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Episode 5


On this episode of the Around the Turf Scene Podcast, Beth Berry interviews Chip Houmes from Precision Laboratories. The two talk all things aquatics, from algae control to dye usage. Tune in to learn best practices for pond maintenance on golf courses, commercial properties, and residential lawns. This podcast was originally recorded for Turf’s Up Radio and repurposed for the Around the Turf Scene Podcast.

About our guests:
Chip Houmes is the district manager at Precision Laboratories. Chip received his bachelor of science in agriculture from the University of Illinois. He has 38 years of experience in turf and agriculture chemicals, with more than 20 years at Precision. In his current role, Chip provides technical support for 17 states in the Midwest. He currently resides on his operating family farm in Illinois. 

About our host:
Beth Berry is the vice president of turf and ornamental sales at Advanced Turf Solutions. Previously, she was the vice president of growth and alliance for Real Green software, where she managed enterprise accounts and strategic partnerships for the green industry software company. Prior to Real Green, Beth was the director of customer service for Scotts Miracle-Gro. She currently hosts the show “Ahead of the Curb” on Turf’s Up Radio.

Rusty Stachlewitz  00:14
This podcast was originally recorded for Turfs Up Radio and repurposed for the Around the Turf Scene podcast. 

Beth Berry 00:22
Ah, party people. This is Beth Berry on Ahead of the Curb, Turfs Up Radio. Your industry, your station. I am so excited about today’s guest, today’s topic. It is everything you ever wanted to know about pond management. I say pond but we’re gonna probably talk beyond pond. We’ll just say it’s aquatics. We’ll call it the aquatic day on Turfs Up Radio, Ahead of the Curb. We are always bringing you the most innovative products. I’m Beth Berry, I’m the Vice President of Advanced Turf Solutions. We’re based in Fishers, Indiana. Chip, I’m going on like, I don’t know, my eight, ninth month, something like that. And I’ve been in this industry three decades and I was blown away when we hosted all of you to visit us about your integrity selling course, which was a tremendous value add for all of us at Advanced Turf. But, in the course of doing so, I had my socks knocked off with Precision Lab products. And so I’ve been a raving fan. I talk about you all the time on Turfs Up Radio. And for anyone who doesn’t know Chip or is not familiar with Precision Labs, give us all the goods, Chip.

Chip Houmes 01:39
Okay, well, that’s quite an intro. First off, it sounds like I got to get you new socks.

Beth Berry 01:44
You got to get me new, what?

Chip Houmes 01:46

Beth Berry 01:47

Chip Houmes  01:47
Since we knocked your socks off.

Beth Berry  01:48
You did. I need new socks. Logoed, please.

Chip Houmes 01:51
And after listening to the ,ah, party people thing, I was getting ready to pour myself a bourbon here. 

Chip Houmes 01:56

Beth Berry 01:57
2 or 3

Chip Houmes 01:57
yeah, we, we can jump in here and start talking about, you know, pond and lake management. You know, going, I’ve been working with pond and lake management for about 24 years. And, ah, since starting with Precision, and, initially, it’s kind of scary, I guess. You know, people are hesitant. They’re worried that there’s going to be some kind of issue. Um, that they don’t understand aquatics. It’s, it’s foreign to them. You know, a lot of people have been in turf management and they, they’re comfortable out there spraying a three-way herbicide, um, on turf, day in day out. But if you think about spraying a herbicide in aquatics, “oh my goodness, what’s gonna happen?” The reality is a lot of the herbicides we’re using in lawn care are also the ones that we’re using in aquatics. Um, there are 2,4 D base products. Um, one of my favorite go-tos is from Nufarm is the product Sureguard. They used to have it separately labeled where Sureguard was labeled for the, the landscapes and turf uses and Clipper was their aquatic name. And a few years ago, two or three years ago, they changed it. It’s all in one now. So, if you’ve got Sureguard sitting on your shelf that you’re using in your lawn care or landscape business, you could use it in your aquatic business, too.

Beth Berry 03:23
That’s crazy. I did not know that.

Chip Houmes  03:27
Yeah, you know, and I think, you know, you’re treating, you’re treating weeds right, for the most part. I mean, there’s four main categories of aquatic weeds. You’ve got emerged weeds with your, like cattails that everybody’s familiar with. There’s, there’s a lot of a lot of those. A lot of, ah, different emerged weeds. There’s floating weeds, which pretty much are like your lily pad, or duck weed or water meal.

Beth Berry 03:53
Now, wait a minute, did you just call a lilypad a weed? 

Chip Houmes  03:58

Beth Berry 03:58
I thought they were intentional, intentional ornamentals? That’s what I thought they were. 

Chip Houmes 04:03
What is the definition of a weed?

Beth Berry 04:05
Something that is growing where you don’t want it.

Chip Houmes 04:10
Exactly, exactly. That’s from my weed science 101 class.

Beth Berry  04:14
So, it’s in the eye of the beholder is what you’re saying? 

Chip Houmes 04:16
It is, um, you know, it’s interesting. I was down in, I think I was in the Cincinnati area, traveling with someone. We were looking at aquatic weeds or, aquatic, we were looking at aquatic, uh, applications. And there was there was a whole bunch of lily pads down in the corner of this of this lake. And, and the guy’s like, “how do I keep those in check”? And I said, “You need to just go out and spray glyphosate, aquatic labeled glyphosate, um, or a diquat or something like that. That’s going to take them out. You know, put a little surfactant with it and it will, and you can take all those out. He goes, “No, no, no, no, I didn’t say I want to kill them all. I wanted to keep them in check.” And I said, “Well, what do you mean?” And he goes, “The lady that owns that corner, planted a couple of those in remember, in remembrance of her husband. So, she always wants to have her lily pads there.” But he said, “If I don’t keep them in check, they’re gonna take over my whole lake.”

