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  • Mark Coyne

Last Week in the Cemetery (Week of January 2)

Posted January 19, 2023 by M.S. Coyne

Last week in the Cemetery . . . . . . . . . Not much happened. It was the holidays. So, here are some odds and ends about the 2022 Landscaping Season.

The cemetery doesn’t maintain itself. Turf management in African Cemetery No. 2 is an on-going activity from April to October. On a bi-weekly basis (or as needed depending on rain) all 8-acres of the cemetery are mowed to a height of approximately 3.25 inches to keep robust growth and persistence during drought. We use a commercial eXmark LazerZ zero turn mower with a 48” deck, which was purchased ca. 2012 as part of a grant from the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Working with a commercial mower is the main reason it has been possible to maintain the cemetery appearance over the last decade. It takes one person about 7 hours and 10-gallons of gas from start to finish to mow the entire cemetery.

There is still hand labor involved in turf maintenance. Either before or after mowing, a day is spent trimming around the headstones.

Here’s the Stihl FS 91R trimmer I use.) We try to clear 4-5” around each marker to facilitate the mowing and reduce the potential collateral damage to stones during mowing.

The cemetery parkway is cut with a pushmower.(I use a Craftsman electric pushmower to about a 2” height as needed when I do it.)

We try to maintain the cemetery as organically as possible. So, you will notice we use fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides (such as imidacloprid to control Emerald Ash Borer (Agrilus planipennis) sparingly and rely on cultural practices such as mowing height and timing to maintain the turf.

For example, in a few places Johnson Grass (Sorghum halepense), an invasive grass weed, has tried to establish itself and is controlled by more frequent spot mowing. In shady areas Winter Creeper(Euonymus fortunei) another invasive, becomes endemic and starts to become the dominant groundcover.

The cemetery is an example of a ‘bee lawn’ that encourages the growth of Clover (White clover,Trifolium repens) to provide nitrogen and returns the clippings to the sod to replenish other nutrients. This strategy has been very successful. Even when periodic droughts have turned the cemetery brown, in most cases the next series of timely rains will green everything up again. Irrigation has never been necessary in the cemetery’s 150 + -year history.

A bee lawn embraces its weeds. So, because the cemetery sod isn’t intensely managed with herbicides, we have a variety of grasses and forbs that comprise the lawn. Depending on where you are (sunny or

shady, disturbed or undisturbed) you might see the following: Kentucky Bluegrass (Poa pratensis), Fescue (Festuca arundinacea), Crabgrass (Digitaria spp.), Plantain (Plantago major), Purple Violet (Viola spp.), Creeping Charlie (Glechoma hederacea), and a very small patch of Bermuda grass (Cynodon dactylon) at the corner of 7 th and Chestnut St. Crabgrass is particularly good at establishing itself in disturbed areas or areas where the grass has died for one reason or another. We promote the growth of Purple Violet around markers and trees because it provides good ground cover and grass suppression, particularly in shadier spots.

Feel free to ask if you have any questions about how we landscape African Cemetery No. 2 and why we do things the way we do (

Remember that if you or your group would like to contribute a few hours of service maintaining African Cemetery No. 2 in 2023, please contact Mark Coyne at to plan a visit.

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