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July 14, 2012 - Drive by any school on a hot summer day, and you will most likely notice freshly cut grass and well-kept athletic fields and playgrounds. However, what you don’t see are the hours of work put into maintaining these grounds.
Mowing the lawn or trimming the hedges may take time, but are relatively straightforward tasks. So, what about the hard-to-reach vegetation growth under the chain link fence that surrounds the campus, or the unsightly weeds popping up along the school building? In these cases, ground maintenance workers have two options for eliminating vegetation: chemical spraying, or string trimming. Both are extremely labour intensive and come with a laundry list of drawbacks.
In today’s environmentally conscious society, bans on chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides have become more commonplace. Due to health and safety concerns, more than 170 municipalities across Canada have passed partial or full bans on pesticide use. In fact, cosmetic herbicides have been banned throughout more than 80 percent of Canada, according to Health Canada. As a result, schools have limited options for efficiently controlling unwanted and noxious vegetation, and ultimately, maintaining a beautiful campus.
Strengthening the argument against pesticide use on school grounds is the fact that children are more sensitive to these chemicals, and therefore are at higher risk for associated health issues, including asthma, learning disabilities, and various types of cancer.
Additionally, pesticide spraying presents school administrators and grounds crews with additional concerns – from chemical purchases and storage, to disposal, licensure and safety training. Furthermore, pesticides can vary in effectiveness and must be applied multiple times a year in order to control growth.
The most common alternative to chemical spraying, string trimming, also poses safety risks and is impractical for schools closely monitoring their budgets. Like pesticide spraying, string trimming entails recurring maintenance costs and additional manpower. It also unnecessarily compromises workers’ safety, and, if the crew is employed by the school, the school would be liable should an onsite injury occur.
A substitute to both spraying and string trimming is vegetation control matting. One such product, WeedEnder, is finding a new audience in school and general landscape applications.
Recently, landscapers have discovered these products are ideal for preventing unwanted vegetation growth under fences, utility poles, trees and signs, and along walls and buildings on school campuses.
WeedEnder is made of a fibre constructed using a patented process that prevents unwanted vegetation growth by depriving root systems of sun, while allowing water and nutrients to move through the fibre.
With vegetation control matting, schools would no longer have to rely on dangerous herbicides or time-consuming string trimming to keep a campus beautiful. Because vegetation control matting products are long-lasting, schools can reduce ongoing maintenance fees and manpower. Without a doubt, the less time grounds crews spend spraying chemicals and string trimming, the less likely there will be an on-the-job injury that could lead to workman’s compensation costs.
These mats are durable enough to withstand abuse from trucks and other heavy equipment.
Plus, by installing the matting, schools have the satisfaction of helping to keep thousands of plastic water bottles out of landfills because the product is made from 100 percent post-consumer recycled materials.
Allan Cole is the owner of Willow Springs Nursery & Landscaping.
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