Outdoor Services Crew

Monday, February 28, 2011

Compost Tea Brewers

We have received all of our parts for this project and have started the installation of the brewers into the pump stations. The pics you see are of the actual brew tank itself. You will also notice the large bag hanging in the center of the tank, this is where you place the compost-also known as the 'tea bag.'

These systems were extremely well built, everything went together perfectly. We are very excited to start using this product during the growing season.

These brewers are very simplistic design and are built for ease of cleaning. After each batch is brewed and injected you need to clean all of the parts. It is very important to clean all of the pipes after the brew to ensure you dont get unwanted organisms growing in the systems, which could potentially contaminate the next brew cycle.

I have attached a video below provided by the manufacture we purchased our systems from. It provides more detail of how the brew is made and some information related to compost tea brewing as well.


Thursday, February 24, 2011

Topdressing Farrand Field

We finally have had the chance to topdress Farrand Field-a couple of months later than I would have liked. Farrand Field is the central gathering place on campus, it is surrounded by residence halls and students like to gather out there to study and play around. This is the intent of this field and it works great, but one major challenge is that the turfgrass is dormant so there is no healing ability this time of the year. There is a potential for severe damage to the plant due to excessive traffic. There are many reasons to topdress a field, preservation of grade is one, inputs of organic material is another, and last, protection of the plant during dormancy. Many golf courses tend to use this method and heavily topdress the greens during the winter to help protect the dormant plant from winter play. While the plant is dormant, ball indentations can't heal and foot traffic at pin locations can destory turf density.

For Farrand Field our winter topdress is to protect the plant and prevent turf loss during the non-growing season. For these winter topdress applications we use 50 tons of a combination of 80 percent sand, 20 percent organic matter mix. The process has many steps to it, but the end product is hard to notice. The feel of the field does not drastically change and the result in the spring is a much more dense turf stand that reacts and heals from winter scars quickly.

We have been topdressing the fields every year since 2002. Since Farrand has been re-built, there has been an increase in winter traffic which creates the need to topdress Farrand three times a year. The result has been great and the field is holding up really well with the amount of traffic it gets.


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Compost Tea

Over the next couple of weeks I will be introducing you to our new Compost Tea Brewing systems. Since I have been at the University, I have been adding fish emulsion, seaweed extract and a wetting agent into the soil. These products are inputs I have made to help with existing microbial life by increasing their numbers which in turn provide many benefits to the soil profile. Some of the major benefits include increased breakdown of organic materials, the release of natural forms of nutrients, which become plant available and help to cut down the need for synthetic fertilizer applications.

One of the most intriguing aspects of compost tea brewing is the large amounts of beneficial micro-organisms that are added to the soil. The process begins with compost being put into a small "tea bag" which is then placed in an oxygen rich tank of water and allowed to brew for up to 36 hours, depending on the temperature of the water. During the brewing process existing micro-organisms in the compost are freed from the compost and become loose in the water and free to float around. During this time a "food" is introduced into the water which provides nutrients for the micro-organisms and thus allows them to reproduce at a high rate. As long as there is food, large amounts of dissolved oxygen, and warm temps, the organisms will prolifically reproduce creating a "tea" of micro-organisms.

Once the brew cycle is finished, this "tea" will be applied to the entire campus landscape. The normal method of application is through backpack sprayers or spray tanks which drive across landscape to apply the product. This method is not viable here at CU-Boulder. We have too many small areas and pedestrian traffic, which would make it very impractical to drive around every inch of landscape to apply this product. Not to mention the time and cost of trying to make such an application happen. So, we are going to try something new, we are going to inject it through our fertigation system. This is a system which injects the product directly into the mainline and allows the existing irrigation infrastructure to make the application for us.

There are challenges to this method, such as if the organisms will survive the "ride" through the pipes and make it through the sprinkler heads and safely onto the landscape. Working with our Compost Tea company, we believe we will only be looking at a mortality of 3-7 percent. Which initially seems like a lot; however, when you consider we will be introducing literally billions of organisms, this seems to be an acceptable loss. The other challenge is quantifying the amount needed to cover the acreage we have here on campus. Again working with our chosen company we have made the necessary calculations and have determined what is needed.

The amounts are large for each delivery system: at our 28th Street pump station we will need to put out 750 gallons of product during an 8 hour water window and at our Varsity pump station we will need to put out 500 gallons. This quantity will provide the proper application to the entire main campus landscape. There are many parts to creating this system and we have received all of our componants and are begining the installation!

I'm really looking forward to using a new technique which hopefully will provide a better growing medium for our landscape.


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hauling Snow

As most of you have realized the past couple of weeks have been fairly snowy and cold. Saturday night, the 1 inch dusting that was predicted actually turned into about 7 inches. Which means, Super Bowl Sunday became a day of snow removal. We can usually handle back to back snow storms of less than 3 inches per storm without running out of room for snow storage. However, with the 7 inches we recieved, we quickly filled up all of our dump locations and we were faced with a storm only two days later that was projected to possibly give us an additional 5-10 inches. CU-Boulder has a standing order contract with an earth work company here in Boulder, which we use as support for our operation when the amounts get to large for our staff and equipment.

We tend to use this contractor for plow support, but when we need large amounts of snow removed they have the equipment to tackle this job for us. As you all know, the campus is a very tightly clustered grouping of buildings which makes for a lot of sidewalks but not a lot of locatons to put snow for long term storage. On average, we have to haul snow two times per winter. This is our first time this year, but last year we hauled frequently due to the fact that it was the second snowiest winter in Boulder's history.
Partnerships like this one are absolutely crucial for efficient maintenance and operations of the campus. They allow campus to remain open during as many storms as possible.


Interesting Find

Recently a section of broken sidewalk was becoming a trip hazard to pedestrians. The Concrete Shop went to repair this section; however, with an 100-year-old campus, sometimes surprises are buried underneath the most common areas.

During the progression of this blog I will often speak about the raw water or ditch water that is used by the university. In 1876, CU received its first shares of water from the Anderson Ditch, which was, and to this day is, used to irrigate the landscape. What you see above is a previously unkown ditch lateral near the Old Main building. Taking a look back at our historic maps, there are no records of this lateral. That said, there is no way of knowing exactly how old it is. There is no evidence of the rest of the lateral anywhere nearby, so it is unkown where it began and where it ended. It had been filled with gravel and covered with a concrete sidewalk.

To help introduce what a ditch is, and how CU-Boulder uses them, you can visit this site. A few years back, Elizabeth Black, while conducting research for her web site, worked with me to identify history of ditches on CU-Boulder's campus. Her site includes tons of information on the 150 year history of ditches in Boulder.