BWI Companies Inc. begins distributing SoilKit in stores

Soil testing platform now available in-store to BWI customers across Texas and the Gulf Coast

Foley, Alabama – January 19, 2021 – Agricultural data processing and technology software company AgriTech Corp. announced today that lawn and garden distributor BWI Companies would begin distributing AgriTech Corp.’s  flagship product SoilKit, an online soil testing platform, to the brick-and-mortar storefronts that BWI serves across the country.

AgriTech Corp.’s partnership with BWI continues SoilKit’s expansion into stores across the US after its spring 2020 launch. BWI, which distributes lawn, garden, and other landscaping products to garden centers, nurseries and hardware stores, currently has 14 distribution centers across Texas, Florida, Missouri, Tennessee, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and South Carolina. SoilKit is the first and only lab-based soil testing platform available through BWI’s online store.

“Partnering with AgriTech to market and distribute SoilKit throughout our territory has been a great decision for us,” said BWI category development manager Will Welch. “The user-friendly testing process benefits our markets, from turf professionals and landscape pros, to our retail customer’s customer: Do-it-yourself homeowners. Their top-notch testing service brings value and benefits to all users.”

Soil testing has long been an integral part of commercial landscaping and agriculture operations, but the process is often looked at as too time-consuming and technical for day-to-day consumers. SoilKit’s unique platform overcomes these barriers by providing the same high-quality testing service used by professionals through a prepaid envelope, followed by an easy-to-digest results page and personalized soil amendment recommendations. With these key differences from traditional soil tests, SoilKit founder Christina Woerner McInnis created a more accessible test with just as much power as a county extension office.

“We appreciate BWI’s support and partnership,” said Woerner McInnis. “Having their distribution muscle on our side will be a boost to SoilKit’s mission of making soil testing accessible to homeowners and individuals across the country.”

About AgriTech Corp.

AgriTech Corp. is an agricultural data processing and technology software company based in Foley, Alabama. The company’s flagship lab-based soil testing platform, SoilKit, offers consumers and landscapers an easy-to-use mobile application for soil sample collection and registration using satellite technology and scanning tools. Lab results are usually available within 48 hours of receipt at the lab after being processed through the company’s proprietary algorithm and delivered digitally. The analysis generates specific soil amendment product and quantity recommendations to ameliorate soil deficiencies. The soil testing data and recommendations are stored and made available to partners for a variety of purposes beyond the immediate purpose of improving soil health. The result is a seamless collection and analysis process with simplified results, producing better lawn and garden outcomes and fewer environmental issues.

Victory Gardening

We have seen a huge surge in gardening during the pandemic. They called it “Victory Gardening.” The expression was originally coined during World Wars I and II, when Americans had to ration food. Therefore, to preserve the food and tin supply for troops and to boost morale, the US government encouraged the population to grow its own food. It is estimated that more than 20 million Americans grew their own fruits and vegetables during that time, representing about 40 percent of the country’s supply of fresh produce! Gardening surged due to necessity, and the Victory Garden was born!

33 years ago picking strawberries with my Dad and family.
7 years ago my children helping me in our garden.

Jump to 2020. The pandemic, with its shelter-in-place orders, social distancing, and massive layoffs, drove millions back home, and an estimated 16 million new gardeners were born. Being home created the initial opportunity, but the __ stress relief of gardening created the motivation. As we kick off 2021, Garden Magazine estimates that 85% of those gardeners plan to replant. What does that mean? We are going to have a lot of hobby gardening or what I like to say, micro-farming. These gardeners are still fairly new and looking for a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction that comes from gardening.

Chelsea Davis from Forbes interviewed Christopher “Landy” Landercasper, the Director of Farming Operations for Sonoma’s Best Hospitality Group, and he said one thing you need to know about starting your garden is,

“Soil health is generally increased by having the building blocks of life in the proper ratios for the plant you are trying to grow. The big three nutrients for plant health are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (N-P-K). Getting the balance of these three correct will be the best thing you can do to help your plant be healthy.”

