Sustainable Initiatives of Grounds at CSB
Most people don't know what goes into maintenance of the grounds at CSB. Chris Brake, Director of Grounds, sat down to explain some initiatives the grounds crew is taking to be more sustainable.
Grass and Turf
The grounds crew employs three methods to reduce the need for fertilizer on campus: grass cycling, humic acid application, and mycorrhizae.
The seasons require different resources and procedures in order maintain healthy grounds on campus. During the months where the grass needs to be mowed, the grounds crew has started to leave grass clippings on the grass instead of collecting them and throwing them out. Leaving the grass clippings on the grass and allowing them to decompose, known as grass cycling, has the same effect as approximately 3 applications of fertilizer. This is just one of the ways we are reducing fertilizer use overall.
Another way we are cutting down fertilizer is by using a humic acid product called Hydra Hume. Humic acid is a natural organic compound formed in soils from plant residues by the process of humification. This product is used with small amounts of fertilizer and enhances the effects of the fertilizer. The humic acid is a natural organic compound formed in soils from plant residues by the process of humification. It increases soil fertility, root vitality, fertilizer retention and chlorophyll synthesis, improves root uptake, provides better seed germination, and stimulates microbial activity. These benefits make it possible for us to rely less on synthetic fertilizer.
One other product that the grounds crew is using to reduce the use of synthetic fertilizer is a biological product that has benefits to roots and soil. This product is called Arbuscular Mycorrhizae. It is used on the lawn and turf areas and creates a deeper and stronger root system. The mycorrhizae leads to increased resistance to pathogens and water stress, limiting the need for pesticides as well as decreasing the amount of water needed to maintain the areas.
Winter and De-Icing
During the winter months, the grounds crew works diligently to ensure that the sidewalks and roads on campus are clear of ice and snow to ensure safety of all of us. Eco-Thaw and Green Guard are two products that have similar effects of coarse salt, but have drastically lower environmental impacts. Eco-Thaw is 80% less corrosive than rock salt and, if used correctly, reduces application rates by 25%. Because it doesn't require as many applications, it reduces overall environmental damage to soil and turf.
Green Guard, an anti-icing product used before a storm, is all natural, non-chloride, and biodegradable. Because it is all natural it doesn't harm the lawn, shrubs, or vegetation, and it is not corrosive to concrete and metal like most sodium, magnesium, and calcium chloride products. The combination of these two products does less overall damage to the environment than conventional methods, and is a step in the right direction for a sustainable campus.
The Landscape Master Plan
The College of Saint Benedict is in the process of developing a landscape master plan, which will ultimately result in a more cohesive and sustainable approach to managing our grounds. One focus of the plan is to use native plant materials where possible including grasses and to identify the use for each area and landscape accordingly.
We hire a contractor to grind our brush into mulch, which is then used on campus instead of being burned or taken off to a landfill. We also compost flower garden refuse and leaves.
There is a perception on campus that the college does a lot of spraying to control pests. In reality, it is just the opposite. Although problems with pests are rare, when we do have them, we take the least toxic approach possible to eradicate them. One product, called TreeTanglefoot is made out of organic material and prevents pests from climbing up trees and destroying the leaves. Using this product is a good preventative measure to control the pest population.