The Never-Ending World of Turf Maintenance
More From Biltmore 05/31/13
Written By Judy Ross
Left to right: Curtis Horn (Grounds Maintenance Manager), Michael Faulhaber (Groundskeeper), Justin Holmes (Groundskeeper), Dwayne Schmidt (Turf Crew Leader), Joel Cornes (Groundskeeper), Bob Brett (Groundskeeper), Tim Norton (Groundskeeper), Dwayne Schmidt (Crew Leader)
There’s a large part of Biltmore’s landscape that is often overlooked. You could say it gets walked all over. It’s the grass—and there’s a lot of it when you consider the lawns around Biltmore House, the gardens, along roadsides, and everywhere else.
Keeping all that grass mowed and trimmed is the responsibility of Dwayne Schmidt, Crew Leader, and his six-member Turf Management team.
“Our team mows 135–140 acres each week, and some areas are mowed twice a week,” Dwayne said. “We mow every month but January, using riding and push mowers, and we do hand edging in the Rose Garden.”
He compares his team to a NASCAR pit crew since they must work well together at a fast pace. Their day can start as early as 6:30 a.m. so they can mow and get out fast before guests arrive.
Turf management at Biltmore is a science similar to what world-class golf courses use. The team fertilizes, aerates in spring and fall, maintains irrigation systems, overseeds, blows leaves, trims, and removes snow quickly to keep everything immaculate.
Dwayne has worked three years with Biltmore, but his team has close to 100 years of experience. He is a certified turf grass professional and was recently appointed as one of 12 members to the Turf Grass Council of North Carolina. Several other crew members are in the process of earning the Turf Grass certification that includes classroom work and a challenging test. The team regularly participates in continuing education, and recently earned a Biltmore Environmental Excellence Award for rerouting their mowing operations to save gas and energy.
The Front Lawn is Dwayne’s favorite place; he knows that more than a million people see it each year and it is the frame for Biltmore House, carefully tended and mowed twice weekly. Except for four days prior to Easter—then they let the grass grow longer so it’s easier to hide eggs for the popular Easter Egg Hunts.
“Biltmore is an awesome place, and I am proud of the work we do here,” said Dwayne. “When you have people from all over the world admiring your work, how can you not be proud?”