Chip Houmes 05:14
And, so he’s got to selectively, it’s almost like edging, right?

Beth Berry 05:19
Yeah, targeted.

Chip Houmes 05:20
You just target a few of the plants, so you’re not killing all of them. Um, and so and people do that with cattails, too. I mean, I love driving down the road and looking over and seeing, you know, some cattails along the ditch when you’ve got a little cluster. But if you leave some of those, haha, if you don’t keep them in check, they’ll take over, they’re very invasive. And so a plant growing out of place would be a weed. And so yeah, you may, you may be wanting to kill lily pads. And that in that same floating family, as I mentioned, the, the watermeal and the duckweed, now those are two that people probably don’t want to see anything or have those out there. But, but those are the floating ones, and then you have submerged weeds. Um, there’s a lot of different ones hydrilla pondweed. You know, this isn’t, I’m not gonna get into a lot of, of aquatic need identification here. But, but, ah, and then you have algae, which is another category. So four basic categories: emerged, floating, submerged and algae would be your four main categories of aquatic weeds.

Beth Berry 06:21
Wow, crazy, and are the products we’re going to talk about today, do they address all those?

Chip Houmes  06:31
Well, that depends on how lengthy we get into discussing. Um, you know, I work for Precision Laboratories, and we do not make herbicides.

Beth Berry 06:39

Chip Houmes 06:40
But I’ve done a lot of talks on those and as I’ve already mentioned, you know, your your aquatic labeled glyphosates or,or diquat, you know Reward. Um. And, and then I mentioned, you know, the, the Sureguard. Um, there’s a lot of others. I mean, SePRO and Nufarm and there’s so many companies that are making acquatic. You know applied biologists, applied marine biologists, excuse me, featuring products, you know. So, I think more than likely, rather than getting into specifics on herbicides, kind of talking and, and people have their, what you’ll find is a lot of the same herbicides, if you’re trying to kill a submerged weed, typically, your herbicides that contain 2,4 D or and/or the Sureguard-type products are the ones that are going to control 99% of your submerged weeds. 

Chip Houmes 07:39
When you’re talking emerged weeds, we’re talking more of the contact herbicides like the diquats, and glyphosate. Um, and then floating weeds are also the same as emerged where that pretty much we’re talking, you know, your your contact herbicides again. And then for algae, though, that’s kind of a unique one. And so when you look at the all the categories, and we focus more on the algae side of it, with the products that we’re selling. But um you know, the first go to when someone’s fighting algae is copper sulfate products. And I think we’ll-

Beth Berry 08:18
Hey, Chip I lost ya. I lost ya. Chip, Chip, I lost you, you said copper sulfate, and then I lost you.

Beth Berry 08:27
Okay, how about now? Am I back?

Beth Berry 08:29
Ope, you are back.

Chip Houmes 08:30
All right. Sorry about that. The wonders of cellular technology.

Chip Houmes 08:34
So, so copper sulfate, you know, are kind of the go to for for algae control, um to at least kill it. But it, you know it’s, it doesn’t really have much of a residual to keep algae out. And so, um, I’m, Precision Laboratories is more about addressing algae than it is necessarily addressing true weeds. But because a lot of times people have me speak to aquatic weed control in general, I can talk a little bit more at length. Because of how much you want to get into talking about all the different weeds or if we want to focus more on the algae side of what it’s what we do like to do that.

Beth Berry 08:34
Of course. 

Beth Berry 09:14
Well. I want to do all of it. Chip, do you have a half a day? This is actually a boot camp. Sorry, I know I said an hour but I need like a half day boot camp on all this. First

Chip Houmes 09:23
Oh, my goodness.

Beth Berry 09:23
let’s go back to the fear factor because I think I know this keeps a lot of turf and ornamental companies, a lot of landscapers, out of this category because of the fear. Do you know why there’s fear chip? Because when you go to get your license, most states require a license to be a pesticide applicator. One of the first things you learn is proximity to water, right? And so

Chip Houmes 09:26

Beth Berry 09:26
I think from, from the earliest times we’re being educated in this industry, we are always being taught to stay away, ah, from water. And in Florida with the phosphate bans and you can’t there’s you can practically apply nothing within certain proximity to waterways. So, I think that’s where some of the fear starts. I had shared with you when I was at a $3 billion company, that also did do it for you lawn care, we bought a whole lot of koi fish, chip, a whole, whole lot of them. So, we we became very aquatic shy in a hurry. Um, and I don’t know all the reasons why that was happening. But were we using the wrong products? Were we ineffectively identifying what problems that were in the waterways? Or why do we seem to kill koi fish? Are they just so fragile? The wind shift can change and they die?

Chip Houmes 10:46
Well, yeah, they are very fragile and, and extreme temperature changes, or whatever can can cause issues. And, and I think a lot of times, people, it’s a concern, right? And so let’s go back, you mentioned buffer strips or, or not getting too close to the, the bodies of water. To me, you know, so yeah, we want to avoid runoff of nutrients into the water. But how many studies have been done out there that shows that turf is such a great filtration system, and that the runoff isn’t nearly as significant as what people are afraid of? And some of that comes, you know, with as much as it comes from agriculture, where we’re now you have bare ground where you’d have maybe more runoff than you do with the with the, with the filtration that a true good turf quality can do. But yeah, you want to you want to adhere to your state laws, and, and then choosing the right products. As I mentioned, I mean, we’re we’re using glyphosate and 2, 4 D type products or 2-4 D, cousins of 2,4 D in, in aquatics along with Sureguard. I mean, if you’re using those chemistries in lawn care, that, you know, it’s not that strange. It’s just that they they put the fear into you because if you’re using something that isn’t safe for fish, or isn’t safe for aquatic life, we’re not just talking fish, but a lot of the EPA registrations require you to look at crustaceans and other impacts of species. So, the normal homeowner or normal person, they’re not even going to be aware that we just, you know, might have been affected crawdads or something with an application. So, as you register pesticides, they look at all those, a lot of those criteria. 

