Housing & Dining Services Turf Manager Darren Willett had already been researching steam as an option for weed control on the CU Boulder campus when the 2013 floods hit, ravaging much of the Front Range yet providing a real-life example of just how effective the practice might be. Four years later, that “aha moment” is helping drive transformational change of the weed-management practices in the CU Boulder’s landscape beds and natural areas.
Around 1 year ago we began the Weedtechnics Experiment with the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU). Their main aim was to improve the presentation standards of the CU grounds through Steam Weed Control. The experiment was a success, and they’ve been Steam Weeding ever since. While the CU Facilities Manager David Lawson said that improved presentation standard was the main goal for HDS, the benefits of the machine are many.
The chemical-free factor, of course, is a major one that promotes improved soil health, employee safety and other decreased environmental impacts. But because the machine explodes the cells of weeds, there is also no need to return to remove the weeds. They decompose on their own and are gone within a few days. The steam process can also be used in all weather conditions, whereas with chemicals, wind or rain means lost workdays.
Another benefit of steam is that the heat helps to germinate weed seeds. While that initially leads to more weeds sprouting, it also helps exhaust the weeds’ seed banks and eventually leads to much lower-maintenance beds.
When we delivered 2 more units in early spring this year Mr Lawson was impressed at how much less weed growth was returning in comparison with last years untreated areas. Dare we say the proof was in the steamed pudding!
During the winter months HDS will turn its attention to using their SW700 and SW800 machine as low pressure high temperature steam cleaners for like gum removal on sidewalks, cleaning landscape fixtures and removing water stains on the side of buildings left behind by the sprinkler systems.