Temple grounds crew cultivates campus beauty

Temple’s grounds crew works tirelessly to make Main Campus a pristine backdrop for graduation photos.

Temple’s grounds crew works tirelessly around graduation season to ensure campus serves as a shining backdrop for milestone moments in students’ lives. | FERNANDO GAXIOLA / THE TEMPLE NEWS

During the first stretch of spring heat, on-campus green spaces like the grassy area in front of Beury Hall, colloquially known as Beury Beach, or landscaped locations like Founder’s Garden, are typically flooded with students.

“I think the Founder’s Garden is a nice place,” said Delaney Renn, a senior horticulture major. “It’s hard to find a lot of good nature on this campus or just good areas. I think that area is a really nice place to have here.”

What many don’t realize is the amount of time, effort and care that goes into making Temple’s landscaping a spectacle for parents, staff and prospective and current students alike. Although the landscaping crew is always present on campus, their efforts will amplify in the next several weeks leading up to graduation. 

Alaina Hill appreciates the diversification of Main Campus annuals and trees. Although campus green spaces are great for the local ecosystem and animals, it’s also beneficial for the residents in the area.

“If you go over to Drexel, they have such a small amount of green space, and it feels so like plain and just buildings, whereas for Temple I think the main reason they have such an intricate landscape is to provide more of just a naturalistic homey feeling instead of a plain urban feeling,” said Hill, a senior horticulture major. “[Temple] feels more like a campus than like a city school.”


Richard Hoover, the assistant director of grounds for Temple’s Main Campus, oversees the annual foliage and appearance of the campus. The grounds crew is on campus every day beginning at 6 a.m. to ensure the campus and lawns are litter-free.

After removing litter and trash from the campus and trash cans, the rest of the day’s tasks differ depending on the season. The team is always prepared for a potential snowstorm during the winter and stays on top of any necessary leaf-blowing and pruning, which cuts away any dead branches or stems to increase future growth. The grounds crew’s tasks focus more on mulching and preparing flower beds as the spring season nears. 

“We handle all the landscaping, so we usually cut the grass in season and try to have all the mowing done before about 10 o’clock in the morning, weed whack and then from there we prep all of the flowers,” Hoover said. 

The team is still outside at 6 a.m during the colder months, ensuring the campus is clean and tidy. Although housekeeping and service operations are responsible for taking care of most of the snow in the winter, the grounds crew is responsible for salting the major walkways of Main Campus.

The grounds crew also selects different flowers to plant each season. Daffodils are planted in the fall, so the yellow flowers will still make a blooming appearance during the first warm stretch of late winter.

“Even if you have a rough winter, the daffodils will still give you something to look at out there early, and they come back every year, so we put them in in the fall and then they just keep coming back,” Hoover said.

It’s been difficult for Hoover to plant flowers like tulips in the past because they didn’t thrive and were eaten by squirrels.

The crew begins to plant different types of pansies on campus around the beginning of March. Pansies are ideal for cold spring weather because they’re hardy, lasting through frost and snow. They bloom for a long time, offer a variety of colors, are easy to grow and add charm to winter landscapes.


The flower beds will be edged toward the end of March and beginning of April, creating a clear border around its perimeter using materials like bricks, stones or other plants. This defines the bed’s boundaries, prevents encroachment of grass or weeds and enhances the garden’s aesthetic appeal.

Mulching is another pre-spring season task and heavily improves the appearance of campus. Temple’s lawns have already gone through an aeration and seeding process which began around early March. The process involves creating small holes in the soil to allow air, water and nutrients to reach grass roots, improving soil health and root growth. 

Seeding is the process of spreading grass seeds across the lawn to encourage new growth, filling bare patches or introducing different types of grass to enhance the overall density and health of the lawn. 

Once the soil temperature rises and the land absorbs more rain, the lawns will become green and dense, ready to be enjoyed. The grounds team spends most of their late winter to early spring preparing for their big moment of the Spring semester — graduation.

The week of Temple’s various graduation ceremonies is when the grounds crew kicks their effort into its highest gear to ensure the campus remains pristine. Hundreds of parents, students and families use Main Campus’ foliage as a backdrop for photos, and the grounds team works tirelessly to ensure its perfection. 

There are different tasks that must be completed prior to graduation that heavily change the aesthetic of campus. The crew lays down fresh mulch, which not only looks neat and clean but helps prevent weed growth and retains water for the planted flowers. 

The team also plants red geranium flowers along the major walkways and popular photo-ops, which have become a personal favorite for Hoover, faculty and the community. 

“I needed something to fill an area, it ended up being red geraniums and everybody just loved it, and we just went with it,” Hoover said.

The grounds team typically completes large projects in the fall; they completed heftier projects in about seven different areas on or around Main Campus this past year. One included patches of landscaping around Aramark STAR Complex’s outdoor track, another being the front landscaping of Johnson and Hardwick Residence Halls. 

The amount of projects taken on during the fall varies depending on the visual and landscaping state of Main Campus, operating budgets and construction. Whenever the university considers major construction and projects, conversations regarding landscaping and green space often occur in the early stages of the construction planning.

The grounds team offers their knowledge to the university when administration decides they want to construct a new building, like Charles Library for example, Hoover said.

“That landscape plan is out of our hands, that goes with the building, and we have some say in what plants are used because we have a good idea of what lives down here and what doesn’t,” Hoover said.

Aside from aesthetics, the crew must get creative in solving landscaping problems that arise in Temple’s urban environment, like the pressure from foot traffic. 

“One of the issues we have is people cutting corners on lawns, and when they do that all summer long, a beaten path forms, we call it cowpaths, but it’s from people trying to go the quickest way from point A to point B,” Hoover said. 

The grounds crew plants flower beds or places blockades to prevent further erosion and damage from unplanned cowpaths. Limited water irrigation on campus, extreme summer heat and the urban heat island effect present other challenges. 

Philadelphia experiences significant temperature disparities among its neighborhoods, with areas in the North, West and South being the hottest and those in the Northwest and Northeast being cooler. Vulnerable neighborhoods, mainly in North and West Philly, face increased heat due to factors like low vegetation cover.

The city has seen rising temperatures during recent decades, with summers becoming hotter and consisting of more frequent heat waves. Some areas in the city are up to 10 degrees hotter than others, WHYY reported

Flower beds surrounded by concrete become excessively hot, causing plants to dry out quickly; even drought-tolerant plants struggle due to the intense heat and dryness. The crew uses water wagons pulled by tractors throughout the summer to address the dry out, sometimes operating seven days a week for up to 10 hours a day. 

While there are some irrigation systems in place, they are not extensive, resulting in most of the watering being done by hand. Watering remains a significant challenge in maintaining Temple’s landscape despite improvements in equipment and plant selection throughout the past decade. 

“The [water wagon] will run 10 to 16 hours a day sometimes, it’s a lot of work just keeping plants alive,” Hoover said. 

For the remainder of the semester, students on Main Campus can enjoy the flourishing foliage of daffodils, red geraniums and pansies, while sunbathing on Main Campus’s lush, green lawns.“There’s been so many studies done on just how beneficial green spaces are, especially in urban areas, a lot of them even having to do with lower crime rates and I just think it’s really important to kind of get your mind out of here,” said Renn, a senior horticulture major. “You look around and everything is kind of just concrete, so being able to go out and connect with that and just hear birds chirping and crickets instead of horns and sirens.”


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