2009-05-07 / Local & State

Conservation Corner

The Growing Pains Of Establishing Native Meadows
By Tim Keebaugh EROSION CONTROL SPECIALIST

If you've visited the campus of the Fulton County Medical Center lately, you may have asked yourself, "Doesn't the Fulton County Medical Center own a lawn mower?" Now granted, it doesn't quite look like what you would expect, what you are used to: a lush, green, well-manicured lawn; however, there are good reasons why it looks the way it does. So, let's step outside the box and think about what the folks at Fulton County Medical Center are trying to accomplish on the site: the establishment of native meadows through the process of landscape restoration.

Landscape restoration, including the restoration of forest and/or meadow from lawn/maintained turf, is an effective method of reducing the volume of stormwater runoff. Landscape restoration involves the conversion of an existing lawn or otherwise maintained area into a native vegetative cover, such as natural/ native woodland or meadow. This conversion typically occurs through intentional replanting and revegetation, followed by the proper maintenance of the restored landscape as it matures. Landscape restoration may occur throughout an entire property for maximum benefit, or may be limited to portions of a property.

Landscape restoration involves the careful selection and use of vegetation that does not require significant chemical maintenance by fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides. Native species tend to have the greatest tolerance and resistance to pests and require less fertilization and chemical application than nonnative species. Landscape restoration therefore improves water quality by minimizing the application of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides.

There are many other benefits that result from the application of landscape restoration: increased water uptake, improved soil conditions through organic material and macropore formation, greater infiltration and the creation of habitat for birds and small mammals. Native species are typically hardy growers with stronger and denser root and stem systems, which in turn, generates less stormwater runoff.

In addition to the environmental benefits listed above, there are also aesthetic reasons for why Fulton County Medical Center chose to establish native meadows. When the meadows are fully mature, which takes about three years, they will be visually appealing and will give the people who call the Medical Center "home" a feeling of comfort and well-being. Let's not forget, the new facility was established on the site of a former agricultural field. By establishing native meadows, the Medical Center is trying to maintain the rural integrity and beauty of the site.

Finally, establishing native meadows will result in long-term cost savings for the Medical Center. The cost to maintain native meadows is far less than the cost to maintain a conventional lawn area because they don't have to be mowed (maybe twice a year) and there is no need to apply chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

Hopefully, you now have a better understanding about why the Medical Center's landscaping looks the way it does. The establishment of native meadows will benefit the local environment and the visitors, staff and residents of the facility. The next time you visit the campus, we hope you will think a little bit differently about the landscaping. The administration at the Medical Center asks the residents of Fulton County to be patient with their transformation - all good things take time!

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