favored by British golfers long before pesticideswere an inkling of an idea. He was also fortunate that the weather onthe Vineyard is a great ally in warding off malignant turf.
“The reason the Vineyard comes closest to the organic ideal is that ithas one of the best growing conditions of any place in the country,”says Jim Snow, the National Director of the United States GolfAssociation’s Green Section. “It’s an island in the ocean and has avery moderate climate.”
Carlson eradicated much of the forest of spindly scrub oaks and pitchpines to provide a layout with wide-open air circulation and lots ofsunshine, two of the most important components in combating turfdamage. But that didn’t stop tan lesions from forming on the greensafter the course opened in May 2002. So Carlson removed more trees andapplied an organic pesticide to offset the so-called dollar-spotdisease. Then came the grubs, skunks, crows, and, of course, weeds.Without the benefit of synthetic pesticides, Carlson resorts tonematodes, microscopic roundworms that attack and kill grubs, and heneeds more workers than traditional golf courses do. He notes that thecost of extra employees is equivalent to the amount of money he wouldspend on pesticides.
So far, the 300 full-time members (who pay an introductory fee of$300,000 and yearly dues of $12,000) have been very forgiving. Whenyou consider that some of those members are current and former CEOs ofcorporations such as Merrill Lynch, Comcast, and National City,demanding types who tend to renounce anything short of perfection,this seems remarkable.
Jay Swanson, a member since its inception, says, “I can’t tell anydifference between this and another links course that uses pesticides.You don’t realize it’s organic.”
Which is good news, because as Snow notes, there are more than 70courses in America doing their darnedest to use only organicfertilizers.
“They might use synthetic pesticides as a last resort, to spot treat,but they’re using the principals of organic golf and doing the bestthey can,” states Snow. “As time goes by, organic pesticides are goingto be more and more in vogue.”
Carlson agrees. “An organic approach to golf management is definitelypart of the future. You see it in Europe. You see it in Canada. A lotof countries are going that way.” The movement will growsignificantly, he claims, as the golfing public becomes more toleranttoward blemishes.
“If golfers look more at courses for playability and less for visualperfection, we’ll be able to use a lot less pesticide.” That willcertainly put the green back in the greens.
========================Warning Industry Propaganda Below========================
January 18, 2009
TBG - Good News & Year Review
Finally good news from the Toronto Botanical Garden; and reviewing myearly years in horticulture.
by Art Drysdale
This week, something a little different! It is my birthday today, andsome friends have suggested that it is a somewhat special one, andperhaps I should write something special! So herewith.
It was a way back in March 1961 when I graduated from the (then)Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture, winning all five ofthe awards presented to the eight members of the graduating class. Asfar as a job was concerned, I was one of only two members of the classgraduating who did not have a job waiting for them in one or an-otheraspect of horticulture. However, as I told Ron Roels, the photographer/reporter from the Niagara Falls Review at the time, my aim was to finda job in some aspect of public relations in horticulture. When askedto expand on that, I was unable to do so!
Returning to my home in East York (Toronto), I soon found an ad for ajob at Canada Packers Shur-Gain division, the fertilizer and animalfeed people. It was a junior position and I got involved in a numberof interesting projects including writing the original lawn carepamphlet for homeowners--how to use the new line of long-lasting urea-formaldehyde (UF) based specialty fertilizers. That itself wasinteresting because the company had retained CBC TV gardeningpersonality A. Earl Cox to be their spokesman, and on the initial pageproofs, his name appeared on the cover as the author. I complained tomy boss, the bombastic Ray Jackson that I didn’t think it was fairbecause it was all my writing, with no input from Earl (whom I hardlyknew). The compromise reached was no author credit or name was placedon or in the pamphlet!
Sometime early that summer, the company wanted to add to its range ofspecialty lawn fertilizers by making one that would kill weeds(dandelions, plantains and other broadleafs) at the same time asfertilizing the grass. While there were a few products from (generallyU.S.) competitors on the market, none was considered all thateffective. {And I had noted that they all called for no watering in ofthe product, just the same as the recommendations for the basic 2,4-Dproduct being applied as a liquid.}
