Wednesday, January 4, 2017  |  1 Comment(s)  |   Email   Print

V2V Site Maintenance

by Ryan Mackin

Site maintenance is something that professionals in the green infrastructure field can be reluctant to discuss, but it is undoubtedly something of utmost importance. Without proper maintenance, site selection, design, community engagement, construction and other facets of a project are all for naught. In communities with long-term problems, site care is intrinsic to a long-term solution.

Lucky for us, Vacant to Vibrant has been able to rely on amazing partners in each project city to not only get the job done, but to keep the work going. In Buffalo, PUSH’s in-house landscaping crew was ready-to-go on day one with their wealth of knowledge, structure and vision. In Gary, the Urban Conservation Team has taken up reins to provide service to all Aetna V2V pocket parks in addition to the city’s other GI sites which seem to be increasing by the day. In Cleveland, our partners at New Vista Enterprises in the Woodland-Buckeye neighborhood have kept a watchful eye on nearby V2V sites, always ready to cut and prune when needed.

The following is a basic primer on maintenance of V2V sites. While most crews are already equipped with this knowledge, this general information serves as a checklist of tasks and a schedule for crew members to follow. The draft guide is a reminder that while tasks are important for aesthetic upkeep, it’s equally important to focus on tasks that encourage plant, tree and garden health. By performing all of these tasks, each V2V site will not only be an asset to the neighborhood now, but will continue to thrive into the future.

General Maintenance Tasks for All Sites

1.    Remove Trash and Debris

  • Urban lots are known to accumulate litter. If the site is designed for active use, more litter will accumulate quickly. In the fall, leaf debris will add to the decline in aesthetic and site use.

2.    Pruning and Plant/Tree Maintenance

  • Pruning plants and trees is essential to their health and longevity, especially in the first 2 to 4 years. The maintenance you do now will have a lasting impact decades into the future.

3.    Add New Plants

  • Not all rain garden and planting bed plants are expected to survive. New plantings should be added every year to help the gardens thrive and retain aesthetic caliber.

4.    Remove Dead Plants

  • Dead plants should be removed mostly for aesthetic reasons. Because plants bloom at different times, dead plants should be removed mid-Summer to ensure doubt in their viability.

5.    Weed Beds

  • Weeding is one of the most important tasks in rain garden and plant bed health. Weeds can out-perform desired plant species and turn your rain garden into a weed garden!  By weeding thoroughly in the spring and fall, predation of weeds will be kept at bay and provide an aesthetically pleasing experience.

6.    Weed Whack

  • Weed whacking goes hand-in-hand with mowing and should be done on a regular basis.

7.    Mow Lawn

  • Mowing is sometimes the main focus of site maintenance, but other tasks are just as important. The low-mow seed mixture used on V2V sites should allow for infrequent mowing within a couple years. The general idea is to mow when necessary—not to assume that mowing every month is integral to site maintenance. Grass should always be mowed at a higher setting to encourage grass health and life.

8.    Watering

  • Though rain garden plants are both rain and drought-tolerant, their success is contingent on a thorough watering schedule over the first two years of the rain garden’s life. Pay attention to weather patterns—do not water rain gardens directly before or after a significant rainfall event. Instead, anticipate times of peak drought throughout the month.

9.    Mulching

  • Once beds are fully weeded and watered, mulching in the spring and fall can provide great benefits to beds. There is no need to over-mulch. No mulch should be applied around the base of plants or trees. With a mulch layer 2 to 3 inches thick, the garden beds will better retain water. Triple-ground hardwood mulch, not beauty bark or large wood chip mulch, is best for rain gardens.  After 2 to 3 years, a light amount of compost should be added to provide nutrients. By keeping up with mulching, the need for chemical herbicides will be reduced.

10.    Check Stormwater Features in Rain Gardens

  • The main goal of an effective rain garden is infiltration. Without proper infiltration, rain gardens may not drain fast enough, or water may run off into undesired locations, defeating the purpose. To maximize infiltration, always check the following:
  • Compaction. If soils are too compact, water will have a difficult time penetrating into the garden. Gently till rain garden beds to loosen the rain garden mix and encourage infiltration.
  • Erosion. Check for areas of erosion where water flows may carry mulch, soil and debris. Erosion suggests uneven infiltration into the rain garden. Adjust accordingly, using rock buffers for significant areas of erosion.
  • Debris. Remove all garbage and keep rain gardens free of debris. If there is a downspout disconnect or curb cut, regularly check to make sure the flow from grey to green infrastructure is not obstructed.


Sample of 6-Month Site Maintenance Schedule



Selection of Tasks Specific to Particular V2V Sites

A.    Weed the gravel pathway and concrete pads in addition to the planting pads. Weed by hand, removing weeds at their roots, or apply chemical treatment. This will not only keep the site aesthetically pleasing, but improve the longevity of the infrastructure.

B.    Only trim the grass beyond the rear bollard fence, where bat houses are located, one time per year in the late summer or fall. Do NOT mow this area any other time of year. It is best to use a weed whacker, or else a mower set to a high clearance. This area is designed to be a natural thicket surrounding the rear rain garden. It creates a natural habitat for species essential to urban ecological health and diversity. If neighbors insist on cutting this area of the lot, please post a sign explaining the importance of not mowing the rear thicket.

C.    Using a tall ladder, inspect bat houses. Late fall or early winter is the best time to maintain bird and bat houses. Tap on the bat house and use a flashlight to make sure there isn’t any activity inside. Wear gloves and pull out old nesting material. This will keep houses clean and re-usable in the future and prevent pest infestation and subsequent deterioration.

D.    Check play equipment for usability and safety. Replace any broken or near-broken chain links on the swings. Make sure support bolts are tight. Trim grass around balance beam and wipe clean. Wipe park benches clean as well.

E.    Remove graffiti from the handball wall. The whole wall is coated with an anti-graffiti application, so a moderate cleaning solvent should remove most paint. If paint cannot be removed, paint over graffiti, matching color as best as possible.



You can download our Maintenance Guide draft, which includes additional information, tasks and schedule for all sites HERE

In 2015, Vacant to Vibrant convened a workshop in Buffalo on Sustainable Models for GI Maintenance, which gathered insight from dozens of professionals in various sectors across the Great Lakes region. You can download the report out HERE



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Reader Comments

John @ Thursday, July 05 2018 2:11 AM Flag Inappropriate
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