I am actually planning my spring garden right now, and I want to make sure it’s going to be a success. In years past, my family always involved me in the garden and today, I like to involve my children so they can follow along and reap what they sow. One fun point they have learned from our gardening efforts is they like to plant what they prefer to eat. I asked my four children what they want to plant and this is their breakdown. Neal wants a blueberry bush; Charlee wants cherry tomatoes; Georgia wants strawberries; and Lillie wants avocados. In the past, I have grown all of the above but avocado. To be honest, I don’t know where I can even find an avocado tree, but I am going to put forth a good effort for her.

To avoid a bad investment, here is my breakdown of how we will begin with a healthy start:

  • The blueberry bush needs soil with a pH of 4.5. I am going to look for a 1-3 year old plant.
  • The strawberries will be my favorite to plant. I did strawberries as a child and I love to eat strawberry shortcake in the summer. The strawberries will go in the ground now, even though it’s January. The soil pH needs to be 6.5.
  • The tomatoes will also need to be planted by end of February and will require soil with pH of 6.5 and a nice crawler stand to grow.
  • The avocado is going to be a lot more sensitive and I will need to keep a close eye on this one. The soil pH will need to be around 5-5.5, and I will have to watch the other nutrients closely.

I am also a believer in the right genetics so I will be selecting these plants carefully. I will start all of them with healthy soils and I will use my soil test to make amendments and keep the plants at optimal health. Along the way, I am also going to plant some other fun items for myself, and I will talk more about those later. Hint – I have always wanted a vanilla bean farm. Stay tuned…

BFG Supply Co. begins distributing SoilKit in stores

Soil testing platform now available to BFG Supply retailers in 26 states

Foley, Alabama – December 8 – Agricultural data processing and technology software company AgriTech Corp. announced today that landscape and gardening distributor BFG Supply Co. would begin carrying its flagship product SoilKit, an online soil testing platform.

SoilKit, which launched in early 2020, has begun to appear in brick-and-mortar stores across the country, and the product’s distribution across BFG Supply’s selling footprint of 26 states is its latest expansion. Retailers across the Midwest and Eastern US are now able to order and offer SoilKits to consumers in their stores.

“BFG Supply is very excited to offer SoilKit to our customer base and we believe it fills a void in the soil testing category,” said BFG lawn and garden category manager Shawn Parsons. “By offering consumers a professional soil analysis with a list of recommended products that are customized to the products found in their local garden center, SoilKit adds real value by supporting consumers and their local independent retailers. ”

Whereas traditional soil testing involves trips to a county extension office, unexpected shipping fees and interpreting complicated test results, SoilKit gives access to the same lab-based chemical analysis as the largest and most advanced farms in the country with added accessibility: SoilKit’s technology interprets your plot’s unique soil chemistry and recommends amendments to increase growth, health and resilience in whatever you’re growing. As part of its partnership with BFG Supply, SoilKit recommends specific nutrients and fertilizers supplied by BFG locations to ensure customers always find what they’re looking for at their home garden center. 

“We’re thrilled to be a part of the BFG family now,” said SoilKit founder Christina Woerner McInnis. “We love what they’re doing for landscapers, gardeners and growers and I’m delighted they believe in providing accessible soil testing for everyone. With BFG’s distribution, we’re able to help even more people grow the lawn and garden of their dreams.”

About AgriTech Corp.

AgriTech Corp. is an agricultural data processing and technology software company based in Foley, Alabama. The company’s flagship lab-based soil testing platform, SoilKit, offers consumers and landscapers an easy-to-use mobile application for soil sample collection and registration using satellite technology and scanning tools. Lab results are usually available within 48 hours of receipt at the lab after being processed through the company’s proprietary algorithm and delivered digitally. The analysis generates specific soil amendment product and quantity recommendations to ameliorate soil deficiencies. The soil testing data and recommendations are stored and made available to partners for a variety of purposes beyond the immediate purpose of improving soil health. The result is a seamless collection and analysis process with simplified results, producing better lawn and garden outcomes and fewer environmental issues.

Seasonal “Overseeding” Explained

Confession: I don’t overseed my lawn in the winter, but I absolutely love to see a green, lush yard in the middle of winter. It gives me the warm fuzzy feeling that warm season grasses can still be green in the dormant season.