Chip Houmes 12:35
I’m not in regulatory. I’m just, having been in the industry for over 30 years, know that there’s been little things like, even even to the point that if it irritates the eyes of the fish. Doesn’t damage them. Doesn’t doesn’t kill them. Doesn’t cause them issues other than potentially just irritating their eyes. That’s the reason that you can’t spray Roundup Pro in a body of water because the surfactants that are in Roundup Pro, irritate the eyes of the fish.

Beth Berry 13:03
And Chip, do we know this because, the chip, the fish told us this or where their eyes read or watering? How do we know this?

Chip Houmes 13:10
I think they were going to the eye doctor or something. No, they, they did the studies and they were evaluating, you know, in a lab or in a controlled circumstance, they, they’ve identified what ingredients are safe for aquatics and which are not. And, and there are things that you can add into the lake that will affect aquatic life and to a negative and that’s the ones that they don’t register or ban or what have you. But the ones that are registered, they’ve done extensive studies on and shown that they are totally safe to the aquatic you know, balance of the of the water, um, all the way from the fish to the microorganism.

Beth Berry 13:52
That is incredible. I hate to take a break while we’re on a roll, but we must listen to this word from our sponsors. I’m Beth Barry. I’m Ahead of the Curb on Turfs Up Radio with my guest today Chip Houmes from Precision Labs. We’re going to come back and talk about identifying pond problems. Because I am a newbie in this area, I was embarrassed at how little I knew when Chip sent me the pre-read materials but he is going to give us all the goods right after a word from our sponsors.

Rusty Stachlewitz 14:24
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Beth Berry 14:57
I hate to cut that song short because it’s a good one. And I got a rock star with me today, my buddy Chip Houmes. Chip, I miss you, we got to travel for like, I don’t know, 10 weeks across, you know, beautiful hotspots of America, hosting the Advanced Turf Solutions Winter Ed series. And nobody knows more about your category than you. And we didn’t do a proper introduction. This isn’t your first rodeo, or even your fifth, give us the snapshot on Chip. What is your trajectory in this industry been like?

Chip Houmes 15:31
Oh, it’s been fun. Um, you know, I, I got a degree in agriculture back in the early 80s, and went to work for Dow Chemical for about three years. I worked for Ciba-Geigy, which became Novartis. I was with them for 12 years, left before they became Syngenta. And then 24 years ago, today, actually it is my work anniversary, I went to work for Precision Laboratories. And Precision, you know, Precision is a Chicago-based, Waukegan, Illinois-based manufacturer. And they really are strong in the surfactant category of chemistries. But we’ve also, we sell into the aquatic markets and, and do a lot of turf and ornamental sales. Just like most chemical manufacturers that are in this industry, though, you know, 80% of our businesses is in agriculture, and row crop and so it’s nice to be able to leverage that research and that information to apply. And it gives us a broader scope of products available based on quantity, right?

Beth Berry 16:40
That is an insane career. How much fun is that been? 24 years! I honestly didn’t know that you had spent that much time, um, at Precision. That is very, very cool. 

Beth Berry 16:50
With Precision, yeah. 

Chip Houmes 16:52
Yeah. That’s, it’s, you know, it seems like it’s the only like. I don’t know, I can remember 10 years of it, the rest of it is a bur. It’s been fun. It’s busy. It’s, it’s, it’s been a good, good company to work for. You know that now the question, at my age, people are saying, well, how soon you’re going to retire? I don’t know whether they want my position, or they just want to get rid of me. But, um, I’m like, you know what, you know, I’m having fun. And I really love my customers. And, and I’m, I’m making good money. So I’m gonna keep going for several more years until my health gives out or it’s not fun anymore. And that’s certainly not the case today.

Beth Berry 17:33
That’s so funny. I, I get asked, when are you going to retire? Not that I’m retirement age, but like you have been in the industry my entire adult life. And I feel like I have retired. I mean, once you find the job that you just love, working with people you love, amazing products and solutions for customers and the technology. The Ahead of the Curb. That’s why I named the show this. The mentality of all the cool new solutions that are coming to the marketplace to solve problems are what keep me so excited. If you think back to when your career began and the types of science and technology that was available to solve problems. There wasn’t a whole lot. And, and as consumers have become more sophisticated, so have your product. 

Beth Berry 18:19
So, let’s start with identifying pond problems. If you’re a newbie to the category…and by the way, let me just preface this by saying results may vary, your state requires different certifications. Some, I think most states, require aquatic licensing. Although Chip, you can fill us in on when and where that matters and depending on the products. But if you’re just getting started in terms of identifying pond problems, what are the broad categories you would be looking for?

Chip Houmes 18:54
That’s a great question. That can be very all encompassing, right?

Beth Berry 18:59
Well, what are, what are the types of problems that with your products and your partner’s products of herbicides that you can actually solve for in today’s world?

Chip Houmes 19:10
Well, I mean, there are things that you can do for, for almost everything. But, so it goes back, so if you, if you’re managing a pond or if you, if you have a homeowner or property manager that they’ve got mud or filth floating in their ponds, because up the hill, somebody decided to do a subdivision and all that runoff is coming downhill. And now you’ve got the turbid. They call it turbidity, right? Where you’ve got kind of that muddy look in your pond. Typically, people, people say

Beth Berry 19:43
I’m sorry, Chip, could you say that word again? I’ve never heard of it. 

Chip Houmes 19:47

Beth Berry 19:48
Turbidity, okay.

Chip Houmes 19:49
And so, you can, you can use a product, aluminum sulfate, which is also called alum. It will actually floc-flocculate. I have to be careful how I pronounce that word.

