Keeping the campus lawns and green spaces in good aesthetic condition is a year-round challenge for the grounds maintenance staff at the University of St Andrews in Fife. A high intensity of pedestrian traffic and a shorter than average growing season make maintaining a healthy grass sward an ongoing challenge, but a proactive fertiliser application programme ensures the lawns are as robust as possible, with only the very worst damage requiring a complete re-seed to rectify.
The University of St Andrew’s grounds service team looks after a total of 200 acres of fine lawns, amenity grounds and open civic spaces which are used by the University’s 7,200 students and 1,800 staff, and in some cases, the city’s 17,000 residents.
This closely packed population causes significant damage in the form of ‘desire lines’ or erosion on unofficial footpaths which adds to the damage caused by pedestrian traffic from an almost constant stream of graduation ceremonies, academic events, balls and parties, a high number of which are held in temporary marquees on the campus lawns.
“Our northerly location means we have a shorter than average growing season compared to many parts of the UK,” explains Donald Steven, Ground Foreman. “We also have an elevated pedestrian population which makes grass erosion and soil damage a real problem. The aftermath of marquee events can have a major impact on grass growth, but by using slow release fertilisers on vigorous grass cultivars, we are able to keep most grassed areas in good condition and only have to re-seed or re-turf the very worst affected areas.”
Many of the University’s lawns are sown with Germinal’s A5 seed mixture, which combines three perennial ryegrass cultivars for quick establishment, high density ground cover and hard wearing durability. The lawns are treated with up to three applications per year of slow release fertiliser to ensure steady sward growth and rapid re-growth following damage.
Kali Gazon, a turf-hardening 0-0-27 fertiliser with 11% MgO is applied at 30-40 g/m2 in the spring to give grass swards a jumpstart at the beginning of the growing season, with Floranid Turf (20-5-8) and Floranid Permanent (16-7-15) applied later in the season to maintain healthy growth and a rich greenness of leaf.
“A5 is an ideal mixture for repairing hard-working lawns where excellent root penetration and density is required,” explains Alistair Eccles, Technical Sales Representative for Germinal in Scotland. “However, it is the regular feeding with a programme of slow-release fertilisers which really makes the difference and allows the grass cultivars to remain in good condition despite the prevailing stresses.”
Mr Eccles explains that the Kali Gazon hardens the turf and improves tolerance to stress factors such as disease, drought and cold whilst also providing magnesium for improved chlorophyll production and metabolism. The subsequent applications of Floranid Turf and Floranid Permanent provide a slow release bank of nutrients throughout the growing season with zero risk of scorching.
“Both of the Floranid products make nitrogen available over a period of 16 weeks and are resistant to being leached out of the University’s free-draining sandy soils. That helps to keep the University’s lawns looking good well into the autumn and for any damaged areas to recover as quickly as possible,” Mr Eccles concludes.