The first sunny, dry days of spring bring with them the sound of lawn mowers and the scent of cut grass. But as iconic as that scene is, lawns can require not only a lot of labor, but also water, fertilizer and chemicals.
In an effort to reduce the impact of the traditional lawns surrounding the state Capitol, the state Department of Enterprise Services is starting an ecolawn pilot project on parts of the campus.
Ecolawns make use of slow-growing grasses, clover and low-growing perennials, according to Jim Erskine, DES spokesman. They typically require less mowing, irrigation, fertilizer and pesticides.
One of the benefits of the ecolawn would be to put in place part of the historic 1920s Olmsted landscape plan for the west campus that called for a meadowlike transition between nearby streets and the formal landscaping near the Capitol Building, Erskine said in a news release.
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Horticulturist Brent Chapman said the state is testing two different types of ecolawn on the Capitol Campus:
▪ On the West Campus, they are letting the existing turf grow out to maturity. There is no startup cost to this approach, and Chapman said the state estimates that the number of mowings required will be reduced by 90 percent.
▪ On the East Campus, they are establishing new ecolawn in six beds that were conventional turfgrass. They have rototilled the beds, added a 1-inch layer of compost. and seeded a mix of fescue grasses, and annual and perennial wildflowers on Friday. The estimated cost for those six beds of ecolawn is $1,950. Chapman said the number of mowings required should be cut in half.
Chapman said the state anticipates saving an estimated 115 hours of mowing time — the equivalent of $6,325 — for 2016 because of the test beds. However, the hours will be reallocated by the campus grounds staff to address high priority grounds maintenance tasks on campus.
Signs will be posted at the test plots. Grounds staff will hand-pull some weeds from the ecolawn site.
As part of the pilot project, the state is seeking public feedback on the ecolawns. To learn more about the project and to provide feedback, go to http://www.des.wa.gov/services/facilities/CapitolCampus/Pages/EcoLawn.aspx.