Nevertheless, when I dropped my kids off at school the other day, a super-green football field caught my eye. It should be getting sort of a mix of tan and green this time of year, but it was bright green, and it was just waiting on a school game to kick off. I realize that some people overseed, but most are intimidated by the process. I get asked all the time how to do it, so I went right to the expert to get instructions.

Graham Simmons, Woerner Farms’ Production Manager was the perfect person to explain how to overseed correctly. He gave me several easy tips critical to this seasonal practice. Here are your tips for the warm season grasses. Keep in mind, this is for two different grasses – one that is going dormant, and one that is about to kick off and grow.

  • Overseeding is recommended for bermuda lawns, but it can be used on zoysia and centipede.
  • Watch your pre-emergent schedule. Don’t do a pre-emergent for winter weeds and then expect to overseed right after. The pre-emergent will actually harm seed germination.
  • Prep the area by mowing lower than usual. To help expose more seed opportunities, mow to 1/2 – 3/4 inch height.
  • Choose the right seed. Choose a perennial rye, and one that is more of a dwarf blend that will compliment what your grass would normally look like. Some blends can grow really tall and rogue. These are typically engineered more for pasture environment than for a homeowner. According to Dr. Wayne Wells, an Extension Professor and Turfgrass Specialist at Mississippi State, “Seeding rate for home lawns with perennial ryegrass should be 8-10 pounds per thousand square feet.”
  • Spread evenly and according to package instructions. Be careful that you don’t create a spotted, patterned, or uneven overseeded lawn. You would be surprised at how easy it is to distribute seed incorrectly if you don’t follow the instructions.
  • Get the right fertilizer. If you are going to take a fall soil sample, choose the crop code for your warm season grass and follow the instructions. It is critical that your nutrient levels are not only correct to put your dormant grass to sleep but also to help the new seed thrive.
  • Adjust your watering regimen. Go back to a more frequent watering schedule for at least the first 2 weeks to jump start germination.
  • Mow back at normal height. Once the overseed germinates and begins to grow, raise the mow height back to the normal mowing height.
  • For all of you who live in cooler climates and have bare spots or problem areas in the cool season grasses, now is a great time to think about overseeding those areas. Remember though that your problems could be a result of poor soil quality or bad fertility. Make sure you do a soil sample to ensure you are not chasing a problem with wasted efforts and money.
  • Once you determine that your soil is healthy, make sure to rake and prepare the ground for seed germination. Again, choose the right seed that compliments the grass you either want or have in your lawn. Follow the instructions and make sure you water frequently for at least the first two weeks and then pull back the water schedule once the grass is taking a nice, strong stand. Use the fertilizer recommended by your soil sample. And finally, enjoy a fuller lawn.

Hidden Potential in Dead Leaves

I am driving back and forth to school, and I see large bags all over the roadway that are filled with leaves. I asked my 10-year old daughter if she knew why people should rake and bag leaves, and her simple reply was, “Your lawn looks better.” Her answer is exactly why most people rake the leaves out of their yards. People remove leaves from their lawns because they view it as a cleaner look with better curb appeal. But what you need to know is that fall leaves can impact not only a healthy lawn or garden but also the environment.

Lolli HopHop: The Landscaping Bunny knows, more than anyone, how beneficial fall leaves can be.

I totally understand why people want to rake leaves and clean up the yard, but what you do with the leaves is something you should consider. Instead of bundling up the leaves in a large bag and placing it street-side, consider using them for their nutrients. When the leaves are picked up by the public works department, they are hauled off to the landfill where the piles of debris undergo anaerobic decomposition due to the lack of oxygen. This results in the release of methane into our environment and contributes to climate change. According to the EPA Website (epa.gov), “In 2017, landfills received about 8.7 million tons of yard trimmings, which comprised 6.2 percent of all MSW (municipal solid waste) landfilled.” Moreover, when homeowners use blowers some leaves can end up in the watershed. This vegetative material then decomposes in the water generating nutrients that can also cause excess amounts of nitrogen, contributing to conditions favorable for toxic algae blooms.

