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Green Landscaping Best Practices

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Compiled by FacilitiesNet Staff

Today’s grounds care managers have more opportunities than ever to save energy, decrease water use and maximize resources, while creating eco-friendly and aesthically pleasing environments. But achieving these goals will require managers to look at both the products and practices their grounds care department use.

Achieving healthy soil and following green landscaping practices often means reducing the amount of chemical applications.

“It would be easy to put down chemicals that kill weeds, but what I’m trying to do is build soil that is conducive to growing the grass and plants I want to grow,” says Jeffrey Weiser, grounds manager with Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C.

“The chemical will kill the weed, but it won’t really solve the problem,” adds Kevin O’Donnell, superintendent of grounds with Villanova University. “A better strategy might be to look at factors associated with a particular weed, such as compacted soil, and solve that problem.”

The use of synthetic pesticides also is a concern of several municipalities throughout the United States and Canada. Several communities have set up reduction strategies to help promote green landscaping, while others have completely banned products.

States and communities also are regulating lawn fertilizers more heavily. Restrictions apply to fertilizers containing phosphorous — and in some areas, high levels of soluble nitrogen — to protect water supplies from damaging nutrient pollutants.

One green landscaping practice catching national attention involves topdressing lawns with compost. Compost often is unregulated and untested, and some composts might not be suitable for certain lawns. Pesticide residues and heavy metals found in some compost create concerns for end users.

Focus on Water
Some organizations have taken major steps to curtail water use in response to shortages, rising prices and the call for green landscaping practices. Landscaped areas have come under particular scrutiny in the search for savings on water use.

Water-conservation efforts might include shutting down irrigation systems during months with more rainfall, incorporating drip irrigation and pressure reducers on systems to lower water volume, and adding composted materials to soil to retain moisture. Some managers have installed irrigation systems that monitor rainfall.

Managers also should monitor water leaving the grounds. Runoff can cause problems downstream, such as chemical pollution, and negatively impact the surrounding community.

Related Articles:
Landscape Management: Irrigation Strategies and Soil Mixtures
Grounds Care Goes Green