Grounds Maintenance

Grounds and Arboretum preserves, protects, and beautifies the College natural environment in balance with the health and well-being of residents and visitors to campus.

The duck pond

Maintenance Strategies

The College engages in grounds maintenance in three distinct areas: trees, beds, and grass. In each setting, our staff follow carefully honed protocols designed to minimize the use of chemicals and instead emphasize natural management techniques. When supplemental care is warranted, we acquire the safest products available, use minimal amounts, and fully disclose all information about our chemical usage. In all aspects of our grounds maintenance, we endeavor to exceed what is required by government agencies, and we do.

Trees and Beds

Our overarching goal is to effectively care for the diverse collection of mature, young and historic trees while protecting the environment in which community members work and live. As we have such a mature and historic collection of trees, care and monitoring helps reduce the risks (due to falling limbs) and cost of maintaining these treasured assets.

Our integrated pest management (IPM) approach enables us to reduce dependency on, and the amount of, chemicals regulated by the EPA. IPM is a comprehensive program for pest control which combines multiple management strategies, including biological, cultural, use of indigenous plants, and chemicals with lower toxicity to humans. Through this approach, we have eliminated our use of chemicals applied to trees with powerful ‘Warning’ or higher level categories, and only use those which carry the lowest-level designation of ‘Caution’. Review the NPIC fact sheet to learn more. Such chemicals are applied in highly targeted methods – such as direct injection – to minimize broad exposure to airborne agents.

Plant bed maintenance (including tree rings) revolves around a zero-tolerance approach to weeds. Pre- and post-emergent weed control is used as little as possible. Weeds that do appear are selectively sprayed, and blanket weed spraying is never conducted under any circumstances.


Our aggressive turf management program only incorporates chemicals as a last resort.

  • Soil Care
    • Annual aerification reduces compaction and allows air and water to get to grass roots, preventing the growth of weeds.
    • Maintained turf areas are annually over-seeded with approximately 4500 lbs of Kentucky Blue Grass/Perennial Rye mix.
    • Filling in bare spots and sparse turf areas helps grass compete against weeds.
    • Soil tests are performed every two years to measure pH, organic matter, and nutrients/soil fertility.
  • Proper Fertilization
    • Based on soil test results, the turf is fertilized between 2 and 4 times per year with a product from Earthworks, a local company, made primarily of composted chicken manure.
    • In the spring, one application of synthetic fertilizer is the carrier for pre-emergent broadleaf weed control.
  • Correct Mowing Heights
    • Excluding Athletics, the campus is maintained at three inches, which helps prevent weed seeds from germinating by shading the weed.
    • Clippings are not collected, as they return helpful nitrogen to the soil.
  • Irrigation
    • In-ground irrigation systems have sensors and only activate as needed.
    • The use of water cannons for supplemental watering for athletic fields is done manually.
  • Chemicals
    • Herbicides are used as a last resort to contain large infestations of weeds or keep weeds to a minimum in high-profile areas.
    • Any chemicals are applied in the early morning hours before faculty, staff, and students start moving around campus.
    • When diluting chemicals for application, companies recommend a range of active ingredient. We use the low end of the recommended range.
    • Most chemicals are applied with a handheld pump sprayer or pressurized tank sprayer.
    • In the event the boom sprayer is needed, the guidelines are as follows:
      • Timing and Roles: Two crew members arrive at 5 a.m.: one applicator and one assistant to flag and monitor the area.
      • Caution flags are removed in accordance with the regulatory product labels. Most labels stipulate waiting until the spray has dried. The EPA determines a very conservative safety level for these products and then dictates a 10X buffer to ensure public safety. We adhere carefully to these protocols, and always err on the side of caution.
    • Fungicides are only applied in areas that receive supplemental irrigation, or as-needed in cases of an extremely wet summer.
  • Grounds Maintenance Map and Map Definitions

    Depicted in the Grounds Maintenance Map are:

    • Meadow: Areas mowed once-to-twice per year, full of grasses and perennials.
    • Organic: Areas that never receive synthetic herbicide application.
    • Boom Spray: Large areas in which herbicides and fungicides are distributed using a boom sprayer to keep weeds to a minimum (high-profile areas and athletic fields).
    • Minimally Managed Natural Area: Grassy areas mowed every six-to-eight weeks, in which herbicides are not normally used.
    • Green Roof: Roof of a building that is partially or completely covered with vegetation and a growing medium.

    Please note: Not articulated in the legend but visible throughout the map are Wooded Areas: Areas with a dense tree canopy and/or that exhibit all four of the following layers (canopy, understory trees, shrubs, and herbaceous vegetation).

    View the Grounds Maintenance Map

The nature trail in summer


As required by state law, individuals on the Pesticide Sensitivity List are contacted at least 12 hours in advance. Notification is required when making applications within 500 feet of any individual in the PA Pesticide Hypersensitivity Registry.

In addition, a full day’s notice is given to all Haverford College Community members providing the following information:

    • Date of application
    • Location
    • Start and end times
    • Brand names of chemical
    • EPA Registration number
    • Active ingredient
    • Application rate
    • Contact information
    • Contact information and Business License Number (BU-7718)
    • LD50 is included on each notice, which is a measure of toxicity. An explanation of LD50 is provided in this University of Florida article. The higher the LD50 number, the less toxic the chemical.

Guidelines and Regulations

The EPA heavily regulates pesticide use and has applied strict safety standards for use and exposure to pesticides. Haverford College carefully adheres to these standards, and has conducted and passed an EPA self-audit. All chemicals applied on campus are recorded in pesticide application records and notifications, kept on file for three years. We continually work with our consulting representative to acquire the safest products available.

Every employee who sprays pesticides at Haverford College is certified in chemical handling and application. This exceeds state regulations requiring at least one person on the property to have an applicator’s license. Every applicator is required by Pennsylvania State Law to attend classes to maintain their license.

Pesticides are selected according to their warning label/signal word. Haverford overwhelmingly selects chemicals with the least amount of toxicity ('Caution'), but on occasion, it is necessary to select a chemical labeled 'Warning.' Haverford College never applies pesticides classified above 'Warning.'

Visitors walking beneath a canopy of trees

Questions & More Information

Our Grounds and Arboretum teams are dedicated to a healthy and thriving campus ecosystem.

Arboretum Director, Assistant Director of Facilities Management: Arboretum, Sustainability & Grounds
Facilities Management
ckent [at]