Organic Park Care

The Rose Kennedy Greenway is Boston’s only organically maintained public park and one of a handful of organically maintained urban parks in the United States.

As a result of our practices, we've received recognition in the following ways:

Because of the Conservancy ground-up approach that encompasses all living things including soil, plants and trees, children and pets can play freely and safely on our  lawns without the worry of chemicals or pesticides. Our plants are healthier, more resilient, and better able to withstand the wear of public use. The Conservancy’s practice of not using herbicides and toxins also ensures that run-off from the parks will not pollute Boston Harbor or harm the delicate marine life.

The goal of a sustainable landscape is a net-zero “environmental footprint”. A sustainable landscape demonstrates a harmonious relationship between the natural and created environment. Proper soil management, plant health, air and water quality, and resource conservation are all part of maintaining a sustainable landscape.

Certified Organic

The Conservancy’s horticulture staff is comprised of individuals with expertise in organic and sustainable landscape care. The Greenway Conservancy complies with the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) and the Northeast Organic Farming Association (NOFA) standards. The entire horticulture staff has attained Accredited Organic Land Care Professional (AOLCP) status through NOFA. 

Products required for the maintenance and upkeep of the Greenway’s landscapes are sourced with strong consideration to the manufacturing and transportation processes as well as the vendor’s proximity to the Greenway. We use a local source for the majority of our turf care products including fertilizers and seed.  Mulches, compost, and container mixes used on the Greenway consist of organic byproducts. To ensure proper and timely applications of  organic products, our staff conducts a regular physical assessments of all plants in combination with soil testing.


All organic debris generated in the park is collected on-site for composting and is later applied back on to the Greenway in the form of mulch and compost. We currently apply over 300 cubic yards of compost annually.

Compost Tea

The Conservancy brews its own Compost Tea and applies it to the Greenway regularly between April and November. We currently brew and apply over 12,500 gallons of compost tea annually.  Ingredients used in the production of our Compost Tea include fish emulsion, humates, molasses, oats, worm castings (from our year-round Vermiculture effort) and organic vegetable and fruit scraps from the Dewey Square Farmer’s Market. These ingredients are all natural and provide the right combination of nutrients plus a bacterial trigger to activate the compost tea.

Regular compost tea applications in a given year allow us to put a special emphasis on lawns (3 times annually), bed drenches (2 times annually), deep root treatments for lawn and bedding trees (1 time annually), street trees (2 times annually), containers (3 times annually), and finally our raised bed gardens at Dewey Square Park (3 times annually).

Water Resource Management

The Greenway Conservancy is also committed to proper water resource management practices utilizing rain sensors throughout the Greenway parks. These rain sensors are calibrated to recognize how much water has been received via rainfall. The irrigation practices that we employ reduce the Greenway’s overall annual water consumption through regular auditing of the system’s water usage, quick detection of leaks and malfunctions, and frequent updates of the duration and frequency of run cycles. 

Green Landscape Design

The Conservancy is committed to operating and maintaining the Greenway in an environmentally responsible manner that minimizes our carbon footprint on the planet.  Our goal is to provide year-round botanical interest, contributing to a beautiful setting and an enjoyable environment.  The Conservancy’s horticulture staff relies on the use of native plant species and additional non-native, non-invasive plant material with a proven record of adapting to the existing environmental conditions and urban stresses of the parks.  The Conservancy implements the design practice of selecting “the right plant for the right place” when introducing new plantings or when relocating existing plants. We implement this practice in a way to account for the social and environmental impacts of the materials being used.

The Greenway is free of genetically engineered organisms and takes into consideration the creation and preservation of wildlife habitat in the parks. Native plants are used, to provide seed heads and fruit for native birds to feed on year-round. This contributes to the well-being of both plants and wildlife. Our efforts were recognized in the Summer of 2012 when we became a National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitat.

The typical practice of fall cutbacks is kept to a minimum in order to retain winter interest for aesthetics and wildlife food source and habitat.  We transplant trees and shrubs whenever possible to re-use plants and trees. An effort is made to transplant existing plant material whenever possible and appropriate when construction projects are planned. 

Turf and Weed Management

Organic green turf and weed management practices include the mowing of lawns at a height of 3 inches to deter weed development, alternating of mowing patterns to avoid compaction, and the regular practice of maintaining mowing equipment to ensure blade sharpness which properly cuts turf resulting in less stress and less opportunity for disease issues. 

The Conservancy uses alternative means of weed control including flaming, hand removal, and the use of new organic products. These methods utilize heat and naturally occurring compounds to disrupt plant cell activity in weeds. 

Annual spring and fall lawn care applications include aeration of lawns to alleviate compaction with the addition of compost top dressing and humates and over seeding to promote dense turf development.  We apply organic fertilizer 4 times a year: Spring, summer, early fall and mid-fall.

However, organic methods will not remove every single dandelion. [Check out our Volunteer Program]  The Conservancy strives to elevate the level of tolerance for weed growth through public education around organic practices. The horticulture staff monitors Greenway parks for wear and tear and proper plant health. Park guidelines encourage the rotation of recurring programming and special events between several lawn areas. 

Fuel Efficiency

Operations vehicles include plug-in electric vehicles, and small fuel-efficient park vehicles which use less fossil fuel than larger vehicles and require fewer natural resources to manufacture. We employ bicycles for Conservancy personnel to get around, and we use quiet, fuel-efficient gas powered backpack blowers, generators, and other tools.

The Conservancy strives to be a leader in implementing sustainable landscape practices, to cultivate broad community support for and partnership in “greening” the Greenway, and to promote public education about the importance of responsible land stewardship.

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