Beth Berry 20:01
Yes, you do. That’s an F word, if I ever one. 

Chip Houmes 20:05
It will flocculate or basically tie-up those suspended silt particles and, and settle them to the bottom. And so you can increase, increase your clarity of your lake by adding aluminum sulfate or, in some cases, some people also add calcium carbonate. But it takes a lot of calcium carbonate to do it. But yeah, there are steps you can do just to improve the clarity. Now, I’m not an expert in Koi. You brought up Kois earlier. And I am not an expert in koi ponds in the backyard, and how to manage those. I mean, I, when I was, years ago, I,I had a 55-gallon aquarium. I’ve always equated a koi pond was more similar to me managing my aquarium than it is managing a pond or a lake. 


Chip Houmes 20:53
And so when I think of pond and lake management, I don’t think of koi ponds in the backyard as much. You know, those are, like you said, they’re very, uh, dainty, I guess. I don’t know what word to use there. They’re, they’re very susceptible.

Beth Berry 21:06

Beth Berry 21:07

Chip Houmes 21:07
Fragile. Fragile is a great word. And so this isn’t about koi pond management. This is about managing a slightly larger body of water that ,you know, might be a quarter acre or, or 10 acres of ponds or lakes or even more, depending. 

Chip Houmes 21:26
Umm so, so turbidity is one thing. You know, the other thing that happens, if you want to try to balance your lake. It’s interesting to me to see, there are some natural lakes and ponds that are just clear. And they don’t require much maintenance. And a lot of times, when we get into the man-made lakes, we’re forcing something. We’re, we’re putting a pond where it wasn’t before. And so sometimes those ponds don’t end up being very well balanced. Or even a pond that was balanced, if we change the ecosphere around them, if we, if we change, and there’s more runoff occurring or more, or things going into the lake or as trees. You establish a lake and as the trees age, and you’ve got leaves dropping into the lake over 20 years. Now you’ve got all that sediment that settled to the bottom and formed the sludge and muck on the bottom that create a whole other nutrient load to that pond that wasn’t there initially when you first constructed it. Usually, you know, a brand new pond doesn’t have a lot of problems right out of right out of the bat. It’s after it’s established for a little bit and you start getting nutrient buildups and then you put in fish and maybe overpopulate. And now we may have a dissolved oxygen issue where there’s not enough oxygen. 

Beth Berry 21:26

Chip Houmes 22:42
So, when I look at pond management, one of the first steps I look at is, is if you can add oxygen to the pond, you’re going to be, you’re going to set yourself up for success. And that could be that could be just as simple as putting a fountain out there. Now if you do put a fountain in, I like to use drop tubes that are about half the depth of the lake, so that you’re not just affecting the surface, but you’re actually pulling water from deeper in it. So, you get a good recirculation and adding oxygen helps to balance that lake. There are natural occurring bacteria in that lake that are there are in the soil, there are in water there and everything. And those natural occurring bacteria will break down nutrients and and just help balance out the lake in general. So, adding oxygen. I love, I mean, is it an absolute necessity? Maybe not. But having a good oxygen content also good for the the fish that are in the well the pond of life.

Beth Berry 23:40
Well and it’s aesthetically pleasing. So, you’re telling me, in central Indiana where the suburban neighborhoods have all of these man-made ponds in the ecosphere for different reasons, and they’ve added these fountains. I thought it was just a bougie thing, Chip, because I’m a Hoosier girl, but you’re telling me it is actually adding oxygen and helping to thwart some of these issues you would encounter in aquatics.

Chip Houmes 24:07
Yes. And, and whether it’s a fountain, a lot of people will also use what’s called a diffuser. Going back to my example of the aquarium, you know, you’re you’ve got this little bubblers and aquariums to put oxygen into your fish tank, right, because they don’t have. So people put diffusers which are basically some type of device that’s laying on the bottom, typically of the lake, that has a hose that the pump is pumping oxygen in and it’s basically bubbling, adding bubbles into the water that add oxygen. And, and it just helps balance the lake and I have nothing to do with that side of the business necessarily. I’ve just seen such success with it um as a first step. Now, you know sometimes there’s not there’s not power that’s run to the lake or adequate where you can get it. If that’s the case, there’s actually some windmills that that instead of pumping water out like the old windmills on the farms were designed to, it pumps oxygen in. And there’s other devices that people use. And some of them are solar powered, different things. But so yeah, that’s that’s the first step that people don’t think about a lot of times. The reason to having a drop tube, and this goes back to one of your first questions of why we’re afraid, have you heard the term, you know, my lake turned over?

Beth Berry 25:26
No, turned over.

Chip Houmes 25:28
So people talk about “oh, the lake turned over.” I grew up on a farm, my dad would talk about, “oh, that lake turned over over there.” Well, when a lake turns over, what has happened is usually it’s in the fall of the year. You get a cold snap, it could happen in the spring too, but you get an extreme cold snap. And the water on the surface is colder than the water at the bottom.

Beth Berry 25:50

Chip Houmes 25:51
And that cold, when that water is colder, cold water is heavier than than warm water. So, the cold water wants to go to the bottom. It’s under an extreme situation that cold water flips over and the lake basically inverts. So, all the water that was on the bottom comes to the top, the water that is on the top goes to the bottom. And when that happens, you’re stirring up all that debris on the bottom, which ends up consuming a lot of oxygen out of the lake. And the fish, fish can actually suffocate, you can have a fish kill. And I think, you can go back and look at people, let’s say you sprayed a home lawn. And this can be advantageous for your listeners that don’t, don’t apply to ponds, but are maintaining the properties around lakes and ponds. When that lake turns over, and it starves the oxygen or reduces the oxygen in the lake, the fish can suffocate, and then you end up with a fish kill that had nothing to do with anything you sprayed. Or nothing to do with this anything going on other than Mother Nature

Beth Berry 26:55

Chip Houmes 26:56
cause that lake to turn over. And so by adding a fountain or a diffuser, and it’s a fountain has dropped to this more than 50% of it’s depth. So, if you’ve got a 12 foot deep pond, you want a six foot drop tube. That will constantly keep that water in exchange and you can avoid that, that lake from turning over.

