Outdoor Services Crew

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Parking on Lawns

For most large organizations parking can sometimes be limited because land is hard to come by in a large city environment.  Even though the university has some very large events, the frequency of such does not warrant the amount of dedicated parking spots to handle the large events.  So to deal with these few events which require large amounts of parking, the decision is made to use some of the open lawn area.  One of those very large events is student move-in.  This year there were roughly five-thousand freshmen moving into campus and, unlike regular events where alternative transportation is recommended, it is a little difficult to use that method to move someone’s home.

When we determine parking is going to be allowed on the landscape there are actions that will be taken to help protect the campus property.  One method is to actually place turf mats on top of the irrigation valve boxes so that the weight of the vehicles does not break the irrigation mainline.  Other steps that I use entail roping off areas to prevent vehicles from parking under the drip lines of our trees and shutting down irrigation applications.  This is done to firm up the landscape to protect the grades and prevent "rutting" from heavy vehicles.

Parking on landscape is pretty difficult no matter what steps you take but what you see above is a result of the use of the protection matts. Unfortunately the mats are black and with the high temperatures we had paired with relatively little cloud cover, the mats became extremely hot.  There is a pretty good chance this turf will actually come back since we only had these locations covered for about eight hours and then water was applied.

What you are actually seeing is a result of temperatures under these mats getting so high that the leaf cells actually burst.  A leaf blade is made of many individual cells, each having their own cell walls. These cells basically burst from the extreme heat, with the ruptured cell walls releasing all the chlorophyll and moisture in the leaf, creating this very burned out look to the plant.  In time with proper irrigation the plant will start to push new leaf growth and eventually what you see will be mowed off and fade away.  We were pretty lucky that the mats were not down for too much longer or the crown of the plant could have been damaged, resulting in turf loss.