Leaves are a natural fertilizer, weed barrier, and wildlife sanctuary and can easily be used as a mulch product. Instead of bagging or blowing the material, gather the leaves and place them around your bushes, plants, and trees. This will help recycle the natural fertilizer to the benefit of the plant. Due to the availability of oxygen in composting, the leaves will decompose without producing much, if any, methane and continually feed plants with healthy nutrients throughout the winter. And for the caterpillars or other creatures that rely upon vegetative debris for winter survival, you provide the perfect sanctuary for the winter. So, next time you consider bagging and removing your leaves, sure – bag them, but recycle them. Your plants, environment and even the caterpillars will benefit!

How JubileeScape makes smart recommendations using SoilKit

One landscaper in Alabama asks every homeowner to use SoilKit before they ever touch their lawn – here’s why. Our friends at JubileeScape perform landscaping services for commercial and residential clients all over the Gulf Coast. When it comes to attracting business from new homeowners, they use SoilKit to help find hot leads in new neighborhoods. 

Here’s how: JubileeScape delivers dozens of SoilKits to the doorstep of homes in their operating market, along with information on their residential services. Potential customers send in their soil for testing using SoilKit’s simple, prepaid collection through the mail, and SoilKit provides JubileeScape with the results of each home’s analysis. Landscaper passes the results on to each homeowner, beginning the sales process.

With the science on their side, JubileeScape can build a personalized soil fertility program for every homeowner’s specific needs – and with digestible nutrient reports, it’s easy to build a compelling sales pitch while educating customers on soil chemistry. 

Does it work? Here’s what Gulf and Eastern Shore area account manager Bryant Traylor has to say:

“I don’t think we’ll ever do another soil test without using the SoilKit.”

Bryant Traylor – Gulf and Eastern Shore Area Account Manager, JubileeScape

See the science for yourself. Go to soilkit.com to get started.

Palisades Zoysia: Prepare For Dropping Temperatures

Enjoy your Palisades Zoysia lawn in the fall and prepare it for winter.

This year I got to meet and speak to a lot of my neighbors. Our neighborhood was filled with families walking their children up and down the streets during the spring months. If you were like the millions of people that worked from home with the COVID-19 shut down, you likely got to make a lot of new friends.

This year, more people worked at home and spent time in their yards working with their lawn than ever. You may have even done something different like planting a garden or taking on another, unique home improvement project. Now that fall is here and winter is fast approaching, getting your lawn ready for colder temperatures is important. Something magical happens in the fall that causes the vibrant colors to appear on the trees. The fall colors are triggered by a cool front or frost that hits the trees. It traps the carbohydrates in the tree leaves. It is these carbohydrates that stop transferring food into the wood and down into the roots. The more vibrant the leaves are, the more likely the growing season for the trees was positive. It takes good soil health and great growing conditions that produce high levels of carbohydrates to produce beautiful fall colors.

Your Zoysia lawn is a lot like the trees in the fall. All summer, it uptakes nutrients and grows so that you have a beautiful lawn. Then, fall comes and it is very critical for the Zoysia plant to slow down its upward and lateral growth and begin the important work of storing carbohydrates. In the fall, your lawn begins focusing on storing carbohydrates into the roots and stolons, down at the soil level. If your Zoysia lawn is healthy in the fall, it is working overtime to store as much carbohydrate in the plant as possible. This will make sure it survives the winter and has plenty of food supplies to come out in the spring. A weak Zoysia plant in the fall makes your Zoysia lawn susceptible to winter damage and slow spring green up. It all begins in the soil. Taking another soil sample in the beginning of the fall is a great time to make sure that your lawn is getting the right nutrients to keep it healthy through winter and spring. To help your Zoysia lawn get ready for winter it needs to be transferring energy down and not up or out.

That is where soil health comes in. Lower nitrogen and adequate supplies of potassium and phosphate in the fall allows the grass to push the energy down into the lower parts of the plant. Too much nitrogen in the fall keeps the plants pushing up and not storing this energy. Keeping the pH between 5.7 and 6.5 will give your Zoysia the freedom to convert the soil nutrients into energy. Some areas in the southern US have had a lot of rain this year and it may have leached out more of your potassium. If so, that will impact the supply of carbohydrates that are needed for winter hardiness. The soil test will help identify that, and it can be easily corrected in your fall fertilization program.