Beth Berry 27:16
That is crazy. I’m just feverishly taking notes here. Turning over. That’s probably a farm term, too, I should know 

Chip Houmes 27:24
Well, probably girl. 

Beth Berry 27:25
as a hooiser girl. But one of the complaints. So I when I was at Scott’s Miracle Grow, we had 42 inbound call centers and aquatics was not a service we offered. But one of the consumer complaints that we would feel most often that they were seeking a solution for was an unpleasant odor coming from it. So, maybe it looked okay. But there was an unpleasant odor emitting from the local pond. What is typically the catalyst for odors?

Chip Houmes 27:59
Well, well, you can get sulfur smells and different things depending on what you’re you know, you’re you’re filling, you know, the source of your water, where it’s coming from. But a lot of times if it’s a stagnant pond, it is going to start growing other species of algae or different things. Like a blue-green algae is really a nasty thing. And I don’t know all the other different sources of those odors. What I do know is if you’re adding oxygen, if you’re using, you know, we’re going to talk a little bit about our beneficial bacteria, doing things to help keep the light cleaner and circulate the water within itself. Those things are all going to help. I’ve had people before that have had noxious odors coming from the water and through the use of our beneficial bacteria that reduced the odors and and made it more pleasant to be around but it’s also safer. Especially, blue-green algae has has a lot of health concerns that can make you sick. And so it’s, it’s a noxious species of algae that we need to keep in check and under control. And then you know I think just balancing that lake and between the oxygen and beneficial bacteria, you can reduce those those smells.

Beth Berry 29:16
Hey Chip, sorry to interrupt you, but we got to take a quick break and listen to our sponsors here. We’ll be right back after this.

Rusty Stachlewitz 29:26
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Beth Berry 29:57
I just like to play music all day long. When I grow up, I’m going to be a DJ. But today we have way too much to cover. In the limited amount of time we have left with my guest chip Houmes from Precision Labs. Chip is a a rock star. I am so glad you took time away from your busy day chip. And the amount of time you invest with Advanced Turf Solutions and our reps and our customers. I can’t tell you how much we appreciate it. 

Beth Berry 30:25
So, welcome back to Turfs Up Radio and Beth Berry from Ahead of the Curb. Talking about all things aquatics today. And, you know, Chip. You’re working from home today in Illinois. Am I correct? 

Chip Houmes 30:39

Beth Berry 30:39
I’m working from home today in Indiana even though our Fishers office is 10 minutes from my home. I do record Turfs Up Radio in my home studio. But there are, I have some repair people here today. So, you might hear something in the background. It’s just the world in which we live, you know. So, I hated to cut you off because you were on a real roll about identifying pond problems and what can be treated and what cannot be treat-treated. And the reason I was most excited. When I joined Advanced Turf, I started looking at accounts in Salesforce that were my former accounts at Real Green. So, I only knew what software they bought. And I kind of knew from a turf and ornamental perspective what service lines they offered. But there has been this fear factor in turf and ornamental, particularly if you are providing residential services, to even get that license and go after aquatics. But you’ve removed that fear for me today, Chip. I-I feel like I could go do it myself. And to know how much the science and technology have evolved over the years, the types of products that are truly effective. I live at Geist reservoir, which is on the north east side of Indianapolis, and we get this thing every year called algae bloom. And these folks have lived up here forever, but they just freak out. Is there anything that you can do to prevent an algae bloom or tell us what you know about that?

Chip Houmes 32:11
Sure. And that’s, that’s probably the category of leads that that I’ve looked at the most because that’s the category of our products. You know, we going back just a little bit on the herbicidal aspects, you know, I’m more concerned about, I will be more concerned as a lawn care/landscape guy of spraying around herbicides that might affect an annual bedding plant in a landscape, or possibly getting dripped into somebody’s tomatoes on a garden than what we’re talking about doing an aquatic because of the proven chemistry. Talking about algae blooms, though, algae, for the most part, I mean, you can have some algae that survives during the winter or might even grow a little bit in the winter. But typically algae starts forming about the same time crabgrass blooms, right, or where crabgrass germinate.

Beth Berry 32:59
Yep. Does that May, May in the Midwest? 

Chip Houmes 33:03
Well, I’m gonna say 55 degrees.

Beth Berry 33:05

Chip Houmes 33:05
I don’t know right now, right? This, this spring has been so cold and wet.

Beth Berry 33:07
It may never happened this year. 

Chip Houmes 33:10
I don’t know, but it’s around 50-55 degrees is when you start seeing algae grow and at 60 that’s when you’re really gonna start seeing it come on strong. And it’s gonna persist as long as those temperatures remain up like that. And you know, algae is gonna grow. It’s there. Right? It’s just waiting and wait. And so, now if you have the right nutrient load in the water, and you have sunlight, and and the right temperatures, algae is going to grow. You know, if I took a glass of my well water, and poured it and set it out and, you know, on my porch and let it sit there for a few days, I’ll just start an algae bloom just in that glass of water. So,

Beth Berry 33:51
I did not know that.

Chip Houmes 33:52
Well, my well water is pretty, pretty, pretty loaded. So I just put in an osmosis system for my drinking water in my house, but

Beth Berry 34:00
Lots of nurtrients there in the Midwest

Chip Houmes 34:02
Lots of minerals, lots of lots of storage.

