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In 2017, the Friends continues to care for the lawns in the Boston Common, Public Garden, and Commonwealth Avenue Mall, and we’ve expanded that care in a big way. Water is a key to plant health, and this year the Friends has taken on the management of all seventeen irrigation systems in the three parks.

Our primary goals in managing the parks’ irrigation are to maintain peak efficiency for the systems, reduce water use, and increase the overall health of the lawns and trees. Some lawn areas were getting too much water while others were not getting enough, and we do not want to be watering the lawns when it is raining! Our contractors coordinate closely with the Parks Department’s Head of Horticulture as they have replaced antiquated equipment, made major improvements to two of the nine systems on the Mall, and responded to every Bos:311 citizen report or concern regarding water loss typically within 24 hours. We were able to trial a more sophisticated irrigation controller that will collect data on water use and soil moisture levels. This new controller would allow the Garden to be managed with a high degree of efficiency so that individual sections can be on different watering schedules based on the needs of that lawn, shrub border or flower bed. The current system is based on larger zoned sections managed through a very basic timer. We are excited to learn more about how the new system can improve our goal of responsive and efficient irrigation for optimum plant health.

Our comprehensive care program includes aerating, seeding, fertilizing, and additional soil amendments to increase the vigor of our lawn areas, which are used by tens of thousands of people each week. Areas treated include all lawns on the Common except for fenced-off zones undergoing work by the Parks Department, and on the Mall every block from Arlington Street to Kenmore Square, except for the Charlesgate East block until there is resolution of its use as a non-permitted off-leash dog area. We have expanded our fertilization program to combat weather-related stress in the warm months, and continue to work with the Parks Department on best practices for mowing. When the grass is mowed higher, it does not dry out as quickly, is better able to withstand the pressures of foot traffic, reduces weeds, and promotes a healthier lawn overall.

Each park presents its own challenges and use patterns, but we are making gains in the quality of turf, amount of turf coverage, and for those areas irrigated, less water-borne tree and turf diseases.

This program will be a multi-year effort to address all the pressing needs for turf and soils care, which is so fundamental to support a healthy urban greenspace and the many people who come to enjoy it.