A couple maintenance points to remember:

Make sure to keep the mowing height to 1-3″ and also put down a pre-emergent to keep the winter weeds away. And before your Zoysia lawn goes into full dormancy, keep an eye out for threatening insects and disease. I found a great website to read about all of the things to look for in the fall to make sure you lawn stays healthy. Find it here.

Keeping your Zoysia lawn healthy and enjoyable year-round is not as difficult as many other lawn grasses. Just knowing some of the key things to look out for is critical. Your Zoysia lawn can last as long as your house stands with proper care. This is the time of the year you should be able to really enjoy your lawn. Always
remember that a healthy lawn is not an accident.

Fall Soil Sampling Considerations

There is a division in fall soils between the needs of lawns and those of winter gardens. Lawns want to be like a bear and gather specific nutrition before hibernation and dormancy. For gardeners and farmers growing crops in the fall and winter, soils want to feast on fertile growing conditions and GROW.

Most people think of spring as a time to sample their soil. While that is a great time, fall is just as critical. Your lawn needs the right balance of nutrients to sustain winter hardiness and prepare for a quick green up in the spring, and your winter vegetables need food now to produce a healthy winter crop.

Fall soil test results give you a two action plan for your lawn – now and preparation for spring. First, you get to address any critical issues before your lawn goes dormant, and second you get a chance to plan the nutrient levels you want for spring. While you may find certain soil deficiencies can be managed in the short term, many deficiencies are best managed weeks, months, and even sometimes years ahead.

A great example of this is pH. You can begin remedy actions immediately, and if the levels are really off, you still have time to do another treatment before spring. pH can be an issue that takes years to correct, and getting started in the fall is the perfect time to take a look at the pH to give you a better jumping off point in the spring.

Another level that is critical for fall soil management is potassium (K). Potassium strengthens the cell wall of the plants. Have you ever noticed “Winterizer” lawn fertilizers? They tend to have a lower nitrogen number to not push growth before dormancy, but they also will end with a larger potassium number. Why?

Research has shown that when the plant has higher levels of potassium, it tends to endure winter hardiness conditions better and is prepared for a healthier green spring up. If you are doing a winter garden or crop, making sure the adequate potassium is also critical to withstand colder temperatures, but those fertilizers will use a higher nitrogen level to keep growth throughout the winter growing season.

Fall is a great time to do your soil sample. Whether you are preparing to watch your lawn hibernate or watch your broccoli grow, a soil sample will help guide you now in the short term and even begin to prepare you to plan for your next growing season – spring.

If you’re interested in a quick and easy, professional soil sample, go to soilkit.com to get started!

The Care of Centipede Lawns in Mid-Summer

With the first half of the year already behind us, the question that’s on most people’s mind is “How do I keep my centipede lawn looking good for the rest of the year?”

Centipede lawns are what most consider to be a “lazy man’s grass.” To keep it “healthy” is the most important thing that you want to do. To do so, you want to keep it simple. The first thing that you want to do is get a soil test sample. A “HEALTHY” lawn is the key word with any lawn especially centipede. Too much of anything is usually a bad thing when it comes to this variety of turf.

George Woerner, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Woerner Companies

Centipede being known as the “lazy man’s” grass means less is better. Your soil sample test results and recommendations will reveal the following about this type of turf:

One: Centipede likes a more acidic soil.

Two: Centipede likes less nitrogen than other grasses. This is where many lawn keepers make the mistake of putting too much nitrogen as part of a fertility program. This is a major reason why so many lawns die out in the winter even though they go into winter looking like the best lawn in your neighborhood. Bad Idea.

