Move, or grow where you’re planted

By |  July 18, 2018 0 Comments

I used to have this pretty beat sentence on my cover letter, boasting about how dope I was as a turf manager. Obviously I mentioned my penchant for delivering championship conditions on the regs and the obligatory meticulous eye for detail, along with boastful references to my resplendent skills as a leader. But there was one attribute setting me apart from the trash heap of cover letters strewn across the desks of hiring managers everywhere.

This carefully crafted sentence stated I was accomplishing these Herculean tasks of greenkeeping in what I perceived to be the toughest place in the world to grow grass. And those of you managing turf in the Mid-Atlantic or anywhere in the Transition Zone, I assume you might agree with this sentiment.

Thomas Jefferson referred to Delaware as “The Diamond State,” but obviously this revolutionary never had to grow grass here. If he had, our state slogan probably would be “The Armpit State,” because attempting to grow grass in Delaware is like trying to manage turf in an armpit.

Spring can be pleasant or hellaciously cold and wet. Picturesque summers aren’t out of the ordinary, but you’re just as likely to experience long stretches of sweltering temperatures coupled with unbearable bouts of humidity. September, which used to be the harbinger of chill mode, has turned into one of our toughest months. And winters are about as predictable as getting your palm read at a local carnival.

Most greenkeepers working in this small window from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. truly believe we are managing turf in the most tenebrific (look it up) spot ever. It’s almost like there is this inflated sense of pride, paired with a tendency to disregard any turf manager who isn’t growing grass in this region. In other words: We’re a bunch of turf snobs.

You would assume this mindset would be a locals-only deal, but more than once I’ve had a random greenkeeper from Florida or California tell me straight up they would not want to grow grass where I am growing it.

The young and cocky me would have totally agreed, but as I’ve aged and acquired some knowledge, I realize that things are tough all over.

Florida has no appeal to me as a turf manager. The reality of a 12-month season makes me squirm, as do alligators, hurricanes and do I even have to mention the summer months?

Colorado has some alluring qualities, but after seeing countless photos on social media of greenkeepers using sprayers to water because it didn’t snow last winter certainly was an eye-opener. I learned that desiccation is real, plus I despise snow and watering with a sprayer.

California? Too foggy, smoggy and kooky for my liking. The Bay area seems rad, but I’m not moving more than 3,000 miles to continue as a Poa annua manager.

Canada is intriguing, particularly because there are a bunch of interesting turf managers crushing it up there. But I prefer ice in my lemonade, not my greens, so cross Canada off my preferred destinations to manage turf.

Globally, I assume that places like Japan or South Korea would be incredible places to work, but from what I understand they don’t believe in the concept of the “frost delay.” Blasphemy! How does their turf survive?

Basically I’ve concluded there’s no such thing as a perfect destination for growing grass, and upon realizing this I totally deleted that braggadocious sentence from my cover letter. All turf managers have their issues, and I promise to be less of a snob about it.

And in reality it’s not location, but the name of where you work getting you that coveted position, isn’t it?

Joe Gulotti (hardg43@gmail.com) is the superintendent at Newark (Del.) CC. To read his blog, visit thewalkinggreenkeeper.com.

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