Organic Fertilizer Trail Aims for Healiter Landscape

September 23, 2010

An ongoing pilot at two campus locations is currently being analyzed to determine sustainable lawn care methods for Penn’s green spaces. Turf in front of the Franklin Building and Harrison College House is being treated with organic matter to improve the chemistry and physical properties of the soil.

Turf absorbs significant amounts of carbon dioxide, and unlike trees, will store carbon in the soil, making a healthy landscape even more important for a healthy environment.

The relationship between life in soil and life of plants is also inseparable. Plants’ ability to move their roots through soil and find essential nutrients is dependent on the soil’s texture, structure and nutrient content. The biology in the soil creates movement of space and organic matter to aid the ease of root exploration. It is also the mechanism by which nutrients are made available to plants: through decomposition and excretion of dead organic matter. When these two biological processes are functioning properly, plants are able to produce at the optimum level naturally supported by the environment.

The pilot also aims to increase the soil’s water-holding capacity by producing natural substances that glue soil particles together. Adding organic matter, and the biology to process it, changes the chemistry of the soil to increase the clay content. Since clay particles are magnitudes smaller than sand particles, water drains at a much slower rate and prevents the leaching of nutrients from the soil.

The organic turf care trial will continue through October, when data will be analyzed to determine the cost savings compared to previous irrigation and land care methods.


Compost collection takes place at several locations on campus, including all campus dining halls, Golkin Hall, and Joe's Cafe at Wharton.

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