Case Study: Urban Organic Lawn Care at Lincoln Center

It is not often that people think of beautiful lush lawns in the middle of New York City – let alone on a green roof that is in the middle of one of its most visited sites. The elevated lawn at Lincoln Center is just that: A beautiful section of vibrant turf grass built on a green roof structure, with only eight inches of soil sitting on top of a restaurant. This lawn is visited by thousands of people a week, with many who dance, walk and picnic on it. It requires special attention to keep such a delicate place looking so beautiful throughout the year with all the foot traffic, spilled drinks, and extreme micro-weather climates.

Often when people go through a paradigm switch from a conventional lawn to an organic lawn, they focus on the synthetic chemicals and fertilizers and how to free themselves of these products and use more natural fertilizers or soil amendments like compost tea and sea kelp. Sometimes other issues rear their head that forces change, and that was the case on this turf at Lincoln Center.

Each year during the first two seasons, the lawn would brown out during the extreme heat and dry portions of a New York summer. There were always reasons, such as the transpiration rate was too high or not enough water and so on. During the 2013 season, after Superstorm Sandy caused flooding throughout the tri-state area, the purchase of a filed based salinity meter was needed. Since this beautiful lawn was only on eight inches of soil, a quick field test indicated there were high levels of salts lower in the soil profile. This appeared to be the reason for the lack of turf growth: high salts, extreme heat and limited water were causing the delicate root tips to burn, making them unable to pull water up into the turf. Once temperatures cooled and roots could grow again, the natural process of water absorption was able to take place and the turf grass begin to green up.

Transitioning the turf from a conventional system to one where we were able to help flush the salts out of the soil and change to salt-free fertilizers created one of the finest lawns in NYC for 2013. It is critical to remember that grass, flowers, and trees, along with the soil, are living organisms much like ourselves. The negatives in our food that we try to avoid to live a healthy life need to be looked at the same way for these living systems.

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