Landscaping and Plant Maintenance

The Bowdoin Grounds division within the Office of Facilities Management maintains 207 acres of campus grounds, consisting of approximately 40 acres of athletic fields, 35 acres of lawns and gardens, and many acres of mixed deciduous and coniferous forests, including the hiking trails in the Bowdoin Pines.

treecampus_highered_logo.jpgTree Campus USA

Bowdoin College has earned distinction through the Tree Campus Higher Education Program! Bowdoin achieved the distinction by meeting Tree Campus Higher Education's five standards, including maintaining a tree advisory committee, a campus tree-care plan, dedicated annual expenditures for its campus tree program, an Arbor Day observance, and student service-learning project.


The Bowdoin grounds department has begun to transition from gas-powered to electric-powered maintenance equipment. Starting with electric trimmers, an electric snow blower, and an electric utility vehicle, the department is committed to transitioning to all electric mowers over the next eight years as equipment is replaced, and to electric leaf blowers as soon as products have the capacity to perform the heavy work a 205-acre campus requires without frequent recharging.

Grounds personnel focus on maintaining healthy plants and a dense turf to prevent weeds or pests. Bowdoin utilizes an Integrated Pest Management Program and has been gradually expanding an exclusively organic treatment of campus grounds over the past ten years.

  • Organic Treatment of Grounds: The Town of Brunswick’s aquifer protection zone includes Bowdoin’s Whittier Field, home of Bowdoin’s football team.  Because of this designation, the college began treating the field organically in 2002. Utilizing an organic program of aeration, compost tea, and hand weeding, over time the college has developed a superb playing field that is completely organic. Bowdoin has expanded the organic treatment across 60 percent of the central campus, including the Cleaveland Quad, Main Quad, Coe Quad, and the President’s residence and guest house. The treatments utilize ingredients such as corn gluten, seaweed, bone meal and manure, and pest deterrents such as red pepper and garlic oils.
  • Water Conservation The campus landscapes with native species that do not require irrigation. High visibility grassed areas of campus do receive water during dry weather.  In recent years, as a means of conserving water, the college installed a below-ground irrigation system on athletic fields at Pickard Field and the Main and Cleaveland Quads. These systems monitor the moisture in the soil and only water accordingly. The systems are automated to operate in the early morning hours before the sun rises to reduce evaporation during the watering cycle. The campus maintains a mowing height of 2.5 to 3 inches, which encourages deeper root growth, thus reducing the need for watering.  Utilizing mulching mowers, grass clippings are left on the lawn. On the rare occasion when they need to be removed, the clippings are composted. 
  • Tree Care: Bowdoin maintains a GIS tree inventory of the 1600 trees on campus.  Bowdoin plants have a wide diversity of species as a precaution against disease. The College has worked diligently over the past ten years to eliminate parking near tree roots, avoiding root compaction.  Any time a tree dies on campus,  every effort is made to replace it within a year.  For each tree that needs to be removed from the quad, a new tree is planted.
  • Snow and Ice removal: To reduce the negative impact of salting during Maine winters, Bowdoin uses a product called Magic SaltTM.  Magic Salt is ordinary rock salt that has been treated with an agricultural by-product of the distilling process blended with magnesium chloride. The result is a product that allows the reduction of salt use by roughly 30%. Another measure taken to protect the trees from winter road and sidewalk salting is the application of gypsum around the trees, which helps reduce the salt uptake in the roots.
  • Stormwater: Bowdoin is installing its first green roof on its central heating plant in the fall of 2011, after a year-long trial period. Consisting of various sedums, the roof is expected to absorb water on-site, expand the life of the roof and provide a scenic view from the LEED Silver certified Buck Fitness Center. Other low-impact development techniques used to treat stormwater on-site include a rainwater capture system on the roof of two dorms (we utilize the water for toilet flushing in the two buildings), and stormwater retentions ponds, vegetative swales, infiltration galleries, under drained soil filters, and under drained Bioretention cells.  Additionally, surfaces are designed to direct rainwater runoff toward plants and maintain plant health. 
  • Composting: Organic waste from grounds keeping is composted by a local contractor in exchange for loam that is used around campus. The Grounds Department also chips wood debris to be used on campus trails.