Organic Land Care

We improve the biological diversity and beauty of the natural environment on the Charles River Esplanade. Our horticulture and stewardship staff utilizes the best management practices in land care to improve soil health, manage invasive plants, expand native plantings, and care for our urban tree canopy. Since 2012, we have developed and implemented a compost program, planted hundreds of native perennials, shrubs, and trees, and created new initiatives to raise awareness about conservation and restoration. We also manage environmental threats to increase the health and resiliency of the Charles River Esplanade. In 2015, the Esplanade became a certified wildlife habitat through the National Wildlife Federation.

Trees and Shrubs

The Association helps to care for the park’s shrubs and over 1,700 trees. The Association’s Horticulture staff regularly prunes trees and we also work with professional contractors to assist with larger pruning efforts. In the fall of 2015, the Esplanade Association completed an updated tree inventory and tagging system using the latest in cloud-based technology. This inventory informs our tree care management and succession program which will allow us to focus on long-term tree care and preserving the park’s maturing canopy.

Perennial Beds

The EA staff and its volunteers are actively planting and maintaining perennial beds through the park. Specific areas include the Hatch Memorial Shell, Lotta Fountain, Dartmouth Street Comfort Station, Oliver Wendell Holmes Memorial, Storrow Memorial, and Stoneman Playground. In addition to aesthetic considerations, EA carefully chooses native plants that will adapt well and help to enhance the park’s natural environment.


In 2012 the Association began the park’s first composting program. Vegetative park debris (branches, leaves, weeds) is collected on site by our Horticulture staff and volunteers, then processed and returned to the park’s landscapes in the form of mulch, compost, or compost tea. Compost is used throughout the season in all of the Association’s horticultural initiatives.

Compost Tea

In the spring of 2013, EA began brewing and applying compost tea. Compost tea is a liquid extract made by steeping compost in water. Compost tea is brewed and applied to the landscape during the growing season, between March and November. It improves plant health and appearance by improving soil structure, adding beneficial organisms to the soil, building soil organic matter, and aiding in nutrient uptake. Compost tea also helps to protect plants from disease, decompacts soil, decreases run-off and leaching, and it’s all natural! Learn more about compost tea in our blog post, “What’s in that Tank?”.

Soil Decompaction

The health of the park’s turf, perennials, trees, and shrubs are direct reflections of soil health (structure and biodiversity). Heavy park use (foot traffic, driving or parking vehicles, and staging of materials) has left the park’s soil severely compacted. Soil compaction is a major threat to plant health in urban parks, reducing oxygen available for plants as well as limiting their ability to absorb water.

The EA is actively testing a variety of methods to decompact soil. From compost tea application to soil aeration in the form of air spading, we are working to restore the park’s soils every day.

Invasive Plant Management

The Esplanade’s shoreline is plagued by invasive plants. EA is working to manage invasive plant species through inventory and monitoring, as well as treatment and control. The invasive plants are not native to the Northeast nor North America. Phragmites, Indigo bush, Porcelain berry, Bittersweet, are just a few.

Invasive plants reproduce aggressively, allowing them to invade new habitats and out-compete native plants. As a result, they are able to form dense thickets which reduce food and shelter for native wildlife and prevent native plants and trees from growing. Reduced tree cover creates higher water temperatures, reducing oxygen for fish and other aquatic animals. It also reduces stormwater interception, carbon sequestration and habitat for fauna.

The Esplanade Association constantly works to control the spread of invasive species through the selective cutting of invasive plants by hand or with machinery.

In 2018, the Esplanade Association completed a study on methods to treat invasive Phragmites or “Common Reed” in the Park. Learn more on our blog.