Note that each module in the Advanced Certificate in Parks & Gardens Management is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.
Scope of the Parks Industry
The parks and garden industry is involved with the maintenance and management of public and private parks, sports grounds, reserves and gardens.
Traditionally, the parks and gardens sector has been largely associated with public authorities and institutions responsible for maintaining large tracts of land; for example, council parks departments, regional botanic gardens, cemeteries, historic trusts, prisons and universities. However, the development of the tourism, leisure and recreation industries over the last couple of decades has provided many other diverse opportunities in the commercial and private sectors; for example, developing and maintaining theme parks, zoos, golf courses, industrial parks, private hospitals and holiday resorts.
Environmental concerns in recent years have lead to many new types of jobs in this sector. Increasingly, ‘environmental horticulturists’ are employed to rehabilitate degraded sites, and to create, preserve and manage ‘natural’ environments. Their work may be associated with mine sites, traffic corridors, national parks, farm and rural planning, urban and rural reserves, and urban forestry schemes.
Challenges can arise daily in both areas, and the more efficient manager will not only be able to find a solution; but will understand the options and in doing so, be able to manage the implementation of action.
A large part of the parks managers work may involve maintaining a turf surface on the ground. Turf grass can deteriorate for many reasons; not the least over use; but also through deterioration in soil, poor fertility, dryness or poor light.
The ground surface is frequently a problem in shaded areas; or even in open areas (in some climates) over winter, when the amount of light is less.
It is normally hard to grow turf in shade. Shade can be a problem for other surfacing solutions too.
Paving becomes wet and slippery and bare earth often erodes where water drips from overhanging trees, eaves or other structures. In dry weather, overhanging structures or branches can have the reverse effect, stopping rain reaching the soil, and resulting in very dry spots.
Shaded areas can be subject to erosion, because plants often die due to excessive shade, leaving behind bare earth. The plant roots no longer bind the soil, so water running through the area can cause erosion. You may need to plant more shade tolerant plants in such places, or alternatively cover the area with mulch or paving to protect the soil. In addition, water drips from the things which cause the shade, such as roofs on pergolas, overhanging branches and so on. Constant dripping in the one spot will wash soil away, even from the roots of plants growing there. You need to identify such places before the problem becomes too serious. Place some hard paving under such spots – even a single stone placed under a drip to disperse the splashing water – or some resistant mulch material.
Turf and alternatives
Lawns are normally made up of a mixture of different types of grasses. Most grasses however, need at least medium light conditions to grow and be healthy. If an area is too dark, you may need to consider ways you can get more light into it, in order to grow lawn. Perhaps by removing lover branches on a tree, taking shade cloth off a pergola, or removing a fence, more light can be provided. Evergreen shrubs might be removed and replaced with deciduous plants to help improve light conditions during the winter months.
Don’t expect too much from grass grown in shade. It will never be as vigorous, healthy or strong as grass grown in bright light. The grass must also compete with any overhanging trees for water and nutrients; however, by doing the following you can improve its chances:
Where possible when planting trees and shrubs, choose species that will provide at least filtered light. Make sure you don’t over-plant.
Make sure drainage is good.
Make sure the soil is well aerated. If the soil is heavy clay, top-dress it frequently with sand, and use an aerator fork to punch holes in the surface to stop it becoming too compacted. Dig in plenty of well rotted organic matter and add gypsum or clay breaker.
Use lower rates of application of nitrogenous fertilisers than you would use for lawn species in full sunlight. High nitrogen application produces succulent tissues that are more prone to injury from wear or pest and disease attack.
Avoid walking over or sitting on heavily shaded areas of lawn, particularly if the grass cover is weak and thin.
Mow your lawn at a higher setting than you would for lawn in full sun. This is most important. The longer blade length of the grass means it has increased ability to trap and convert sunlight into plant food. It will also help give the lawn a fuller appearance.
Water deeply (but don’t over-water). This will help reduce the likelihood of surface rooting from trees, which causes greater competition for surface supplies of nutrients. Larger surface roots could also be a problem when mowing.
Remove any fallen leaves, or grass clippings as these can make it difficult for your lawn to grow by reducing the amount of light it receives. They also physically smother the growing grass and provide a habitat for pests and diseases.
Fescues are often considered the most shade tolerant of the common lawn grasses. They are excellent lawn grasses for temperate climates and come in two main types.
The upright clump forming type, called Tall Fescue, generally needs more light than the creeping types, but will certainly grow in the shade to a certain degree.
Creeping Fescues such as Creeping Red Fescue, tolerate shade better than most other grasses.
Some lawn seed companies package seed mixes especially designed for shade areas, and these are worth trying, but don’t expect too much. You should always remember that growing grass in the shade is not the way it should be done.
Zoysia grasses grow in warmer climates and have some shade tolerance. These are slower growing and less hardy than couches, but for a shaded area they are usually preferred. Manila grass is a type of Zoysia which has better shade tolerance than others.
The Australian native Microlaena stipoides (Weeping Grass) is a persistent adaptable species, suitable for damp shaded areas. Seed of this species is now becoming available from specialist growers.
Dichondra repens. A small Australian native plant. Seed can be purchased. It grows well in shade, but the ground must remain moist. Drying out will kill dichondra. Dichondra does not take much wear and tear – it’s a lawn to look at, not to use.
Helexine soleirolii (Angel’s Tears). Like dichondra, it must have moist soil and little wear and tear or it will quickly die.
Mentha pulegium (Pennyroyal). Suits semi to full shade, but can be invaded by weeds, particularly if the soil does not remain wet.
Prunella laciniata. Suits semi-shade.
Veronica prostrata (Speedwell). A dense matting plant with blue flowers, suited to semi-shade. It too is a lawn to look at rather than use.
MOSS IN LAWNS
Moss grows in lawns when they get too wet and that is most common in shaded areas. If the area can be dried out and the grass kept in the peak of health, the moss simply won’t develop.
The first step in controlling moss is to improve drainage and aeration to stop the area getting too wet. Treatment with a moss killer, usually a dilute solution of copper sulphate or iron sulphate, will kill existing moss, but if the moisture problem isn’t fixed, it will just reappear.
Paving is an obvious alternative to lawn in shaded areas. Consider whether the paving is going to be too slippery when wet. A surface with some texture in it, such as concrete pavers or asphalt is usually better than smooth surfaces such as glazed tiles or slate.
Mulching a shaded area is generally cheaper and easier than paving, and still looks attractive. Materials which become too wet are more likely to grow algae on the surface and lead to root rots with sensitive plants. If these things are a problem, you might choose mulches, such as pebbles or coarse sand. Pull mulch back, away from the stem or trunk of any plants which are susceptible to rots. Moist mulch touching the bark will only promote disease.
Never lay plastic sheeting under mulch. This can lead to serious soil problems.
WHAT WILL THIS COURSE DO FOR YOU?
Give you the skills and knowledge to work in the field of amenity horticulture as a Park Manager.
This course is different to many others, because it goes well beyond just teaching you how to manage parks. It is an "experiential based" learning program; designed to get you involved with horticulturalists, managers and the amenity horticulture industry as you study. The industry is changing faster than ever; and will continue to change; and for ongoing success you need to become "connected" and remain "connected", so that you see and adapt to recent changes, and ongoing changes as your career moves forward.
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