As reported here throughout the past few months, the SafeLawns Foundation and the Glenstone Foundation are partnering with the University of Maryland’s world-renowned turfgrass department on a long-term study to review the efficacy of organic lawn care. After months of planning, researchers broke ground in the last two weeks at test plots, both at the university’s turfgrass research station and also at Glenstone itself, which is the site of a prestigious modern art museum in Potomac, Md.
The photos, below, emulate many of the steps a homeowner might undertake in a fall renovation:
Dr. Mark Carroll, the project’s lead researcher, stakes out the trial area.
Graduate student Siqi Chen mows the grass to 2 inches, bagging the clippings to collect any weed seeds.
Next, Dr. Carroll, left, oversees the aeration of some of the plots; others were left untouched in the study for comparison.
The core aerator made one pass in each direction, pulling up thousands of tubes of soil and turf and leaving holes that compost, air and water can easily enter.
Next, Siqi dethatched the lawn to remove any dead grass and surface roots.
UMD’s Peter Flack then raked the thatch off the affected plots. In a home lawn renovation situation, overseeding immediately after dethatching is highly recommended.
UMD’s Mathew Kasalaruis spread a carefully calculated amount of compost over each of the plots. Two different types of composts were used — one from leaves and one from human waste (biosolids). And different depths of compost were also applied in various plots so that researchers can evaluate any variability in outcomes. By design, all the products used in these trials will be readily available to the public in Maryland.
Applying different treatments to 36 different 10 by 10 plots took the research team several hours. The crew will return monthly to evaluate differences in the trial plots and, beginning next spring, will apply compost teas to one half of all the plots to evaluate the impact of the liquid.
Meanwhile, the lawn on the Glenstone campus, which has not had synthetic fertilizer applied in more than 15 months, was shimmering green just as the maples were at the peak of fall color last week.