SOIL Structure, Fertility, Management and Gardening How To from Golf Course Maintenance and Landscaping
Good morning! Let’s start out with an introduction. Please tell us your name and what you do here at Brunswick Plantation.
My name is Heather Watkins-Vaughan, and I have been here at the Brunswick Plantation Golf Resort for 10 years now. I’m in charge of the subdivision maintenance department, our developmental group, and all golf course landscaping.
Thank you so much for meeting with us here today. So how did you first learn about Geoponics as a company and about our products?
I first learned about the company through the golf course. They were doing a lot of renovations on the greens at the time, really switching things around out there, and a conservation easement was being added in the process. That caused a big change to the way we’d choose which products to buy, and has influenced everything from the types of fertilizer and other chemicals we use, to raising issues of aquatic safety and public opinion. The golf course superintendent started using a number of Geoponics products, and he was really seeing amazing results.
In addition to that, one of our main owners has a major construction firm, and they were doing site work where, in order to get the permits needed to continue developing, they had to have really good grass coverage. Well, there were areas where they had gone out and hydroseeded time and time again, using $15K to $25K worth of products, and absolutely nothing was happening. Then they started taking Carbotein, Humawet and some other Geoponics products out there, and it just exploded with growth. Rob was making grass grow on pure sugar sand and extreme slopes, places I have never seen grass grow in my life. Once I saw that, I had to try it.
I’m glad that we were able to come in and help out in a circumstance like that. Having had the opportunity to see the results of a number of Geoponics products, which did you decide to try first for yourself?
Carbotein was the first product I tried. That and Agriox. We’ve got a lot of flowers out here, over 17,000 at any given point in time, whether it’s fall or spring, and that’s a lot of money. We were going with the typical products that are out there, which are all salt carriers, and what we were noticing was an extreme sodium build up in the beds that was hurting my plants. We were spending copious amounts of money on calcium trying to eradicate that as a result.
Once we started checking out Carbotein and realized that beyond being organic and safe it also didn’t have the salt base, I simply had to give it a try. In doing so, we have easily saved 75% off of our fertilizer budget this year, and that’s on top of all the calcium I was having to put out.
No kidding! That’s a really large number. How is the product to use?
Carbotein is the easiest product I’ve used in my life. I don’t have to worry about any incompatibility issues when doing a tank mix or about the safety of my staff. I’ve had it on me, they’ve had it on them and it’s not an issue.
We are a very family-friendly operation here. There’s a large condominium aspect to what we do, the golf packages, as well as permanent housing, all of which means we have a lot of children running around. On a side note, that is one of the huge things I have to consider. I love that Carbotein is so safe, not only for my staff, but for everybody else around the property.
Once you decided to use Carbotein, how did you find it affected the way you were treating flower beds?
It has changed virtually everything. From tank mixing to the PPE [Personal Protective Equipment] that my employees were having to go out with; from the soil profile to the bottom line. It has impacted every single bit of it. It’s a product that you just don’t have to worry about even when children, guests or visitors are around.
How has it impacted the amount of time spent covering your areas?
The Carbotein gives us such good results that I can go out once every 4 to 5 weeks, whereas with the other product lines we were going out roughly every 7 to 10 days, and their results weren’t even close. It’s been a huge change: in hours and in the bottom line, in every way.
How are you determining your rates and frequency of applications?
My rep. That’s a very, very easy answer, and actually one of the things I like most about Geoponics. When you are making fertility applications in the landscaping field it is obviously very different than the treatments made within the golf course industry.Rates are going to be really exact when you are spraying turfgrass, but on flowers and shrubs, due to differences in size and density, leaf structure, whether they’re waxy or hairy, there’s just a huge range to how you put things out. Anything that I want to know, anything that I want to experiment with, I know they have already done it.
We started off at a low-moderate rate, saw what that did and loved the results. So we pushed it a little bit more the next time, and by pushing it a little bit harder we didn’t have to go out quite as fast. And because the product is so safe, even those times when we pushed the envelope, possibly adding a little more than I would have felt immediately comfortable with, the only thing we saw was an increase in the density of the plants, more vigor, more health, and more growth. So it has really worked out well.
That’s fantastic. We’re very glad to hear that you are having a good experience, and we really appreciate your business and willingness to work with us. You care for quite a few different types of plants, from flowers to shrubs and everything in between. Have you found there to be any liabilities working with a single product on such a broad range?
I have found that there are none at all. There is not a plant that I have treated with any single Geoponics product that has had a problem with it. Obviously, all plants have different growth patterns and growth rates, so we just don’t put as much product on anything we don’t want to have to prune quite as regularly.
The flowers that I have this year by far surpass any flower bed I’ve ever had in my life. The homeowners have been enthusiastic about the changes they’ve seen as well. Most of them are actually asking us what we are using because they want to get involved in this type of a program too.
That’s great to hear, and the flower bed there behind you really speaks volumes. I think it is important to note that we are currently in the middle of a period of record heat. What you would expect to see under these conditions, and do you think the soil you’ve cultivated with these products has positively impacted the stress resistance and tolerance of your plants?
