Feature Article - April 2011
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Maintenance Series: Eco-Friendly

Clean and Green
Eco-Friendlier Maintenance Practices

By Dawn Klingensmith

When Grass Is Not Green

From a maintenance standpoint, lawns require an inordinate amount of time and resources to maintain. From an environmental standpoint, lawns absorb much less storm water than forests or meadows. Heavily compacted turf soils can be virtually impermeable, compounding storm water runoff problems. Large expanses of turf grass do little to support biodiversity.

Best practices with regard to turf grass include reducing its use, especially in shaded, steeply sloped, natural or hard-to-maintain areas. Replace it wherever possible with mulch, ground covers or native vegetation. Where turf is used, allow it to grow at least slightly higher than conventional mowing height to conserve water and energy, and leave grass clippings after mowing to reduce moisture loss.

While sports fields must be maintained so as to provide a safe playable surface, "There are new ways of irrigating them, using sub-surface drip systems, to where you're only watering the root zone and not just dumping water on top," allowing much of it to evaporate, Robertson said.

Drip irrigation as opposed to spray heads saves water and is better for plant health.

Storm water can be captured and retained onsite and infiltration used instead of piping and draining.

Potable water should be treated as an especially valuable resource, as it takes a significant amount of energy to clean and deliver it. Likewise, storm water should be looked at as a resource. Instead of a nuisance that needs to be managed, storm water should be captured.

Creative water management designs provide educational opportunities, too.