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Abstract: Grounds Maintenance and Operations

First impressions of the grounds can affect student enrollment, faculty and staff employment,  and  visitor and benefactor attitudes. Grounds maintenance operations face the unique challenge of contending with unpredictable variables (e.g., living plants,  pests, weather) that ground maintenance organizations meet with varying degrees of success. More than ever, administrators need to identify best practices, cultivate well-trained staff, recognize the effect of grounds management operations on the environment, and understand the latest technological advances and government regulations.

Organization

In-House Organizations. Successful grounds maintenance is characterized by strong leadership, such as well-trained and adequate staff and equipment.

Grounds maintenance usually includes many disciplines and is often charged with additional duties based on institutional needs. Grounds maintenance groups address site development, plant bed and turf maintenance, and landscape specialties and typically are organized into zones or areas. Grounds employees need to clearly understand their functions and management expectations; many grounds functions require close and effective coordination with other facilities operations functional areas (e.g., snow removal coordination between custodial and grounds crew.)

Contract Organizations. Grounds services or the entire function (e.g., pest control, waste removal, tree care) can be contracted annually or seasonally. Analyzing advantages and disadvantages is a prerequisite, and after a decision to contract for services is made, essential tasks include specification development, close supervision, inspections, and feedback to the contractor. Many universities opt for part-time labor as an alternative to contract services (reducing costs while still preserving greater control).

Special Concerns. Environmental concerns have led to creation of invasive species removal programs; limits on types of fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides; and reductions in the level of turf maintenance (e.g., no-mow programs).  Chemical  application  specialists  need training and  licensing.  Landscape  planning  must consider accessibility for those protected  by  ADA  and also safety and crime reduction.

Standards and Scheduling

Grounds  Inventory  and  Maintenance  Levels.    Planning   is based on a land use inventory and standards of care.      A quantitative land use inventory includes data on the campus landscape (e.g., lawn and planting bed square footage), grouping  items  with  similar  maintenance needs but separately inventorying items with specialized maintenance needs. The  institution  usually  sets standards of care for various zones or campus areas.

Standards are established campus-wide or according to individual buildings. A land use inventory and standards of care can show possible maintenance levels based on available resources, enabling the assignment of personnel and resources based on crew size, zone size, and required level of care. Transitions between higher and lower standards of care must be well planned and logical (see Figure 2.30 beginning on page 152).

Scheduling.  Scheduling  is  a  dynamic  process. Scheduling priorities are based on functional processes, institutional needs, and environmental dictates. Higher levels of care for one area often entail reducing the level of care in other areas rather than obtaining additional funding. A detailed explanation of how priorities are set and the location of high-priority areas can help the maintenance staff transition from a mindset of maintaining everything at a certain level. Scheduling is facilitated via time-motion studies and time-reporting systems to establish time standards; computerized preventive maintenance scheduling  programs; preventive maintenance printouts for equipment maintenance; computerized inventories of as-built sites of plant materials; and repetitive and shared-calendar scheduling.

Training

In addition to training all grounds staff members on general procedures, facilities organizations need to conduct specialized training in the care and operation of grounds equipment;  techniques  for  planting, maintaining, and pruning plant materials; government regulation requirements; and safety. Sources for training materials  and  programs  include  state  extension services, state or local nursery  associations,  local technical schools and community colleges,  and  videos and training materials from specialized grounds care equipment suppliers.

Equipment

Increasing costs of labor make proper equipment selection and use important. Costs are minimized via the purchasing process, demonstrations, and collaboration; preventive maintenance programs; factory training for maintenance mechanics; timely replacement programs and advanced replacement budgeting; equipment purchased for multiple purposes; and leased equipment for periodic or temporary goals.

Figure 2.30. Levels of Grounds Attention
Level of Attention 1 2 3
Description and Application State-of-the-art maintenance applied to a high-quality diverse landscape.

Associated with high-traffic urban areas, such as public squares, government grounds, or college, university, or school campuses.

High level of maintenance. Associated with well-developed public areas, malls, government grounds, or college, university, or school campuses.

Recommended level for most organizations.

Moderate-level maintenance. Associated with locations that have moderate to low levels of development or visitation, or with operations that (because of budget restrictions) cannot afford a high level of maintenance.
Turf Care Grass height maintained according to species and variety of grass. Mowed at least once every five working days but may be as often as once every three working days. Aeration as required but not less than four times per year.

Reseeding or sodding as needed. Weed control to be practiced so that no more than 1 percent of the surface has weeds present.

Grass should be cut once every five working days. Aeration is carried out as required but not less than two times per year. Reseeding or sodding must be done when bare spots are present.

Weed control is practices when weeds present a visible problem or when weeds re-spent 5 percent of the turf surface. some pre-emergent herbicide products may be used at this level.

Grass cut once every ten working days. Normally not aerated unless turf quality indicates a need or in anticipation of application of fertilizer. Reseeding or sodding only when major bare spots appear. Weed control measures normally applied when 0 percent of small areas- or 15 percent of the general turf-is infested with weeds.
Fertilizer Adequate fertilization applied to plant species according to their optimum requirements. Application rates and times should ensure an even supply of nutrients for the entire year. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium percentages should follow local recommendation. trees, shrubs, and flowers should be fertilized according to their individual requirements for optimum growth.

Unusually long or short growing season may modify the chart slightly.

Adequate fertilizer level to ensure that all plant materials are healthy and growing vigorously. Amounts depend on species, length of growing season, soils, and rainfall. Rates should correspond to at least the lowest recommended rates. Distribution should ensure an even supply of nutrients for the entire year.

Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium percentages should follow local recommendations. Trees, shrubs, and flowers should receive fertilizer levels to ensure optimum growth.

Applied only when turf vigor seems to be low. Low-level application once per year. Suggested application rate is one- half the level recommended.
Irrigation Sprinkler irrigated – electric automatic commonly used. Some manual systems could be considered adequate under plentiful rainfall circumstances and with adequate staffing. Frequency of use follows rainfall, temperature, season length, and demand of plant material. Sprinkler irrigated – electric automatic commonly used. Some manual systems could be considered adequate under plentiful rainfall circumstances and with adequate staffing. Frequency of use follows rainfall, temperature, season length, and demand of plant material. Dependent on climate. Locations that receive more than 25 inches of rainfall a year usually rely on natural rainfall with the possible addiction of portable irrigation during periods of drought. Dry climates that receive less than 25 inches of rainfall usually have some form of supplemental irrigation. When irrigation is automatic schedule is programmed. When manual servicing is required, the normal schedule would be two or three times per week.

 

Level of Attention 4 5 6
Description and Application Moderately low-level maintenance. Associated with locations affected by budget restrictions, and thereby cannot afford a high level of maintenance. Minimum-level maintenance. Associated with locations suffering from severe budget restrictions. Natural area that is not developed.
Turf Care Low-frequency mowing scheduled based on species. Low-growing grasses may not be mowed. High grasses may receive periodic mowing. Weed control limited to legal requirements of noxious weeds. Low-frequency mowing scheduled based on species. Low-growing grasses may not be mowed; high grasses may receive periodic mowing. Weed control limited to legal requirements for noxious weeds. Not mowed. Weed control only if legal requirements demand.
Fertilizer Not fertilized. Not Fertilized. Not fertilized.
Irrigation No irrigation. No irrigation. No irrigation.

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