Keeping our Greenway Lawns Healthy and Happy

20, Aug, 2018


Written by Keelin Caldwell, Director of Programming and Community Engagement

As this hot and humid summer winds down, we wanted to share a bit more about how our #GreenwayHort staff cares for our lawns during this challenging growing season!

Turf plants have some amazing adaptations that allow them to be grown and managed as a lawn ground cover. While many plants produce new growth at their tips, turf plants produce new growth from their base, or crown. This is why they are able to mowed (or more historically, eaten by livestock) and quickly produce new growth. The turf plants used for most lawns are cool-season grasses. This means these plants are adapted to grow more quickly in the spring and fall, and slow their growth or go completely dormant in the winter and summer when conditions are more stressful.

The Greenway Conservancy has an internal “Rotate, Rest, Recover” policy that helps protect the lawns during the busy summer season. We rotate active use of lawns, rest them for short periods of time after big events, and occasionally close off an area of lawn so that it can recover after acute damage or a long summer. We also use smart irrigation that adapts its routine when lawns are already wet from rain, as well as organic maintenance practices that make the lawns a healthy and thriving ecosystem that is more tolerant to stress.


Some of our most challenging conditions come in the summer, when lawns are not actively growing and seemingly harmless activities can actually cause a lot of damage! Greenway Conservancy staff are trained to look for and address hazards such as metal that can heat up quickly and burn the lawn, tarps or plastic that can suffocate a lawn, sharp feet of a tent or chair that can gouge lawns, and more!

For example, here’s what happened on a hot and humid day when plastic was laid on the lawn for less than 30 minutes for contracted work. Our staff removed the plastic as soon as it was spotted and thoroughly watered the area, but this type of burning doesn’t take long!


Damage caused by plastic sheeting

Another big issue we’ve had for the past few summers is people bringing buckets of bubble mix to The Greenway to blow large bubbles. While a fun activity, the soapy water ends up soaking into the lawn in high concentrations, killing the grass in a radiating circle from the bucket of suds. This results in large areas of dead, yellow grass that need to be closed to the public to allow for repairs.

Damage caused by bubble solution

Damage caused by bubble solution

While so often just under our feet, lush lawns in downtown Boston are a treat for us all and a public amenity that we at the Conservancy work hard to protect!