MGG Technical Assistance Program in Action: Ray Elementary School

MGG transformed a schoolyard of weeds and bare soil to a dense, resilient grass field without synthetic pesticides and fertilizers.

Ray Elementary School grounds before restoration.

Since the fall of 2022, Midwest Grows Green’s (MGG) Technical Assistance Program has helped Ray Elementary School in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood to restore a section of their schoolyard using sustainable, pesticide-free landscape management.

Vytas Pabedinskas, a Soil Scientist with Save our Soil, LLC., inspected the schoolyard. The soil tests and field assessments found high clay, shallow and heavily compacted soils.   MGG chose to restore the field’s Southwest side that contained bare soil and thin turfgrass due to its high use from sports practices and dog walkers.

Aerial image of Ray Elementary School Grounds. Area of restoration highlighted in red.

Volunteers at Ray Elementary School preparing the ground for compost and seed application.

MGG staff and five volunteers commenced site preparation on September 24th, 2022 by tilling the ground and manually removing weeds to smooth the surface of the soil. Following, volunteers topdressed the prepared ground with compost and seeded. Unfortunately, dry fall conditions in 2022 resulted in poor grass establishment before the early seasonal frost.

High foot traffic postponed further restoration work until after the 2022-2023 academic year ended. Once the school year ended in early June, MGG contracted with Teegan Compost Services for an additional compost topdressing and seeding.

Teegan Compost Services moving woodchips.

Laying down the straw mat to protect the newly seeded area and maintain moisture.

Pabedinskas returned to the site later in June to fertilize the areas with donated BioGreen Organics fertilizer.  S&M Plow Corp visited the site weekly to irrigate the grass until establishment in mid-July of 2023.  

Photo taken by Vytas Pabedinskas of Save Our Soils LLC. on July 7th, 2023.

The grass has sufficiently established to handle the upcoming foot traffic when students return to learn and play! Interested in learning more about sustainable landscaping or school IPM? Check out MGG’s Lawn and Land Forum and take the free online school IPM training modules on the Pest Defense for Healthy Schools website!

Photo taken by Joyce Gye of S&M Plow Corp on July 20th, 2023.

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