Chip Houmes 34:04
So, um, the algae, try and keep it in check. We talked about oxygen a little bit ago and oxygen is a great thing because you’re stimulating the natural bacteria that are there. And there are several, well, there are a few herbicides that do a nice job on algae. You know, I mentioned copper sulfate earlier, and there’s a lot of different brand names of copper sulfate, you can still just buy straight copper sulfate. And then people have chelated the copper sulfate to make them a little bit more active, to make them have maybe a few days more residual. 

Chip Houmes 34:37
Um, and so you know, the product, a brand name that people recognize is Cutrine. But like SePRO has Captain and there’s K-Tea. There’s, there’s several brand names of copper sulfates out there. Um, and all of those are pretty effective in killing algae, like Roundup would kill a weed. 

Beth Berry 34:58

Chip Houmes 34:58
It’s gonna kill what’s, it’s going to kill what’s there. And that algae is going to die. And when it dies, it’s going to sink back to the bottom. And then it’s going to break down. And so three weeks later, all those nutrients that were tied up in the algae that you just killed, are released back into the water. And usually three or four weeks after you kill it off once, it’s all right back with a vengeance because all the nutrient loads still there The temperatures still there. And now you’ve got another algae bloom. 

Chip Houmes 35:27
So, the steps that we take to control algae, one of the first things we look at is photosynthesis has to occur for algae to grow. And at Precision, we make products, True Blue and Jet Black are lake dyes. We make a blue lake dye and a black lake dye. And people look at lake dyes thinking “well, they’re just putting those in to make the pond look pretty.”

Beth Berry 35:27

Chip Houmes 35:27
It’s not. The use of the real reason to use a lake dye is that you’re shading the lake. It’s an effect; it’s almost like putting a roof over it to block sunlight, so, that you have less aquatic weed and then, in particular, algae growth. By inhibiting sunlight, photosynthesis can’t occur. So, when you use a lake dye, it will, as long as you’ve got two feet of water or more, it’ll, it’ll interfere with sunlight penetration into the lake, and you’ll have much less algae growth. 

Beth Berry 36:23

Chip Houmes 36:25
And so lake dye is a very inexpensive way. You know, when I, when I do an aquatic talk, I typically tell people to add oxygen and add a lake dye as their first step. Because lake dyes are very inexpensive. When you look at the whole thing. And there’s

Beth Berry 36:39
And it’s an immediate response, right? So, consumers and others look at that pond and go “wow, that looks really cool.” And you have the perception of health when it’s blue.

Beth Berry 36:48
True, or black.

Chip Houmes 36:50
You know, it’s interesting. We used, the you know, the original formulation, um, almost had a little bit of a green cast to them. Um, Aquashade was the first lake dye that was out there. And they have kind of a little bit of a greenish cast. Some people like that other people like more of a blue color and and then, in the last, I don’t know, 10 years or so, black lake dyes have come on. And what’s interesting about black to me, it makes it look like a mirror across the body of water. And if you’ve got some nice landscaping plants, um, or nice, it as a reflective characteristic, that really looks nice, especially in commercial properties or metro areas. But what’s interesting to me, I find when selling lake dyes, people in in more urban areas like the black color. And people in rural areas like the blue. They think the black looks murky or something.

Chip Houmes 36:50
Or black.

Beth Berry 37:41
I’ve never heard of the black, but the reflective piece of it would be really interesting. What’s the residual on the colorant?

Chip Houmes 37:49
It varies by rates and by product. Typically, with our products, if you have a pond that doesn’t have a lot of water running out of it, we don’t get huge rains, up to eight weeks on an application. Typically, I have people coming in about you know a month later and maybe spiking it with a little bit more just to maintain the colors that they want, um, and maintain the shading. But if you get a bunch of rain and it flushes water out, outflow is one of the things that obviously we really can’t control. And so if you’ve got a spring-fed lake or if you’ve got a massive amount of outflow going out of the lake, sometimes you would have to retreat more frequently.

Beth Berry 38:27
Got it. Interesting. I can’t believe we’re running out of time here today. We’ve got one more break to hear from our sponsors and then when we come back I want to talk specifically about the best products your company has to offer.

Rusty Stachlewitz 38:44
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Beth Berry 39:20
We are back with my guest Chip Houmes from Precision Labs. Let’s hear it for Chip. Soo excited you joined us here today.

Beth Berry 39:28
Fun fact: Chip was on one of the first Turfs Up Radio shows and, I don’t, I’m not exactly spinning it up like a pro yet, Chip, but I hope you’ve noticed I can glide in and out of these breaks with a little more ease than when then when you were with me on my rookie episodes. I’m so excited because we have a question from a listener right now. That would like to know from, you, the expert Chip. If they have, okay, does an underground sprinkler system add oxygen to a pond. Oh, he  didn’t say sprinkler. Does an underground spring, add oxygen to the pond? Spring, that’s feeding into the pond. Hmm.

Chip Houmes 40:13
Interesting question and depends on the source of the water. I guess with the underground spring, I’m assuming it’s a runoff coming out of a higher elevation down into a lower elevation. And so if it was exposed to the surface and has a lot of movement, it could contain some oxygen, probably more so it’s, it’s just adding to an exchange of water. And having an exchange is going to create some oxygen. Although, I don’t think it’s going to be enough to dramatically impacted it. Just my opinion got it. Interesting question, though. I had never been asked that question before.

Beth Berry 40:50
Now, we’ll dig into that some more. We may have a whole other Turfs Up episode just to talk about that.

