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Landscaping Archives Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

Posts Tagged ‘Landscaping’

Tree relocations save trees from destruction

Friday, February 4th, 2011

Photo courtesy of Jim Mussetter, University Arborist

With the help of some serious equipment, Landscaping Services staff members successfully removed 24 trees from the future site of the business school, Farrell Hall, and transplanted them at three locations: the new Welcome Center, South Hall, and North Campus Apartments.

The various maples, oaks and redbuds that made up the initial transfer group were moved during the dead of winter to promote their chance of survival in their new locations. Trees lie dormant during the cold months, making it easier to transplant them with minimal risk to the root system.

“I don’t know but I don’t believe we’ve ever lost a tree on campus that we’ve transplanted with a large spade,” reported David Davis, Manager of Landscaping Services.

Though the university has relocated trees in the past, the practice had not been common in recent years. University Arborist Jim Mussetter, who has worked in Landscaping Services for 19 years, could recall few instances when trees had been saved from construction sites during his tenure.

According to Mussetter, the decision to relocate the trees, rather than to remove them, was made largely in response to the negative reaction from the Wake Forest community to the removal of many trees from the new admissions center site last fall. The effort to relocate trees is also in keeping with the university’s commitment to tree care that is articulated in the newly adopted Campus Tree Care Plan.

The Campus Tree Care Plan was created by a team of Facilities and Campus Services staff members led by Jim Coffey and Jim Alty, with assistance from two interns in the Office of Sustainability. The plan meets guidelines established by the Arbor Day Foundation. The completion of, and adherence to, this plan is just one crucial step on the way to Tree Campus USA designation, anhonor bestowed on colleges and universities that have demonstrated a commitment to prudent care of their trees, including their protection during construction projects.

In addition to articulating tree care guidelines, the Tree Care Plan also provides the framework for a new Tree Advisory Committee and a commitment to an annual Arbor Day celebration.

By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern

Faces of Sustainability: Jim Coffey

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

Though his daily duties change with the seasons, one element remains constant for Director of Landscaping Services, Jim Coffey – he’s always busy. Coffey, who celebrates his 25th year with the university this year, has assembled a stellar team of landscaping gurus over the years. Together, they’ve guided the university’s evolution into the park-like landscape so frequently cited by prospective students as a selling point for Wake Forest.

“Each spring I walk around campus and get goose bumps because I can see how the landscape has changed,” Coffey said.

Coffey’s appreciation for the natural environment was instilled in him at a young age by grandparents who loved gardening. As he grew, so did his love of landscaping. Twenty-five years ago, just three years after graduating with a bachelor of science in agriculture, Coffey joined the university’s landscaping team in their former offices – an old barn with a wood stove and no bathrooms.

He stuck with the rugged conditions and early hours (during the summers, the crews may arrive before 6 a.m. to beat the Carolina heat) and became instrumental not only in the continuing growth of the university’s landscape, but in the fledgling sustainability movement as well.

When the university began its recycling efforts in 1990, Coffey worked with students to manage the new program. Two decades later, the university diverts over 30 percent of its waste from landfills and has hired a Waste Reduction and Recycling Manager to work on the program full-time.

In addition to serving as the long-standing staff advisor for SEAC, the student environmental action group on campus, Coffey takes great pride in the Adopt an Area program on campus. Coffey worked with leaders of various Greek organizations on campus to arrange a campus adoption and clean-up program. Each spring and fall, members of these organizations turn out to beautify the campus, alongside landscaping staff.

When he’s not actively working toward a more sustainable future with the university’s students, Coffey dons different caps to perform a dizzying array of administrative and managerial tasks including administrating intra-campus moves and many aspects of special events on campus. His work may also take him to Graylyn, a university rental property, or even the President’s House.

Though Coffey cites variety as one of his favorite aspects of his job, the joy of planting remains close to his heart. Many of his most cherished accomplishments have involved national media attention for the university’s meticulously cared for grounds. In addition to high-profile exposure during the Presidential debates in 1988 and 2000, the team received the Professional Grounds Management Society and Landscape Management Magazine’s 2004 “Grand Award.”

Summarizing Coffey’s approach to working with the natural beauty that makes the Wake Forest campus so unique, he said “We see ourselves as artists — we add a little more paint to the canvas each year.”

By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern

Goats devour university’s kudzu invasion

Monday, October 18th, 2010

Facilities and Campus Services recently turned to an unlikely source for its landscaping needs: goats. Though unusual in the Winston-Salem cityscape, these narrow-faced, cloven-footed animals were one of the earliest creatures domesticated and have been devouring leafy vegetation indiscriminately alongside their human counterparts for some 10,000 years.

