After a long and frigid winter, spring is finally here! I do enjoy the change of the seasons, snow, and the bit of reprieve that winter offers, but once March is here, the any novelty that winter had is long gone.
2013 was an exciting year here at Joslyn Art Museum. We chose to make some pretty drastic changes to our lawn and landscape care program by converting from a typical, 5, 6, or 7 step synthetic-based program to one that was almost entirely organic. It was a very experimental move, but the potential rewards seemed worth pursuing.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, the shift from synthetic to organic was driven by a desire to make our campus as safe as possible, but also to improve the soil quality and over-all growing conditions for our turf, trees, and landscape plants by amending the soil. The new turf and landscape care plan that we implemented in 2013 was predominantly organic, using all organic fertilizers, several applications of compost tea, NO synthetic pre-emergents, NO grub control, and NO fungicides. Mowing all turf high at 4.5” was also a key part of the program, as that helps retain soil moisture and reduce soil temperature. I was very pleased with the results of our care program in 2013, and I received a steady flow of comments saying that others were as well. Two foes that I battled intensely in the summers of 2011 and 2012 were turf dollar spot and summer patch fungal diseases, as well as and turf dormancy when the weather was very hot. Last season I was elated when none of our turf went dormant from heat stress, and the turf diseases that I had been fighting were almost non-existent! That’s a huge change! Many problem areas that I had previously had to babysit all summer also seemed to thrive compared to the last 2 years. Needless to say, I think our new organic program went very well, and we’re absolutely moving forward with it again this season.
Although organic lawn and landscape care were big steps toward doing things more naturally and having a positive impact on our environment, we’re always looking for other ways to reduce waste, improve efficiency, and make our operations more environmentally friendly at the Joslyn Art Museum. My propensity to ask “why?” and complete inability to leave well enough alone often lead me in some interesting and unconventional directions when looking for ideas. One point of pondering was the thought of creating a new, more efficient way for me to get around on our campus when I’m not mowing or hauling anything heavy. I landed on the idea that some sort of pedal cart could work, but buying one was expensive. After more brainstorming, I had a plan: take an old bike that my boss, Scott, contributed, get some angle iron and wheels, weld it all together and paint it. The result of my amalgamation is “The Rickshaw.” It’s not exactly something you’d see for sale in SkyMall or Sharper Image, but “it has a great personality.” It should help me save gas, minimize other equipment wear and tear, and reduce noise and emissions. I will also just look darn cool riding it. If it doesn’t work out, I guess I’ll just have to build something else.
In addition to creating The Rickshaw, I’ve also have been experimenting with some biodegradable traction aids on our sidewalks and parking lot to help deal with ice and slick surfaces this winter. Sand and gravel are commonly used, but they accumulate along walks and curbs over time and compact soil. Heavy use of salt and other chlorides also burns turf and plants, harms soil, and can eventually end up in our water supply. Using a biodegradable traction aid not only eliminates gravel accumulation problem, but it also reduces the amount of salt that we have to use to keep our campus traversable in winter weather. We’ll keep experimenting, but I’ve liked the results so far.
Finally, one of the most exciting events of the 2013 season was Joslyn Art Museum’s acceptance as an affiliate site of the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum. This is a huge honor for both me as someone in the horticulture and landscape industry, but also for Joslyn as a whole, considering the Joslyn’s primary identity and function is as an art museum. That’s a great testimony to just how much Joslyn Art Museum has to offer our community, not only in terms of art and culture, but also to lovers of plants and the outdoors.
Before long the weather will be warm and everything will finally be green again. Please join us in celebrating our membership to the Nebraska Statewide Arboretum by visiting our gardens this season! We hope that you’ll enjoy your time here a little more this year, knowing that we work hard to make our campus as inviting, beautiful, and safe as possible for everyone.
Kyle Johnson, Landscape Maintenance Technician
Joslyn’s organic lawn care program supported in part by Omaha Organics Lawn Care.