Chip Houmes 40:58
Well, that’s possible. But ,I think, based on time limitations, I did want to get to we, we kind of touched on, you know, bacteria and the benefits that they do. And I think that’s a critical thing to kind of get into before we wrap up and 

Beth Berry 41:13

Chip Houmes 41:13
And so, we, as we talked about when when the algae, if you use even if you use a copper sulfate where it dies or trying to prevent algae from occurring to begin with, there are beneficial bacteria already in the pond. And when you add oxygen, you’re going to increase those populations. And that may be enough in and of itself. But, at Precision, we offer a product called Precise Pond. And Precise Pond is basically dormant, beneficial bacteria that when you add them into your lake or pond and they’re in the water, and the temperatures are up there in the 50s, they, they tend to flourish. And you’re inoculating the pond with additional natural bacteria that would be there normally we’re just elevating populations. 

Chip Houmes 41:59
And what these bacteria do is they actually break down nitrates and phosphates out of the water. So, when nitrates are broken down, it’s broken down to nitrogen and oxygen. So, they are released as gases. Not smelly gases, like we talked about earlier, but their nitrogen and oxygen. And it breaks down phosphates into phosphorus and oxygen. The oxygen is given off as a gas. And the phosphate is metabolized and utilized within the bacteria. So, ultimately, we’re reducing the nutrient load. And that nutrient load, it could be from runoff, it could be from grass clippings. More than likely though, it’s, it’s just that sludge buildup in the bottom from leaves and decaying organic matter, you know, even fish that that die naturally, that you’re, you’re reducing that mucker sludge. 

Beth Berry 42:43

Chip Houmes 42:43
So, the Precise Pond actually will both attack the nutrient load that’s in the water column itself as well as it’ll go to the bottom of the lake. And there’s parts of it that will break down all those, all that muck on the bottom, and you can actually gain, you know, four or five inches of depth out of a pond a year. So, if you use it for three or four years, you could gain a foot of depth.

Chip Houmes 43:07
And so that’s kind of neat, you know, especially if you’re swimming in it or you’re trying to reduce that muck. It just, it helps clarify the pond as well. And so it’s been a really fun product to sell because it’s natural occurring bacteria. It’s not, we’re not adding, you know noxious things. It’s not EPA registered.

Beth Berry 43:25
So, you don’t need a licensed to use it most states.

Chip Houmes 43:29
In, in many states you do not. I know specifically in Illinois. I have talked to the Illinois EPA. They do not require licensing for lake dyes that are not EPA registered. And so our True Blue and Jet Black are not EPA registered, and our bacteria are not EPA registered. If you’re applying any product that has an EPA registration number, then yes, you need to be licensed in the state of Illinois. Some other states, anything, they require to be licensed if you’re adding anything into the pond. 

Chip Houmes 43:56
So, you need to check your local state licensing requirements on that. 

Beth Berry 43:59
Steel Green Manufacturing presents the SG XL, a multifunction applicator with industry leading capacity and versatility available this spring. As Steel Greens largest machine yet, the SG XL is still zero-turn and has the agility to go where others can’t. Maximize your investment with one machine that can do the work of three. Talk to your ATS rep for more information about the SG XL. Versatility. Efficiency. Maneuverability. SG XL.

Chip Houmes 44:02
So anyways, the the beneficial bacteria, a quick story. I, I back years ago, 2011, at the Ohio Turfgrass Conference, I had a booth and and I had a property owners association come to me from Muirfield Village. Just the property owners, not the golf course. And they, they came to me and said, “Hey, we’ve got seven lakes or seven ponds around our throughout our homeowners association. And they’re just really, we’ve got to that we no matter what we do, we can’t clean them up. They’ve got a big algae problem.”

Chip Houmes 44:33
And so we talked it through and they decided to try our product in those two worst ponds. And I said let’s do this. But I also wanted to gather some data from their application. So monthly, we took water tests out of their, out of their ponds that they were treating. And what we found was that they had high parts per million of nitrates and high parts per million of phosphates in the water, initially, before treatment. And the bacteria take a little bit of time to develop. It’s not like when you apply a beneficial bacteria today, tomorrow you’re going to see a response. The bacteria has to pop up the population. You’re inoculating it, they have to multiply. Anyway, but over the course of three or four weeks, the populations get up to where you need them. 

Chip Houmes 45:22
So, we took a water sample in April, they had high parts per million of nitrates and phosphates. We took another water sample in May, we were less than 10% of what they were originally. We got rid of 90% of that aquatic nutrient load. And then they took water samples every month thereafter. And there were subtle changes based on rainfall and runoff and things. But overall, we kept the pop the parts per million of nitrates and phosphates down so low that they didn’t have algae bloom. And I saw them later at the end of that year and they said, “Well, the two worst lakes that we had became our two best lakes. So, now we’re going to use it in all seven lakes.” And, and to my knowledge since 2012, they’ve been using it all seven of their lakes with good success.

Beth Berry 46:06
And what was that product again?

Chip Houmes 46:09
That’s Precise Pond.

Beth Berry 46:10
Precise Pond.

Chip Houmes 46:11
Yeah, it comes in water soluble pouches. The other nice thing about, so our lake dyes, we make liquid, but we make our lake dyes in water soluble packets and we make our beneficial bacteria, Precise Pond, in water soluble packets. So, you don’t have to get in a boat. You don’t have to spray anything. You’re just tossing packets in from a bank. 

Chip Houmes 46:31
And it makes it very easy for application. And that’s, that’s one of the critical things. I mean, if you’re a softball player it builds up your pithing arm.

Chip Houmes 46:31

Beth Berry 46:39
Now, is there a maximum size of a water area that you could use that service delivery method? Because again, purchasing a boat or other expensive capital equipment has kept some away. What’s the largest size you could do with that?

Chip Houmes 46:57
Well, that’s a great question. I guess it depends on the diameter of the lake. 

Chip Houmes 47:01
Or how good your throw is.

