Jump to content
  • entries
  • comments
  • views

Pursue Sustainability Where You Find It

Joseph Fearn


Several weeks ago Drury Grounds was asked to collaborate on the installation of several raised beds to be planted with vegetables and herbs. The produce from these beds would be used in the dining halls and by individual students. Local produce (also native plants) grown as organically as possible (applies for turf also) is a great nod toward a sustainable system. My problem was that the project itself did not maximize sustainability in both its concept and its construction. This made me realize that sustainability cannot just be a destination, nor can it be approached only in part.


Sustainability at every turn

When I weedeat or edge in our mowing operation, I feel like a hypocrite. I can't help but imagine that all the environmental benefit from planting trees and reducing our mowing frequency is being lost in the manufacturing and the emissions of my weedeater. But I shouldn't think like this at all. I have to operate within the system I am employed in.


My predecessor didn't concern himself with emissions. The weedeaters Drury used three years ago were outdated and ran poorly. Our current fleet of 2-stroke equipment is all as efficient and clean running as available. All new landscaping projects are evaluated for mowability, and choke points are designed out so we can increase large mower areas. Our bigger mowers are our cleanest burning equipment so this also helps in the big picture. The point is we have to weedeat, so we do it as sustainably as possible.



Bed consolidation to minimize weedeating and improve mowing efficiency.


Sustainability is where you find it

Part of my turf maintenance regime is to fertilize high value turf areas with corn gluten (CG). Reputable research is available espousing CG as an effective fertilizer (http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G6749). *As a resident of Missouri I try to stay with the Extension guides from University of Missouri in Columbia, MO*.


Using organic fertilizers in themselves is a great step towards sustainability, but it can be taken even farther. I contacted the Missouri corn producers (http://www.mocorn.org/) to try to learn about using local corn. To my recollection they said that it would be very difficult to determine where my CG came from because of the massive quantities produced in the region, and the centralized nature of processing and shipping. But I am thinking about local sourcing and production in all my purchasing because of the sustainable benefits.


53de05471517153463204f34a98abf4f-.jpgI have found that buying feed grade CG is effective. It is not sold as a fertilizer, and has not been processed for turf application. Feed grade CG resembles the pellets you feed animals at the zoo, not the granular shape of turf fertilizers. But the Andersons 2000 and Frontier 3 pt. hitch spreaders we use handle it no problem. The greatest benefit is that the price is less than what I would pay for processed granular fertilizer and the analysis is the same.


Very often, the greatest sustainability is not spending your dollars in the first place, so this program and product is very effective as a sustainability component. Since the CG is not pulverized to process, I think it has soil building capabilities (think labile humus), although this is an empirical theory at this point.


Creating Sustainable Alternatives

My point to the raised gardens project was if someone wants a raised garden, but has no money to buy supplies, what do they do? A student group wanted to install a rain garden to capture roof runoff. We located an area that channeled a lot of runoff where we could install an experimental project. Traditional rain gardens use swales to retain and infiltrate rain water. We could not dig due to underground utilities so swales were out of the question. We needed to install berms instead, but didn't want to destroy the area with skidsteers, nor work with (or pay for) large quantities of topsoil.


Our solution was to use hay bales as 'forms' to build berms and cover them with topsoil so we could plant native marsh plants to hold the berms together. The hay bales offered several advantages. They are cheap, locally sourced, easy to move and arrange, can resist erosion while the plant roots knit, have volume to diminish imported soil need, and decompose so we can leave them in place (erosion socks need to be removed). The problem we did not foresee was they shrink as they decompose. But this is the process in pursuing sustainability -- live and learn.



Rain garden created with hay bales


Worth the Effort

Ultimately the greatest benefit of all our sustainability efforts (many others are underway), is the awareness and shared goals they create. We are able to support other stakeholder's goals, thereby creating the goodwill that makes them supportive of our (Grounds) goals. And that is the most sustainable objective of all.


Recommended Comments

There are no comments to display.

Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...