Today the use of goats – animals that are natural browsers, preferring leafy vegetation to grass – for landscaping has seen a resurgence, especially in light of recent global sustainability concerns.

The university seized the opportunity to partner with Piedmont Goatscapers, Inc. of Lewisville, N.C. in response to a demand identified in the Campus Master Plan. When surveying the campus for the plan, Landscaping Services documented the proliferation of invasive species – particularly kudzu – in and around campus forested areas and launched a plan of attack to eliminate these plants. During the growing season, a single kudzu plant can develop up to 100 vines that each grow about a foot per day. These vines quickly overcome even the tallest and most healthy native trees, causing serious harm to local forests.

Goatscaping is both time and cost effective according to Jim Coffey, Director of Landscaping Services. “What the goats can do with three or four herdsmen would take a whole army, just for the section of land along Reynolda Road,” Coffey said. “There are just spots we cannot get to that the goats can by meandering through the woods.”

The goats simply eat away at the kudzu vines until they are full, while the herdsmen direct them toward invasive plants and away from native species. In addition, the herdsmen destroy the root balls of the plants to prevent them from growing back.

These animals are the perfect energy efficient substitute for heavy machinery and dangerous chemical herbicides when dealing with invasive species like kudzu. Goats require no fuel beyond the plant matter they consume. They provide natural, chemical-free fertilizer -in the form of droppings – while browsing.  And, they can provide other services beyond their feeding habits.

The goats that make up the Piedmont Goatscapers, Inc.  herd return home to the farm after long days of feeding to be milked for goats’ milk soap. The university is currently exploring options to purchase this soap. This would close the loop on campus by turning unwanted kudzu vines into desirable, useful soap for use by students and staff.

This initial pilot project was hugely successful. Financing is currently in the works to continue goatscaping on other wooded areas of campus.

By Caitlin Brooks, Communications and Outreach Intern

FAQ: Landscaping water usage

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

Q. I’ve noticed how beautiful the Wake Forest gardens are, but isn’t all that landscaping water intensive, particularly during the summer when the flowers are in bloom and water is at a premium?

A. Though landscaping, particularly on a large scale like at the university, requires a lot of input, there are many simple ways to minimize the amount of water needed throughout the lifecycle of the gardens. According to David Davis, Manager of Landscaping Services at the University, plans for water use reduction begin in the design phase and extend throughout the life of the plant. From plant selection for particular locations on campus to planting schedules and water wise practices such as “spot watering,” the university’s landscaping department tries to minimize their water use while maximizing the beauty of the grounds.

David Davis provides details below:

At the design phase we simply choose plants that most likely suit the site in regards to available water.” For example a south facing slope would naturally be much drier than level or low ground on the north side of a building. Simply put, choosing the right plant for the site is the first and maybe the most important step in the process.  At installation we amend the soil with organic matter which improves overall soil structure and holds moisture. After planting we add mulch which insulates the soil from drying winds and the sun and helps to conserve moisture.

Whenever possible we try to plant during the dormant season to allow plants to establish a good root system before the summer months therefore requiring less watering the first season. However sometimes circumstances dictate that we plant during late spring or summer when water needs are high. Much of our new shrub and tree planting is hand watered from a spigot or a mobile water tank. Although time consuming hand watering or spot watering is very water wise as only the plants that need water receive water rather that the entire surrounding landscape.

We have recently installed several new irrigation controllers which are controlled by a PC. These new smart systems are linked to a “weather station” here on campus which will shut the system off in the event of a significant rain. There are also flow sensors that monitor and shut down the system should a major leak occur. A notification is then noted on the PC that there is a problem allowing us to find and fix problems in a timely manner. Also many of our new irrigation systems have drip irrigation for the shrub beds rather than sprinklers. Drip irrigation is very efficient putting water only where it is needed.

Caitlin Brooks, Outreach and Communications Intern

FAQ: Landscaping Water Usage

Sunday, January 10th, 2010

Q. I’ve noticed how beautiful the Wake Forestgardens are, but isn’t all that landscaping water intensive, particularly during the summer when the flowers are in bloom and water is at a premium?

A. Though landscaping, particularly on a large scale like at the university, required a lot of input, there are many simple ways to minimize the amount of water needed throughout the life-cycle of the gardens. According to David Davis, Manager of Landscaping Services at the University, plans for water use reduction begin in the design phase and extend throughout the life of the plant. From plant selection for particular locations on campus to planting schedules and water wise practices such as “spot watering,” the university’s landscaping department tries to minimize their water use while maximizing the beauty of the grounds.
For more information on the university’s landscaping water-saving practices, read Davis’ interview here.