Chip Houmes 47:01
Well, yeah, you got to be careful. You don’t want to wing them too hard because you can refer to the packets. But, but, I’ve treated, we’ve treated, ah I don’t know, I think it was about a 10-acre lake down in Mississippi at one of the casinos with this from the bank and it was fine. You have to go back to like in high school if you remember the petri dish,

Beth Berry 47:03
So, the Precise Pond actually will both attack the nutrient load that’s in the water column itself as well as it’ll go to the bottom of the lake. And there’s parts of it that will break down all those, all that muck on the bottom, and you can actually gain, you know, four or five inches of depth out of a pond a year. So, if you use it for three or four years, you could gain a foot of depth.

Chip Houmes 47:18
and you put a drop of bacteria in the middle of a petri dish and let it set for a week. And then all of a sudden, the bacteria would spread across the whole petri dish.

Chip Houmes 47:30
It’s kind of, it’s kind of the same thing here. Now, if you focus all of your application, if you just dumped it into one end of the pond, it wouldn’t be as effective as if you could go walk around the pond and about every, you know, 12 feet or so, toss a packet out and then walk a few more steps and toss a packet out. That you’re kind of spreading it around and you know, get it out there, you know, 10, 15, 20 feet from the bank. I’ve had great successes with that, you know.

Beth Berry 47:30
Oh, yeah. 

Chip Houmes 47:57
The other side of this, though, is the lake dyes are relatively inexpensive. Copper sulfate is a fairly inexpensive treatment, although it can add up with repeated applications. Our beneficial bacteria are not necessarily really cheap to use. So, we don’t get 10-acre, 20-acre ponds treated normally. We’re treating the the one- and two-acre ponds or maybe smaller, depending on what people’s budgets are and what their expectations are. 

Beth Berry 48:26

Chip Houmes 48:27
You are able to spot treat with this a little bit along like, if you had a, if on a large lake, if you spot treat along the front of a shoreline, and the packets will go down and work on the sludge that’s there. But because they get diluted in the bigger body of water, you’re not as quite as effective. But a lot of times, the bigger body of water doesn’t have the same issues that the smaller ponds do because they’re more stagnant and they don’t have as much flow going around.

Beth Berry 48:56
You’ve just blown my mind. You knocked my socks off. You’ve blown my mind today, Chip. I know that you can purchase Precision Lab products through Advanced Turf Solutions, but for any of our Turfs Up listeners that just need more information on all the knowledge you were dropping today, what’s your contact information?

Chip Houmes 49:16
So, our website is It’s a great source to go to to look at our aquatic page on our website. I think it comes up with kind of a banner page and then you have to find the aquatic page. It’s not that hard to navigate. But and then my name again is Chip Houmes, the last name is spelled H o u m e s. And if people would like to email me with questions, I’ll be happy to respond. My email address is choumes, h o u m e s. First initial c, last name h o u m e s @ Or they could reach out to me on my cell phone, which is 217-260-6943. Or they can text me. I do text. I may be old.

Beth Berry 50:05
You do text.

Chip Houmes 50:07
I’m functional.

Beth Berry 50:07
I love this industry because there’s so many people like you that are like “yeah, give me a call, text me, and I’ll drop everything and give you all the goods on this.” You certainly been a fantastic partner for Advanced Turf and I have learned so much and you’re going to help Turfs Up Radio listeners make more money and add services to their turf and ornamental business. And I have really enjoyed having you today. You have to promise you’ll come back and I feel like such a rookie radio host because, we at Advanced Turf, call you Homes. “Hey, did you call Chip Homes today?” Houmes like Houmes, like it’s bougie and French or something and I did not know that.

Beth Berry 50:08
It is Dutch French. It really is. So, the one thing I didn’t say is if you are choosing to get into the herbicidal application, check your labels for restrictions.

Beth Berry 50:58
Ooo, good one.

Chip Houmes 50:59
Even though they’re safe, even though they’re safe for aquatics, you  can look on there, and some of them have some restrictions on whether you can drink the water or consume it. Some of them have, and that may go more with livestock or if your dogs are drinking and that kind of thing. Most of them, most of them are relatively safe there on that aspect and you can almost always swim in it.

Beth Berry 51:20

Chip Houmes 51:20
And you can consume the fish immediately after applications of most herbicides. But irrigation restrictions, if people are irrigating out of that pond, whether it’s like a greenhouse or a commercial property or golf course, or somebody that’s irrigating, there are some restrictions on that, because you’re putting a herbicide out there that might affect the turf. So, just check your label restrictions but, but know that they’re safe to the fish,

Chip Houmes 51:45
That’s awesome.

Chip Houmes 51:45
and know that they’re, you know. And then the other one is that I should always mention, you know, watch out is if you’re treating for algae with copper sulfate, don’t treat more than a third of the lake at a time. Because if you treat all the algae out at once, it’ll deplete the oxygen. And so you you want to only treat a third of the pond with with that. And, and you have to think about herbicides too. If you have a major herbicide or major milfoil population or pondweed population and you kill all of it that same day. 

Beth Berry 52:16

Chip Houmes 52:17
All that organic matter, when it breaks down, will deplete oxygen, kind of like what we talked about when the lake turns over. You don’t want to have too much of that going on because it can take oxygen out and and that can cause some issues. So, typical rule of thumb is don’t treat more than a third of the lake at a time. Now, if it’s all along the bank and you’re just treating around the perimeter, you’re talking, I’m talking about a third of the total surface area.

Beth Berry 52:38

Chip Houmes 52:38
So, you could go all the way around the outside with no problem.

Beth Berry 52:41

Chip Houmes 52:41
It’s just don’t treat 100% of the of the whole surface area.

Beth Berry 52:45
Love that. Thank you for those cautionary measures. We’re going to have to bring you back. I didn’t even get through 10% of my questions, but we’re going to have to call this a wrap today. I know I’m going to see you on the trails, Chip Houmes. So, this is Elizabeth Berry. From Turfs Up Radio, your industry your station. Thanks so much my friend and we’ll see you soon.