It was 102 degrees out here yesterday with a heat index of 110, so it has definitely impacted it. Less than 2.5’ below the bed that I am standing in front of right now is pure concrete. (Unfortunately, they didn’t decide to put it here until after the slab was poured.) It is obviously extremely hydrophobic, with a horrible soil profile. Granted, I’m having to really push Penterra and Carbotein on this bed in order to get it to do this well, but at this time last year it was already dead.
In addition, given the fact that it doesn’t drain the way that it should, we’ve always had to put a lot of fungicides out here. Since we began using the Geoponics products though, for the first time ever, I have not put a drop of fungicide on any single bed on the property, which is huge.
Now that’s what we want to hear! It’s exactly that sort of proactive environmentalism that will allow us to together make a real difference for the good in the natural world. You mentioned a product named Penterra, which is a surfactant commonly used by our golf course customers, but not typically by landscapers. Tell us a little about what brought you to that product and about the results you’ve seen since starting to use it.
I’m using Penterra at one of our townhome facilities here. There are 12 buildings, and they have the worst soil profile you’ll ever see in your life: it is either extremely boggy wet, or it is hard as a rock. When we first did the landscaping there, we actually used pick axes to put in the plants, which should tell you how horrible it is. Since it’s pure gumbo clay, the hotter it gets, the more compacted the ground gets, to the point where water just pools on top of the grass and won’t soak down at all. I’ve put out repeated applications of gypsum to no avail; nothing has happened at all.
Then about four months ago we started going out with Penterra. The golf course superintendent, who comes out here and works with me, had told me it would cause the water to move through the soil profile better, and it has. That’s another area where I have not had to put a single fungicide out this year, and I’m hoping we’re not going to need a Fall application to renovate spring dead spot there next year either.
Aside from the Carbotein and Penterra, I understand that you use Agriox, our soil oxygen product. Can you tell us some about that?
I love the Agriox; it’s amazing. Out of the whole product line, I can honestly tell you that I have never, in my entire life, seen anything work the way Agriox does.
Due to the clay I’ve mentioned we have out here, nutrients get flat out choked up in the soil profile and are just not available to the plants. There have been situations in the past where every 5 to 7 days I was putting out products which would have absolutely no positive impact. I mean, you can put foliar applications on things all day long, but if your soil profile is poor, if you haven’t done anything to support the root system and microbial activity in the ground, then you’ve done nothing. It wasn’t until we started working with Geoponics that I realized how horrible the soil really was out here. I was throwing good money after bad, week after week, until I found Agriox.
Actually, I had quit fertilizing for around 3 weeks when I decided to give the Agriox a try, and literally in seven days I had 16” worth of growth in a bed that was flat out floundering. It had hollies that had never really sent out feeder roots since being planted over 8 years ago, so I was at the point of thinking another plant needed to be put into the site. But then we put the Agriox out. Instead of having to remove the bed, it’s now the healthiest I’ve got on the property. In fact, it’s still growing and doing really well.
Agriox has also saved us money on the back side in a way that it didn’t occur to me it would. There are over 85 units here which each hold between 4 to 10 people. As you can imagine, we’ve got an extreme traffic situation during the golf season. Unfortunately that means a lot of damage caused by vehicles. Because of that, we’ve always had to buy plants of the same size to replace the ones that have been damaged. For the first time since starting here, I don’t have to do that now. I know I can buy a plant that is a reasonable size, at a reasonable cost, put it in, and within 3 or 4 months I will have a plant that is as established as those around it.
Awesome. We’ve covered quite a bit today. I would just ask if there is anything you would like to add?
The biggest thing is that I really want y’all to continue pushing towards landscapers and not just towards golf course superintendents. The trend here [in the Myrtle Beach area] has always been that the golf courses get all the attention. It’s only really been over the last 10 or 12 years that the landscaping element of the golf courses, and of the subdivisions, has started to gain a presence and have a voice. Yet it’s still all too common that we get totally ignored. The vendors don’t come to see us; the reps don’t come talk to us. And so we don’t get any information.
Geoponics isn’t that way. If I hadn’t seen the results – if my sales representative hadn’t been half as nice as she is – I would never have tried the products, and I would’ve really missed out. So please continue pushing the line. Every landscaper on the beach could benefit from it.
You definitely don’t have to worry about that. Geoponics is committed to getting these Earth Chemistries in front of anyone in the Green Industry who is looking to work in concert with natural systems rather than against them. In closing, I’d just like to say that on the way in today I drove past one gorgeous planter after another. There is no way that anyone coming onto this property wouldn’t know that you are doing an incredible job.
Well, I appreciate everything your company is doing. Most importantly I appreciate that y’all are being so environmentally considerate with the product line that you sell.
We certainly appreciate your support as well, and are so grateful to have had the opportunity to help you do your job in a way that you feel more comfortable. Thank you again for speaking with us today.