This is where I would start:
  • We suggest soil testing with a soil test kit.
  • Follow the instructions from the test results report.
  • Do not put your fertilizer out when the grass is wet.
  • Calculate how many pounds of fertilizer per thousand square feet you need from your results from the soil kit (or purchase a testing kit that calculates it for you).
  • Mid-summer your soil test will likely tell you to put some Iron out with your soil fertility recommendations.
  • Remember the mid-summer and fall application of fertilizer can be combined into to one application or break it up to two applications.
  • Many times if you are low on minor elements these minors play a major role in the health of your lawn. Make sure that your soil test kit provides results of the levels of minor elements in the test results. The minor elements help your lawn uptake the proper amount of nutrients to keep you lawn beautiful and healthy. It is also extremely important to reduce the effects of what we call winter kill.
centipede seed
Centipede seed

Most of the growth of your centipede lawn in the second half of the year should be mainly seed heads. They are easily mowed off with your weekly mowing. If you are getting heavy vegetative growth it is likely too much nitrogen from previous fertilization applications. That is typically not good. If you are getting a lot of vegetative growth in the mid-summer to late fall you need to remove the thatch that the excessive growth is making. Thatch is a major problem with centipede that adds to the winter kill in your lawn.

With proper care of centipede your lawn you should give you years of pleasure and very low cost of maintenance.

Composting – A Tremendous Benefit to the DIY Homeowner

Composting is defined as the decomposition or decay of organic waste materials like leaves, grass trimmings, kitchen scraps, sawdust and even shredded paper and cardboard. Composted materials are a great environmental response to household wastes that would normally go to a landfill and convert them to an environmentally and economically friendly amendment to feed your lawn, garden, shrubs and trees. The decomposing process yields an array of nutrients that your lawn and plants need to flourish without the fear of over-application of chemicals and fertilizers. Composted materials are used as soil amendments for garden vegetables, lawn top dressing or mulching fruit trees. Composted materials are pH neutral and aid your soil in moisture absorption and retention.

Four major ingredients necessary to the composting process:

NITROGEN—Protein materials like new grass clippings, overripe fruits and veggies, non-meat kitchen waste, spent coffee grounds and newly pulled weeds without seed heads.

CARBON – These occur naturally in brown waste like tree leaves, dried plant matter and other dried organic wastes.

WATER —The composting ingredients should be kept moist (like a wrung-out washcloth), not wet. The water source should not contain fluoride or chlorine as most municipal water sources do. These chemicals impede bacterial growth necessary for the composting process. A handy rain barrel works well as a water source. Green materials like fresh grass clipping will naturally add water.

OXYGEN —Oxygenation in composting can be aided by turning and mixing the material several times per week. This author uses a horizontal barrel composter fitted with turning handle to make oxygenation quick and easy.

WARNING—Meat waste, grease, dairy items and human and pet waste can introduce pathogens like salmonella into the composting material. Never add these or inorganic materials like glass, plastics, foil and metal items to your compost.

Temperature monitoring is very important to the composting process. As the micro-organisms and bacteria digest the material and multiply, they generate significant heat. A healthy composting bin will measure temperatures in the 140 to 160-degree Fahrenheit range which quickly speeds the decomposition process. Use a compost thermometer to monitor temperatures. If the temperature is too low (under 110 degrees) your compost material may be too wet or not receiving proper turning for oxygenation.

Composting is completed when the material is a dark rich color with small particles and a sweet, earthy smell. The application of the cured compost to your lawn as a top dressing, as an amendment to your garden soil, and as a mulch in your fruit orchid, is an efficient method of correcting soil pH and adding major and minor elements to your soil. The organic nutrients are in a natural form for easy uptake by the plant creating a consistent and constant food source for your plants.

The USDA recommends that homeowners test their soil for lawns and gardens at least once a year to stay abreast of imbalances in their soil chemistry. The testing process is not a destination but a journey, as test values change over time with plant uptake of nutrients, application of fertilizers, amendments and supplements and irrigation from rain, well and municipal water sources. SoilKit by AgriTech is a trusted source for quick, easy and professional soil analyses. SoilKit tests for pH, major elements of phosphorus and potassium, and minor elements of magnesium, calcium, boron, zinc, manganese, iron and copper. SoilKit then makes recommendations for corrective nutrition based on the test analysis and plant or lawn type. To learn more visit www.soilkit.com.