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More Than A Few Green Thumbs

Posted by: Jennifer Stevens | November 30, 2012 | No Comment |

Pruned trees, beautiful flower beds, and neatly trimmed grass are just a few of the aesthetic features that welcome students, faculty, staff, and visitors to the College’s campus each and every day.

The Grounds Department is responsible for the grounds maintenance of the downtown campus, with the exception of Residence Life facilities and Grice Lab at Fort Johnson. The department is also responsible for the plant beds in the parking lots. They decorate the stages for both the December and May commencement ceremonies. In addition, they make the gate arrangements and hang wreathes and roping on campus for the holidays, as well as decorating the Silcox gym for the annual faculty and staff holiday party.

At the helm of the Grounds Department is Paty Cowden, Groundskeeper at the College. Cowden has an assistant supervisor, three crew leaders, a street sweeper operator, a pesticide spray technician, and nine crew members to maintain over 50 acres. Every morning, each crew is assigned an area which they police for trash and debris. This sweep typically lasts an hour. Once this task is completed, all crew members meet to issue daily assignments. The enhancement crew is responsible for the care of over 200 container gardens on campus, which includes watering, fertilizing, deadheading, and seasonal flower replacements. The two maintenance crews mow, edge, weed eat, and blow all the turf areas as needed. They also prune, weed, and mulch all of the plant beds. Grounds also does bed renovation, such as a recent renovation at the corner of College and Greenway where the big clock is.

One of the greatest challenges Grounds faces is keeping the grass in Cistern Yard looking good. They have tried almost every type of sod available in their zone (the USDA has a map of plant hardiness zones so people will know what plant material to use in their zones), but due to the amount of shade, and competition for nutrients with the oak trees, the sod almost immediately starts declining soon after planting. Grounds has resorted to seeding, which presents its own problems. The only seed that can endure the summer heat is expensive and must be treated on a regular basis with organic products to help it survive. Several years ago, the College developed an infestation of wire worms, which are a farm crop pest. Wire worms devour the seed just as it is germinating. The College created a utopian environment for them and now keeps their population in check with a sevin dust application. When back to back events are held in Cistern Yard, it takes quite a toll on the grass.

With a demanding workload, the Grounds Department relies on the dedication and special talents of its crew. The department gets the job done and has fun doing it. Various types of training, from equipment operations to first aid/CPR, are provided to encourage each person to take advantage of the opportunities to add new skills to their resumes. The department also tries to take a field trip once a year to visit some of the beautiful gardens South Carolina has to offer, such as Brookgreen Gardens and the Botanical Gardens at Riverbanks Zoo.

Hard work and a handful of green thumbs keep the College’s campus looking pristine.

under: Business Affairs
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