(Beyond Pesticides, October 12, 2007) One of the nation’s most visible and heavily used plots of turf will be a demonstration site for organic lawn care over the next two years. Over four acres of Washington, DC’s National Mall will be maintained organically in order to determine “whether environmentally friendly treatments . . . can improve the viability of the soil enough to make grass more viable under the extreme compaction conditions of the National Mall,” according to the National Park Service (NPS).
The area will be cared for by SafeLawns.org employees. According to NPS, “SafeLawns.org originally contacted the National Mall & Memorial Parks in Spring of 2007 offering to maintain at no cost to the NPS some portion of the National Mall using proactive environmentally friendly techniques and proceedures.” Among those used are aeration, compost and compost tea applications, and overseeding, all of which comply with Department of the Interior Integrated Pest Management requirements. The Environmental Protection Agency will also conduct independent soil monitoring, along with complete record-keeping of the project.The panels under SafeLawns.org’s care are currently closed to public use, along with others in the eastern half of the National Mall, as part of NPS’s scheduled rotation. They will reopen next April, at which point the lawn’s health will be tested by daily use.
For now, though, the most intensive treatment is underway. The first panel has received “8 [inches] deep tilling for reduction of compaction and aeration . . . Then 450 cubic yards of solid plant material compost were tilled into the soil. The site was re-graded, seeds were applied and a liquid compost mulch applied over the seeds. It will be watered through October, 2007. Panel 2 received core aeration, liquid compost and seeds but, like the NPS panels, will not be irrigated.” A third adjacent panel will be maintained by NPS according to their regular practices as a “control” by which the organic panels may be measured. SafeLawns.org’s work area is between 4th and 7th Streets on the Mall, and will by cared for through August, 2009.
“This is exactly the kind of high visibility project we had in mind when we conceived our organization in February of 2006,” said SafeLawn.org’s founder, Paul Tukey. “If we can grow resilient grass on the National Mall, where 27 million people trample the lawn each year, then we will have demonstrated that we can grow grass anywhere. Most importantly, we’ll have proved that you can grow grass without relying on chemical fertilizers and pesticides that can harm wildlife and contaminate drinking water, as well as cause harm to people and their pets.”