The College’s picturesque Duck Pond has an environmentally friendly new look this summer. What was once a swath of clipped lawn bordering the Pond is now a three-acre meadow where tall grasses and wildflowers dance in the wind.
According to Haverford ‘s campus sustainability officer Claudia Kent, who is also the College’s grounds manager, cutting back on the use of fume-spewing gasoline-powered mowers reduces the amount of greenhouse gases released into the atmosphere. Shifting from mowed lawn to wild meadow also provides wildlife habitat and a reliable food source for animals, and can help reduce, or even eliminate storm water runoff and erosion.
Haverford began the move away from mowing five years ago starting in the Pinetum, which is now entirely meadow except for some paths mowed through for the College’s cross-country runners. The Pinetum was also planted with wildflowers on the north end.
Well-mowed lawns are still a major feature of the campus landscape, though, and those are getting the eco-conscious treatment as well. One change is the College’s use of fertilizer, which is a key ingredient in keeping grass (which would grow to be 18-24 inches tall if left alone) alive and lush despite the stresses of shearing. Instead of synthetic fertilizers, which can end up washing down a storm drain and polluting rivers and streams, Haverford’s grounds crew uses an organic fertilizer in the form of composted chicken manure, which feeds the soil as well as the grass. Also helping to keep the lawn healthy is a regular program of aeration, which allows water, oxygen and nutrients to get to the roots more easily.
“Feeding the soil, coupled with aeration to reduce soil compaction, is a more sustainable approach,” says Kent.