Natural Lawn Care
The debate is out there between a green lawn, and a “green”, sustainable lawn. UWM is no stranger to this debate that is prevalent at a time when sustainability is gaining headlines. There is no simple switch out to go sustainable and reduce the need for pesticides and herbicides. The key to reducing weeds without herbicide is healthy soil. Healthy soil=healthy grass=less weeds. But take the debate back further, and one might see that the typical grass we grow on our lawns is not even a native plant.
Here at UWM, many have traditionally wanted a perfect, weed free lawn. This requires chemical treatment, though staff have been able to reduce the amount of sprayings per year. Right now there are three sprayings per year, that in variation include, synthetic fertilizer, pesticides, and herbicides.
Right to Know: UWM Lawn Chemical Application
Since the Spring of 08’, a natural lawn care demonstration project has been underway on the Merrill Hall horseshoe lawn. No synthetic fertilizer or chemical treatments have been put on this lawn, which is a favorite gathering place for students and staff. This easily defined area has undergone aeration, compost application, and over seeding over the last two years, as an alternative to chemical application. This intensive process is meant to bring more nutrients to the soil, and to grow healthy, thick grass.
Many of the lawns on campus are subject to compaction, due to all of the traffic of our dense, urban setting. This is another inhibitor of growing a healthy lawn. But the real major obstacle to switching to a natural lawn care program campus wide is cost. The labor and materials needed to switch from the traditional chemical applications to full scale natural lawn care program are up to 10x as much. To manage this, UWM’s Grounds staff is training on this process themselves, rather than hiring such services from the outside. The 09’ aeration, compost application, and over seeding were carried out by in-house staff. Time and testing will tell how the soil and grass are improving. Healthy soil and grass should keep the weeds under control.
Moving to a full scale campus natural lawn care program also involves education. It is important for the UWM community to understand its value and the likely hood of a couple of dandelions creeping up. It is important to know the significance of a “green” lawn, over a chemically treated, “pretty” lawn.