TCU Facilities Keep the Campus Grounds Beautiful…Through Drought and Storm
The scorching heat and record high temperatures this summer have left North Texas yards and flower beds struggling to survive. But at TCU, the landscaping and grounds team has kept the campus green and healthy, through skillful soil and irrigation management — and lots of planning.
“We only water when the city’s watering schedule permits, which is twice a week,” said Erik Trevino, manager. “We water deeply on those days, and the grass and plants we have are trained to survive on that.”
As well as planning the right types of grass planted based on conditions – primarily based on sun exposure but also the level of foot traffic – the team constantly monitors the weather.
“Every day we talk about the weather so we can determine water settings and actively manage the sprinklers so we don’t run them in the rain.”
While rain delays weren’t an issue this summer, drought was. Trevino attributed the current verdant conditions to past selections of hardy plants and grasses that have now established root systems. He also credited the team of 50 who maintain the acreage for their expertise, particularly with the delicate balance of watering – not enough and lawns can quickly turn brown, too much leads to disease.
“We have a long-standing field team that keeps our campus in good shape,” Trevino said. “It’s not just about pushing a mower. We are passionate about the terrain being something for everyone, including those in the community who drive through it and through it.
One of the most distinctive green spaces on campus is the tree canopy on University Drive. Trevino, a certified arborist, said crews only prune trees on campus as needed, for safety and aesthetic reasons. There are approximately 3,200 trees on over 300 acres of TCU and a variety of species. This diversity is important to guard against a disease that wipes out large numbers of people.
“Trees are one of our most important assets, and mature trees cannot be replaced,” he added. “They create shade to cool off and encourage students to walk instead of drive.”
Whether walking or driving along TCU’s main streets, students and others frequently comment on the beautifully manicured flowerbeds. These change with the seasons and although they are among the most pampered plants on campus, their showy display of purple and white explains why they are found in prestigious locations.
As water becomes an increasingly scarce resource, Trevino seeks to include more adaptive plants in the landscape. He also encourages the team to take cuttings from existing plants to grow in the university’s greenhouse for future landscaping.
Other sustainability practices include separating green waste for composting and using organic fertilizers. Future plans are to incorporate more drip irrigation systems as well as establish plants that attract pollinators.
The campus sustainability committee, made up of students, shares ideas with Trevino and his team. One of their annual events is Texas Arbor Day, which takes place on the first Friday of November.
“We will have tree planting and educational opportunities,” Trevino noted of this year’s event, which is part of TCU’s multi-year certification as Tree Campus USA. An audio-guided campus tree tour is also available on the TCU website.
“Student engagement is important. When you connect with nature, you find harmony. A peaceful environment is an environment in which we can all thrive.