Effigy Mound Care at UW-Madison
- Picnic Point Mound Group/DA-121 (Picnic Point/Lakeshore Nature Preserve) Eagle Heights Group/DA-130 (Eagle Heights Woods/Lakeshore Nature Preserve)
- Willow Drive Mounds/DA-119 (north of the Natatorium/Lakeshore Nature Preserve)
- Observatory Hill/Agricultural Hall Mound Group/DA-571 (west of the Washburn Observatory)
- Equipment operator: must be familiar with the mound shapes. Review site maps prior to mowing.
- Grass length on mound feature: minimum 4" and maximum 12".
- Grass length contrast: grass length should be longer on mound feature than adjacent area.
- Mowing frequency: only as needed to stay within length range. Don't mow during dormant growth periods.
- Soil conditions: mow only when soil is dry/firm.
- Mowing equipment on mound feature: only walk-behind mower. No riding mower.
- Re-seed: use low-maintenance seed mix on exposed soils.
- Herbicide: use only as necessary to control aggressive/invasive weeds
- Soil disturbance: report soil disturbance to CPLA. Do not add soil within a mound site.
- Leaf removal: hand rake and blow leaves off mound features in timely manner each autumn (with spring follow-up as needed).
Current UW Policy and
The burial sites policy (2011) provides broad goals for managing mound sites. The land management guideline (2013) provides general direction for implementing the policy.
This document provides site specific direction for turf grass care at the Observatory Drive, and Willow Drive mound groups. If at some future date, the ground cover at these two sites is converted to a different vegetation cover (i.e., native grasses and forbs) then the guidelines in this document will no longer apply.
The burial sites policy (2011) identified six goals, including this goal relevant to vegetation on mounds:
“Manage vegetation to preserve visibility of mounds. The university will control vegetation to permit visibility of mound contours.”
The land management guideline (2013) provided direction on mowing vegetation on mounds:
Maintenance of Turf/Herbaceous plants
“Mowing. Mound sites covered by turf or low-growing vegetation are generally maintained through periodic mowing or cutting. Mowing cycles will be dictated by seasonal growth and site conditions, and may be as infrequent as two times per growing season. Mowing should be timed to allow for desirable plants to flower and set seed, whenever possible.
Mowing must be conducted in a manner that avoids compaction and damage to mound features. It is recommended that only experienced operators perform mowing on and around mounds to avoid damage that could occur from mower decks and blades cutting into the mounds. The mower deck should be set to a minimum of four-inch height (higher is desirable), and mowing should only be conducted as needed to maintain visibility of mound contours. Manually cutting vegetation with weed-wackers, brush cutters, or other tools may be appropriate alternatives to mowing on mounds.
In the fall, removal of leaves and thatch is a desirable strategy for maintaining health of grasses and other herbaceous ground cover plants. Mowing, burning, blowing or raking are all good practices-alone or in combination.
Management activity within a burial site must be avoided during periods when the ground is saturated (e.g., spring thaw or following precipitation), or any other time that renders the site prone to erosion, compaction or disturbance from management activity.”
Currently the physical plant grounds department provides the staff and equipment to perform turf grass mowing at mound sites. This guideline anticipates that the grounds department will continue to provide this service.
1. Mowing frequency: The
frequency of lawn mowing is dependent on soil conditions and vegetation height.
Rapid turf grass growth may require one or more spring mowings—especially if
grass height exceeds 12”. When grass
height on mounds exceeds 12”, mowing becomes difficult and the grass cuttings
must be removed. Careful monitoring of
turf grass growth rates is useful in determining the most appropriate timing
for mowing on mound features.
2. Soil conditions: Mowing should not occur when soils may be compressed due to recent rain or meltwater conditions. In general, wait a full day after a rain event to mow mound sites.
3. Equipment operator: Staff assigned to operate mowing equipment on mounds should be familiar with the special requirements of turf care on burial mound sites. This will ordinarily mean that the mowing assignment is delegated to a permanent employee or a well-supervised temporary employee. Knowledge of specific mound location and mound contours is critical to avoiding improper mowing (e.g., mowing the outline of a raised earthen feature that does not conform to an actual burial mound.)
4. Mowing equipment: Due
to the mower deck width, and the combined weight of the equipment and operator,
rider mowers are not to be
used on the raised contours of a burial mound.
5. Mowing deck height on mound features
6. Mowing deck height on areas adjacent to mounds: The mowing blade shall be set at no lower than 2” for cutting turf adjacent to mounds. Higher deck heights are preferable.
7. Fall leaf removal: Removal
of leaf litter is important to maintain turf health. If leaves are allowed to persist on top of turf
grasses, this may stress or kill the grass.
If significant areas of turf grass die and expose the soil surface of
the mound, this may lead to soil erosion.
8. Herbicide and fertilizer: In general, the use of regular broad spectrum herbicides to control weeds such as dandelions or crabgrasses is NOT appropriate for mound sites. There may be instances when highly invasive weeds or exotic woody plants growing on a mound site will make herbicide use desirable (e.g., crown vetch, or buckthorn). Herbicide use should be highly targeted and used only when alternative methods of control are inadequate. In general the use of fertilizers is not needed or desirable on mound sites. A mix of grasses and forbs is acceptable for turf covering a mound feature.
9. Mowing pattern: Above-ground
features of a mound site are not always obvious to the untrained eye. Operators of mowing equipment should be
familiar with the known outlines of mounds.
In general, the turf covering a mound will be higher than adjacent lawn
areas. In this way, a person viewing a
mound can more easily discern the mound feature.
10. Re-seeding exposed soils: For those burial mound sites currently being maintained under a turf grass regime, it may be necessary to introduce new grass seed to fill in bare spots or re-establish grass following an herbicide treatment. The same seed mix that is being used for other low maintenance turf areas on campus may be used.
11. Soil disturbance: When disturbance to soils on a mound feature are observed (e.g., due to animal burrowing, or depressions caused by decaying tree stumps) contact CPLA for guidance. Do not add soil to a mound site without prior approval.