Some of our current projects are listed below.
Wildflower Area Renovation
The Landscape Section of Grounds, Randall and I, began clearing a wildflower woodland buffer, that needed renovation; it had been reclaimed by the woods.
First, we used a backpack blower to blow the leaves back into the woods, and to uncover any viable wildflower plants. Next we used a weedeater to trim down the undergrowth (even finding the old wildflower sign), as we cleared the edge of the woodland (along Patriot Circle at its intersection with Mattaponi Lane), until we reached the northeast corner, at the top of the asphalt path, along the School of Arts.
The next morning, Randall spotted piles of leaf mulch in the area we cleared yesterday. As the tractor delivered leaf mulch (recycling leaves collected in the falloff 2015, that had been stored in the back of K Lot to decompose), I began to spread out the piles along the woodland, using a hard rake, and then a spring rake. We reached the southwest corner of the woodlands, to end the work week.
We resumed renovating, and reclaiming the wildflower area the following Monday….
Under a threat of rain. Randall resumed spotting piles of leaf mulch, on the north side of the woodland by Innovation Hall, and I joined him using hand tools to spread the piles.
We continued to work along the woodline until we reached the northeast corner of the woodland, by the School of Arts, by lunchtime.
After lunch, with a steady rain falling, we spread one last load of leaf mulch, to reach the guardrails, then we seeded the entire strip along the woodlands with sunflowers and red zinnias.
After lunch the next day, we decided to extend the wildflower area, by clearing an odd weedy corner, along the fence line around the School of Arts’ yard, with a weedeater
We had other duties to attend to, but later in the week, Randall and I completed the new wildflower area (including along the edge of the nearby bioswale)
by spreading more leaf mulch; sunflowers have already germinated along the bioswale, which we seeded when we did the renovation along the woodland.
We started the renovation of the woodland wildflower buffer April 14th, including adding a new section near the School of Arts.
On an inspection Tuesday afternoon April 25th, the seed had germinated, and the first seedlings were emerging.
By May 3rd most of the seed in the wildflower patch at the School of Arts, the last seeded area, had germinated.
By May 5th seedlings were easily visible from a distance, throughout the entire area; the first flowers should appear by the end of the month, if not sooner with the recent rains.
As part of a developing stewardship approach to maintaining the grounds on campus,the Grounds Shop has eliminated some troublesome areas from the turf program and mowing, by converting them into areas that attract native insects and birds: Bumblebee Havens.
On the east side of the Finley Building, the GMU Grounds Shop in partnership with the Mason LIFE program, are cooperatively developing a combination Butterfly Garden and Bumblebee Haven. Zinnias are the predominate species in this site. Another site at the Lecture Hall has a more diverse collection of species; besides zinnias white and purple coneflowers and the spikes of liatris are in full bloom.
Another site, on the east side of Fenwick Library is currently dominated by marigolds and zinnias. In early spring, at the Sandy Creek Garage rain garden site hydrangeas and lupines were in full bloom, with coreopsis (yellow flowers later in spring) beginning to appear. Now, the site may look a bit untidy, as the summer bloomers make their appearance, but is still fulfilling its purpose, as bumblebees are using the zinnias, purple liatris, plus orange butterfly weed, gaillardia and marigolds as food sources.
Although given a different designation, the woodland wildflower buffer area along Patriot Circle at thehandicap ramp from Presidents Park is performing the same function. Butterflies and moths, bumblebees, and birds (such as golden finches and hummingbirds) have been observed feeding on the flowers (or insects attracted to the blooms) at the site. Two other sites have been located in student housing areas, and are being maintained with the cooperation of Resident Housing.
Over time, as manpower and budgets allow, the Grounds Shop will add a more diverse blend of perennials to the sites.Please assist us; do not disturb the areas, or the attendant signage.
Storm Water 2
SOUTHSIDE DRAINS ALONG WALKWAY.
A recurring problem, during heavy rains, has been a deep puddle, which forms at the low spot on the walkway from Southside to the Clock Tower; a lot of runoff flows down this sidewalk from the east end of the plaza between the Clock Tower and the George Mason Statue; the underground drainage system at the bottom of the hilldoes not have enough capacity to accept the runoff during torrential storms, and overland flow periodically occurs.
First, swales were installed along the walkway, the grade around each of the drains, on either side of the walkway, was lowered, and collection basins excavated around both drains .
Rip-rap sides were installed around each drain basin, and an overflow channel, confined by rip-rap, excavated down the hillside toward the road; during torrential rains, the two drains (and their four inch drain pipes) cannot accommodate the flow of runoff underground, and overland flow occurs down the slope toward an existing storm water management feature, which has suffered repeated washouts.
