For the last two weeks, we have been discussing how to beat the jungle back as there are some properties in the Abingtons that can be described as jungles. Now, however, I want to turn our discussion around. I want you to nurture the jungle around you.
Yes, you heard me right. A landscape maintenance professional is recommending you to back off the maintenance — for good.
For me, I first heard of this idea when some friends of mine complained to me that Clarks Summit’s street side brush mower had damaged or destroyed young “volunteer” trees along their side street. They had been letting these saplings grow into what they called a “thicket.” This thicket provided privacy for their backyard and was not negatively affecting traffic. Since that time, I have allowed a thicket to grow along the rear of my property; it effectively shields noise, lights and dust from non-stop traffic on U.S. highways 6 and 11, which are located just over one block from our house.
More recently, I was on the campus of Rosemont College near Philadelphia. In the middle of campus was a streambed with signs posted along it. Instead of saying the usual, “Pesticide treatment: keep off,” the signs read something like the following: “Natural Reclamation Area: This area is being returned to its wild character. Maintenance of the area has been permanently terminated.”
Somebody at Rosemont is thinking against the grain. Normally, a streambed in this prominent location would be considered a high maintenance zone. On a weekly basis, the mowing crew would get as close as possible to the streambed slope, and then the trimming crew would take hours to finish cutting the last few feet, leaving a manicured edge between the lawn and the stream.
It is reasonable to think that this trimming would be necessary 25 times throughout the growing season. At three hours per week, this is a seasonal total of 75 hours to pay the maintenance crew. Not only did this choice return nearly $4,000 to the school in personnel costs, this does not count fuel or equipment costs. The 75 hours without the incessant two-cycle whine of the string trimmers could be termed “priceless.”
Additionally, once the edge of the streambed grows in, not only does the area become a haven for wildlife, the vegetation provides filtration for rainwater entering the stream.
Now students, visitors and faculty and staff would expect to see a manicured streambed. How could Rosemont possibly handle public relations and expectations? They do so brilliantly, in my opinion. By posting the signs in prominent locations, Rosemont turns a liability into an asset. “Cheap” instantly turns to “green.”
What about your property or your organization’s property? Can you find an area that can be converted to natural space? While signs may be out of place, consider edging and mulching the border as a signal that maintenance ends here.
Joshua Arp is an ISA-certified Municipal Specialist, a Clarks Summit Tree Commissioner and an operator of a landscape maintenance business. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.