Outdoor Services Crew

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Traffic Paths

When new buildings are constructed we always have a change in pedestrian traffic patterns. The paths are caused by the pedestrians as they choose to not use the designated sidewalks and take the lazy route. As you can see in the below picture, instead of putting a hand rail along the sidewalk to prevent the cut through, the decision was made to place trees instead, which would hopefully change the look of the open lawn. As you can see it didn't work.
These paths are extremely frustrating to the grounds staff who are constantly working hard to make the campus as beautiful as possible; however, these paths also represent a cost impact to the campus. There is a lot of work put in during the design phase of projects to help identify possible locations where this could happen. It is always amazing to see the amount of design work that goes into preventing these paths, only to have the resilience of these lazy pedestrians come through and find a way.
 In the grounds and landscape community, these paths are unofficially named "Cow Paths" because they closely resemble the look of trails formed on cattle ranches. This term may not be the most politically correct way to describe these paths but the impacts match perfectly to the term. As you can see in the above picture, there is a full grown row of trees and the pedestrians have found a way to cut through a small gap in the branches. 


Thursday, April 7, 2011

Arbor Day Tree Planting Ceremony and Tree Campus USA Certification

Please join us on Friday, April 15, 2011 beginning at 11 a.m. for a celebration of CU-Boulder being certified as a Tree Campus USA, as well as a ceremonial tree planting for Arbor Day.    These activities will take place in the ‘meadow’ area, downhill from the northwest corner of Macky, across the street from the Armory building, along University Avenue.  (Vince Aquino posted an interesting article about the removal of two large willows in this same general area on March 7).
Keith Wood, Urban Forester from the the Colorado State Forest service will be on hand to present the University with our Tree Campus USA recognition materials.  After that, we will be planting two Sweet Gum trees. Our event will conclude with some light refreshments and the opportunity for our guests to talk to tree care professionals about trees and  proper tree care.  We are also expecting special guests including Vice Chancellor for Administration, Frank Bruno, staff from the City of Boulder  Forestry division,  other campus administrators as well as the members of the Tree Campus USA committee. Everyone is invited to join us in this age old tradition.

In the case of poor weather, we will move the ceremony to the Heritage Center in Old Main, followed by the planting at a back up location along the historic president’s walk near the east side of the Alumni Center. Please wear comfortable shoes, as the ceremony and planting will be in a natural area.
I hope to see you there.  Alan

Strange Things

One interesting thing to watch in the springtime is which plants start to awake from dormancy at different times under the exact same conditions. This is usually best seen in lawn areas where patches of green turf show up while there are still patches of dormant turf. Often this is because there are different types of cultivars of turf and even different species, which is close to impossible to recognize with an untrained eye. 
Then there are other times where it is plain to see.
The above is a classic example of what I mean. In the picture you clearly notice two of the shrubs are fully leafing out and starting to actively grow. This row of shrubs was all installed at the same time during the construction of the Discovery Learning Center. They are obviously in the same location with the same irrigation, shade and other environmental impacts.
These shrubs are of the same species but are slightly different cultivars. This cultivar may have a slightly different genetic characteristic which is more conducive to growth at a slightly lower soil temperature. This has allowed these plants to start the spring growth much earlier than the rest of the bed. The other plants are starting to create leaf buds but are a couple of weeks behind the others. During this phase it can take on the appearance that these are the only two plants that have made it through the winter; which can cause some alarm. However, after closer inspection, the other plants are just fine they are just a little behind their brothers and sisters.

This is one interesting part of Mother Nature, such little changes can have drastic affects on the landscape and its growth habbits.


Getting Closer!

With spring fast approaching we are starting to have to mow some of our micro-climate locations. The campus is a very compact area with many diverse locations, such as having either direct south facing sunlight ob one side and the north side receives little to no direct sunlight. This poses a challenge from a plant perspective considering certain areas will start to act as though it is summer time while others are still in winter dormancy.

As you can see in this picture, we have just put our first cut on the turf areas south of Ketchum. As with any early spring mowing there are many items in the turf such as partially decomposed leaf material, sticks, mulch etc. So the first few mowings always tend to look a little trashy.
During our recent temperature tests we have been starting to see many south facing locations getting close to or over the 50 degree threshold and yet the north areas, or heavily shaded locations, are still in the low 40s. The importance of the 50 degree threshold in lansdscape terms means that the plants will start to fully wake up from dormancy and begin active growth. In addition the soild microbial life starts to become active again which is very important to the overall health of the plant.

These south facing locations can be good and bad. During the early spring they are nice because you start to get a taste of spring and summer. a little color starts to come back to the landscape and things start to feel like summer. The downside is when the heat is truly on during July and August the same locations become a major challenge to maintain. Irrigation checks are done regularly at these locations-even missing one irrigation cycle in some of these areas can cause the turf to go dormant and brown out. At those same times the north side locations and shady areas are loving life and are looking great.

This is just a small part of the nature of the business and the crucial importance to daily monitoring of the landscape to try and prevent problems.

Mother Nature controls what happens, all we are trying to do is minimize the changes through proper cultural practices.