We decided we would purchase a strong concentrate of liquid 2,4-D andmanually spray it on our turf fertilizer granules while the fertilizerwas being turned in essentially what was a cement mixer. Afterphysically doing the spraying of the granules, I then took this testproduct and applied it on various crops of dandelions and other weedsthat I could find. Sites such as Woodbine Racetrack and the McLeanEstate on Bayview Avenue (home of James Stanley McLean, the owner ofCanada Packers whose gardener, Henry Veen, was a good friend of myparents) were used for tests, but one day upon returning to the St.Clair Avenue and Weston Road head office, I had a little of theproduct left over and so spun it onto a weedy patch behind our officebuilding only to be driven under cover by a thunder storm accompaniedby heavy rain after completing only a single strip of lawn using adrop-type spreader. As I recall it was a Friday afternoon.
On coming into the office the following Monday, I looked out the backoffice window and there, lo and behold, was a very obvious strip ofturf the width of the spreader that was virtually weed free! Thathappening alone led us to change 180 degrees, the on-packagedirections for the product that the following year would be calledShur-Gain Feed ‘n Weedaway. By the way, the name also was mine--RayJackson, as well as VP Jim Hunter along with the corporate lawyersliked it!
Later I worked on a similar product with an insecticide which becameFeed ‘n Bugaway, but I wasn’t so lucky with the Crabgrass killerproduct I formulated. I proposed the fertilizer-plus-Dacthal productbe called Feed n’ Crabaway, but some advertising executives thoughtthere were too many other implications with that name!
While at this job, I also had the opportunity to call on virtually allof the good golf courses in southern and south-western Ontario toconsult on turf problems.
One additional funny happening while I was in the office at Shur-Gainwas the Municipality of Metropolitan Toronto putting out a tender fora year’s supply of turf fertilizer for its two municipal golf courses.Ray Jackson found out that our company did not win the bid, rather acompeting company did. Now Ray and I knew very well that the qualityof urea-formaldehyde in the competitive product left much to bedesired.
Keep in mind that this was the early days of the new long-lastingartificial organic fertilizers, and everyone was at-tempting to getone on the market. The successful bidder on the Metro Torontocontract, while they did have UF in their product, it was in a formthat would never become available as a plant nutrient. Rather,basically what they had was ground up telephones (basic hometelephones too are the same type of plastic as UF, except the processis taken slightly further and no longer is a plant nutrient). RayJackson searched for a way that he could advise Metro Parks of thisfact, and I suggested that I knew both John Janzen the deputy Metroparks commissioner, as well as Tommy Thompson, the parks commissioner.I then volunteered to tell them. Well, did the fertilizer ever hit thefan!
John Janzen immediately said he wanted the product, already in MetroToronto’s parks warehouse, tested to see who was right. The problemwas there was only one laboratory in Canada that had the properequipment to test the product--our Canada Packers Shur-Gain lab! Itwas operated by another friend Bob King, who was still active afterretiring no less than three times, back in 2003 at least.
Obviously a furious John Janzen was not going to rely on our lab! WithJohn King’s help, through me, he managed to find a good independentlab in the US, and sent samples down there. Within two weeks, as Irecall, he had his answer, indeed the urea-formaldehyde in thecompetitive product was useless as a plant nutrient, whereas the UF inour product was right up to scratch. With that report, all of thefertilizer was sent back to the competitive supplier, and MetroToronto ordered the product from us at Shur-Gain. And, a side benefitto me was the beginning of a long friendship with John Janzen, which Iwill mention in later ‘chapters’ of this story.
I only spent about six months at the office job for Shur-Gain becauseone of their specialty sales reps, Bill Long, left the company and Igot the opportunity to take over his south-western Ontario salesterritory. I remained in that position until August 1962, when Ibecame aware of the fact that Russell Gomme, the secretary of theOntario Horticultural Association (umbrella group of all the Ontariohorticultural societies) was looking to make a move to become the newhorticulturist for Sheridan Nurseries Ltd. He invited me, and oneother grad from the NPC School of Horticulture, to apply for hisposition with the Ontario government.
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St. John's Daily Spray Advisory

My Past Articles

More enforcement needed for pesticide spray regulations
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The Telegram (St. John's) - 09-04-2005 - 496 words
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Above Articles available through Trancontinental Newsnet

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