With the basins completed, and the channel started, the bottom of the drain basins were tilled and a topsoil and sand mixture added to increase the infiltration, then covered with River Jack, and common river stones, to increase sedimentation and deposition of silts in the basins.
With the drain basins completed, topsoil was spread to make turf repairs around the basins, and along the excavated rip-rap bordered drainage channel; the channel, as it preceded down the hillside, also that covered with River Jack and common river stones. Since overland flow occurs rarely, periodically flat rip-rap stones were used to create waterfalls for aesthetic interest along the channel during dry periods. This work was repeated down the length of the channel until it joined an existing bed along the fire lane.
This bed, damaged by a washout during past torrential downpour, was altered to accept the occasional flow of runoff down the hillside channel; two boulders were set farther apart, for the channel to flow between, and a check dam of river Jack stone installed between them, where the channel exited into the roadway.
The existing crepe myrtles were removed, and installed elsewhere nearby, and replaced with river birches, a species more tolerant of wet conditions; a few native grasses where also installed along the channel banks, and the area will be seeded with wildflowers next spring.
To complete the renovation, at the protected drain at the bottom of the fire lane, the small river stones (which had washed out during torrential storms) were removed and an additional check dam of larger river Jack stones installed.
Thus far, during typical rainfall sevents, water is not puddling on the sidewalk from Southside to the top of the hill, and is flowing much faster into the drainage basins, where it infiltrates and drops silt, before flowing into the underground drainage system.
THE RELOCATION OF SOME BOULDERS & PLANT MATERIALS PRIOR TO A CONSTRUCTION PROJECTS:
Instead of performing my normal morning inspection, I headed over to Research One, to remove part of a boulder outcropping landscape, and decide what to do with the removed material. On my way over to the site, I recalled seeing a group of boulders in the construction site for the Roberts Road expansion project.
I flagged down the tractor loader, and large stake body truck, to collect the stones and have them dumped at the storage yard. We now have a new stockpile of boulders, to use as time and each particular landscaping situation demands, something I would need later that day. By 7:00 am, at Research One, I inspected the portion of the landscape that had to be removed, so the contractor installing new ADA compliant walkway and landing, could continue his work unimpeded: the first conifer, two boulders and a group of shrubs.
I decided to use my foreman suggestion, and move the boulders and material to the other side of the existing patio. The tractor backhoe dumped two small boulders, I would use them later, and began to remove a row of shrubs where the boulders were gong to be relocated, but decided to changed the plan, and had just the three shrubs closest to the street removed. The tractor reset up and began to remove the shrubs and perennials from the other side of the patio. Next the tractor worked the first boulder loose, carefully maneuvered around on the small patio scooped the boulder into in the bucket, and backed up to the new location and set the boulder.
Meanwhile, I removed the remaining day-lilies so the tractor could repeat the operation with the second boulder. This time, the tractor had an easier time moving the boulder across the patio, placing it up the slope, and setting up to maneuver the boulder into a more stable position. The tractor made a few fine adjustments, to get the boulders to touch, which makes them both more stable (they can only move as a unit, not individually) and scraping soil behind the boulders to begin back filling.
After some sedulous inspection, I sent the tractor back to the yard to collect the largest of the new boulders set it into place next to thee other two, collect a load of topsoil, and dump the soil as additional back fill. With the last large boulder set, and topsoil in place, I rolled one of the small boulders the tractor had dumped when it first arrived on site down the hill and set the stone in place, in the gap between the first two boulders. With that boulder in place we began to replant some of the shrubs. The tractor set-up to push the first group of shrubs, removed earlier to make space for the boulders, down the hill to form a larger hedge against the building.
I had my foreman mark the new location for the conifer, and discussed how I envisioned the other shrubs to be replanted, and left to complete some administrative tasks. Later, I met Steve back on site to inspect the relocated boulders, conifer and other shrubs, and to make sure the old portion of the original bed had been cleared of material for the contractor’s sidewalk installation. Before leaving to resume work on a project at West Campus, the tractor delivered the last of the topsoil stored in the yard for additional back fill behind the conifer, and scraped another bucket load of soil from the old site. Today we will water all the transplanted material, and tomorrow we will clean-up and mulch the new boulder outcropping landscape. The remaining shrubs we removed will be transplanted adjacent to the building entrance.
After completing some administrative duties, a last inspection shows three remaining shrubs we will relocate along the building, adjacent to the entrance, to change the shape of that bed to make mowing easier and eliminate some trimming, the boulders and other plant material relocated, and the construction site is clear for the installation of the new walkways and landing.