The images that come to mind when you think about the causes of climate change are big cars and trucks and coal-fired power plants that emit carbon to the atmosphere. Although the popular press is filled with discussions on the relative merits of different sources of “green energy,” little attention is being paid to how we manage the carbon in our soils.
Intensively managed turfgrasses, such as those on golf course putting greens, athletic fields, and other high-traffic areas, have traditionally been grown on soils modified through the addition of both organic and inorganic amendments. This is done to minimize compaction and other plant stresses, and to improve plant-soil relationships for the enhancement of turf growth.
Last Monday, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Parks Commissioner Adrian Benepe opened Elmhurst Park, a former brownfield turned greenspace, in Queens.
The $20-million six-acre project began in 2007 at the request of the community for more open space. The park replaces the former KeySpan gas tank site and features a new playground, a decorative fountain, lighting, new trees and landscaping, fencing, walking paths, benches, and the renovation of an existing building that will be used for maintenance staff.
Green with envy is the way the Upton Parks Department staff might describe the town’s sports fields these days. That’s because thanks to Gary Harper and John Johnson of the Parks Department, Upton’s athletic fields are going green and, as a bonus, saving money.
Quality compost is a valuable and versatile soil amendment for today’s horticultural industry and turfgrass industries. Compost contains two elements necessary for healthy plant growth: organic matter and diverse beneficial microbial populations.
Microbes are an integral link in the food chain and natural defense system of plant material. A lack of microbes in the soil profile reduces the efficient uptake of nutrients by the plant and allows soil borne pathogens access to the root system.
Manufactured soils are a creative source of topsoil for use in constructed wetlands or in wetland restoration projects. These soils are normally produced by mixing on-site or off-site mineral material, with compost from various sources. Industry experts recommend the following soil characteristics for most constructed wetlands in New Hampshire.
Communities can protect water resources by instituting minimum requirements for organic matter in soil. Compost, much of which is generated locally, when incorporated into soil improves water holding capacity and soil quality. By incorporating compost into soil for establishment of lawns and landscape plantings, water used for irrigation is conserved and the potential for groundwater contamination is reduced.
The distribution and use of composts made from Biosolids (organic matter recovered from the treatment of wastewater) is regulated by both the US EPA and various state regulatory agencies. Composts distributed by Agresource meet the highest standards established by state agencies and EPA (Class A Exceptional Quality) and therefore can be safely used on home lawns and landscapes.
Mulching is one of the most widely used cultural practices in ornamental landscapes. Many types of mulch that are used in landscape plantings are largely wood and made by grinding waste wood, e.g. pallets. The wood mulch is dyed to improve its appearance and to resemble bark, but has a very high carbon to nitrogen (C:N) ratio.
If you have been searching for ways to improve turf performance in marginal or poor soils, consider using compost as a soil amendment. In clay soils, good quality compost will improve structure, reduce surface crusting and compaction, promote drainage, and provide nutrients. In sandy soils, compost increases water and nutrient retention, supplies nutrients, and increases microbial activity.
The organic matter content of soil has a direct relationship to the soils ability to hold and retain water. For example, soil scientists report that for every 1% of organic matter content, the soil can hold 16,500 gallons of plant available water per acre of soil down to one foot deep (source: ATTRA). Golf courses can take advantage of this relationship to find significant savings on the cost of water used for irrigation.