Chicago Summit Showcases Organic Success Stories
Bringing together pioneers in the ever-expanding field of organic landscape maintenance and construction, the Chicago: 2012 Summit showcased success stories from coast to coast.
“I’m not here to talk about issues of safety, or toxicity, associated with the synthetic chemicals, although that is a great side benefit,” said landscape architect and radio host Howard Garrett of Dallas, Texas. “I started out down this road because I was worried about my daughter rolling around in poisons. But I’m here today because organics works so well and it cost less.”
Golf course superintendent Paul Cushing told the audience that a soil-based approach had worked well for the four courses he has constructed in his career. He is currently transforming Torrey Pines in San Diego from a chemically intensive program to one that’s more utilizing composts, compost teas and natural amendments like high-calcium limestone and gypsum.
“The key for us is getting the calcium to magnesium ratio in the right ratio of 6 to 1,” said Cushing, whose course hosts a PGA tournament each year in January. “That will help flush the sodium out of the soil and give us more consistently green and lush growth patterns.”
“Nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium are relatively easy to manage, but the calcium is the key with grass,” said Cushing. “Finding a consistent, quality source has made all the difference.”
Among the day’s highlights was a science-based presentation by Dr. George Syder, professor emeritus at the University of Florida. He emphasized that many micronutrients were just as important as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in grass health. He also shared studies that showed a wide variability in leaching rates of various forms of phosphorus, which has been banned in many lawn fertilizers in states nationwide because it can run off into fresh water and cause algae blooms.
The phosphorus in natural fertilizers like Milorganite, derived from biosolids, stays put, he said. The phosphorus in some synthetic chemical fertilizers can move too quickly.
“One of the keys,” he said, “is to use the products properly, according to label instructions.”