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WKU Office of Sustainability - Grounds


Sustainable Landscape Management at WKU

At WKU, we strive to utilize sustainable, best practices, such as, water conservation, storm water management and lower combustion engines, while maintaining the highest level of aesthetic and appeal possible. Campus services have replaced all of our gas burning riding mowers with lower emission, bio-ready diesel mowers. We are incorporating more drought resistant, native plant xeriscapes, rain garden and habitat gardens. Native plants attract a more diverse array of native animal species, further increasing biodiversity within the campus landscape. We are harvesting rainwater, using organic pesticides, such as neem oil, in our greenhouses. In many of our gardens we have mulched with gravel rather than organic mulches. Gravel will not break down and increases water infiltration to the soil.


Native Flowers        
Native Coneflower and Rattlesnake Master in xeriscape garden.    

The philosophy behind our xeriscape gardens is that they require no supplemental watering, have gravel mulch and of course since we use native plants in these gardens we are providing food habitat for habitat for many birds, insects, and reptiles. These gardens will become part of our Green Tour in an effort to educate the campus community and visitors about these practices.



Integrated Pest Management

We do not store or apply any pesticides in house and we implement several programs including but not limited to; planting and maintaining very diverse micro-habitats and ecosystems that encourage high populations of predatory insects that feed on invasive pests, we even purchase live lady bugs to help combat aphids, mites and adelgid infestations. In addition to maintaining biodiversity, we use organic fertilizers that contain natural plant auxins and live microbes which inhibit the growth of broadleaf weeds and minimize fungal growth on turf grass. The most effective method of controlling weeds on our campus lawns, has been to establish and maintain healthy and vigorous turf.  We achieve this goal through methods such as mowing height, smart irrigation, implementing an aggressive organic fertilizer regimen and over-seeding with the appropriate turf in the appropriate areas. Over the past several years we have been able to steer away from the overuse of dangerous chemical pesticides and moving in the direction of organic based naturally occurring compounds, which promote healthy turf and limits weed growth naturally.


Waste Minimization       

Every year when trees need to be trimmed or cut down they are ground and taken to the University farm and reused as mulch. As an urban campus with close to 300 acres that are covered with approximately 3000 trees, the fall leaf collection season creates a unique seasonal challenge. WKU sits on a hill, and therefore we need to make sure drains are clear to prevent flooding, sidewalks are clean to prevent slip hazards and the lawns are clean as not to impede the fall over seeding operation. We are able to address these challenges with diesel powered leaf vacuums, hi-volume backpack blowers, and turbine style forced air blowers. Each year we collect and grind leaves from the campus then reuse the following spring for compost in our annual and perennial landscape beds. On a few occasions we have actually been able to re-use extracted bedrock from construction sites to construct stone walls and other landscape features.

Soil Management

In an effort to continually improve and enhance the conditions of the soils we use only organic based fertilizers that contain microorganisms that are fundamental for building healthy soil. Soil is the quintessential element for all growing things. We also implement a regimented aeration program which increases oxygen levels to the root zone. In an effort to reutilizing pH levels we use calcium as opposed to lime which is more environmentally responsible than the mining of lime.

Environmentally Preferable Materials              

WKU uses only organic fertilizer such as Clarius and Nature Pure® is a process that preserves PURE sources of organic matter without the use of driers or heaters. Derived from 100% all-natural composted poultry manure, bioassays reveal an excellent biology ideal for optimizing a soil's biomass immediately upon application. Inoculants are not needed. Good microbes occur naturally. Additionally we always try to source locally grown and native plant selections for our landscapes. it is critical to use these native local plants because they are more drought tolerant reducing the use of water need to keep them alive. We also almost exclusively use harvested rainwater to fill tree bags and water landscape beds when needed.


Preston Center LandscapePreston Center Landscape


Hydrologic Integrity

 A proactive problem solving approach to our numerous and historic storm water issues will result from the communication, coordination and cooperation between grounds, maintenance, building services and PDC. By recording the data, monitoring our corrective efforts and being apprised to approaching weather conditions. Many of the existing ground level storm drains have been subject to contamination such as leaves, mulch trash and other materials. One way to help minimize this is to enhance the run-off channels and create deliberate swales for the storm water to flow through.


Snow ontop of WKU Near Garrett

Snow and Ice Removal

Over the past 3 years we have been using less calcium chloride and have moved toward using more Cryotech CMA® solid commercial de-icer. This is granulated calcium magnesium acetate, a patented chemical formulation from dolomitic lime and acetic acid. It is identified as a low corrosion, environmental alternative to road salt by the U.S. Federal Highway Administration. CMA is used worldwide to answer environmental concerns such as pollution, soil contamination of heavy salts and solve problems associated with corrosion and concrete spalling.

WKU is proud to be certified as a Tree Campus USA 

In 2010, WKU became a Tree Campus USA, a designation awarded by the Arbor Day Foundation. Each year, this designation is renewed, demonstrating a commitment to care for the campus forest of more than 3450 trees, including more than 100 species.


Tree Campus USA logo



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 Last Modified 12/7/18