An Organically Maintained Lawn Grows at the Heart of Campus

Alisa Giardinelli

An Organically Maintained
Lawn Grows at the Heart of Campus

by Alisa Giardinelli
10/26/11

Nicole Selby '02 photo by Caitlin Morris/Phila. Inquirer
Nicole Selby '02 received a grant from the Swarthmore Foundation for her efforts to initiate an organically maintained lawn on campus.

In 2010, several members of the Swarthmore community began collaborating on an extensive project to create an organically maintained lawn at the heart of campus. More than one year into the experiment, how is it going?

College gardener Nicole Selby '02, who originated the project, tells the Philadelphia Inquirer it's still too early to tell. "Will the organic lawn live up to the beautiful image of the rest of the campus? There has to be some allowance for the expectation of the visitor."

Lewis received a grant from the Swarthmore Foundation for her work, along with support from Professor of Engineering Carr Everbach and Associate Professor of Biology José-Luis Machado. Everbach, co-chair of the College's Sustainability Committee, and Andy Bastian '12 also helped by designing two solar-powered compost tumblers. Their goal is to maintain the five-acre field between Mertz Hall and Magill Walk with nutrient-rich compost instead of standard synthetic herbicides and fertilizers. 

As the Inquirer notes, the Ultimate Frisbee team practices on this lawn. Students cross it with varying degrees of speed and intensity on their way to the dining hall. And from the bottom of the hill, this is the postcard view of what originally was called College Hall. In other words, Selby's experiment has nowhere to hide.

So is it working? The 2011 growing season has been extreme, making it difficult to know. At the moment, though, the conventional and organic lawns all look the same - green.