Sustainable Landscape Maintenance Project
The research phase of this project has been completed. Thanks to the vision and dedication of the students who have worked on this project, our sustainable methods have been adopted on 1/3 of campus lawns, and spraying with hazardous herbicides has been discontinued on all campus lawns! We express our deep appreciation to the NAU Green Fund for supporting this important work and Facility Services for partnering with us in this project! We will continue to work with Facility Services to expand sustainable methods to all of the campus landscape.Read more
The purpose of the Sustainable Landscape Maintenance Project is to identify environmentally-friendly landscaping practices which will reduce or eliminate the need for chemical inputs on the NAU campus.
It seeks methods which are non-polluting, cost-effective, and result in an aesthetically pleasing landscape that does not pose a health risk to students, faculty, staff, and visitors.
We are a
student-run project funded by students through NAU’s Green Fund. Our team is
striving to help make the NAU campus better for students, faculty, staff, and
the greater community by eliminating the health risks associated with synthetic
herbicides. Through our research and
actions, we hope to conserve resources and protect the environment through the
use of more sustainable methods of lawn care. Additionally, we hope to find
methods that will save the Grounds Department time and money.
Beginning in 2011, we established research areas on campus where we are testing sustainable
landscaping practices, such as removing weeds by hand and improving soil health,
and then comparing our resulting lawn quality with areas being maintained by
NAU using traditional methods, such as spraying with synthetic herbicides.
Research areas include a test site, where we apply sustainable materials
and practices, and a control site,
which we monitor but do not maintain. On
each test and control site, we collect data on:
- Soil quality, including pH,
salinity, nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and micronutrients.
- Weed abundance (how many weeds are growing) and diversity (what kind of weed is growing)
- Turf quality: How dense
and healthy is the grass? Is it
aesthetically pleasing as a lawn?
Test plots have received
a variety of treatments. Any products
used on test sites are approved for organic use through OMRI (Organic Materials
- Corn gluten meal: Prevents weed seeds from establishing and provides an organic
source of nitrogen, which is an important food for turfgrasses.
- Sulfur: Lowers pH (soil alkalinity/acidity). All of our sites are alkaline, which is not
ideal for turf.
- Compost: Improves soil quality
by encouraging microbial activity and increasing water percolation and
- Overseeding: Increasing grass
density reduces the ability of weeds to establish. We use both traditional seeds (Kentucky
bluegrass and perennial rye) as well as native seeds (Blue grama, sheep fescue).