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How Mississippi State Helps Make the Ole Miss Grove Gorgeous for Graduation

Right now, one department on the Ole Miss campus is working as hard or harder than any to have the university’s most famous 10 acres, ready for graduation.
“When you cross the University Avenue bridge, and you pull up to the stop sign and then you’re seeing flowers blooming, just that dark green grass, it’s an attraction,” said Shea Baird, UM’s landscape spray technician of the impact of the The Grove.
Baird serves as the leader of a five-person team who works throughout the year to repair and maintain the iconic green space. After each football season, they attempt to restore the landscape to its former glory.
“We just try to do the best we can,” Baird said.
With a frigid winter and massive amounts of rain hitting the Ole Miss campus this year, Baird and his team have had a difficult time getting The Grove back to pristine conditions. He recognizes that the area still needs work.
“This has probably been the hardest year I’ve had in eleven years, with just simply weather,” said Baird. “It’s going to take a lot of work this summer; it’s going to take a little bit of time to get it back the way I want it.”
To make sure The Grove has grass for graduation, Baird’s team employs research techniques and works with an unlikely ally – Mississippi State. The lengthy process begins in September and October when soil samples are sent to Mississippi State for analysis.
“We get back a soil analysis in about a month, so we know what we’re looking at, as far as what kind of nutrients we need to put out in The Grove and how much we need to put in it,” said Baird.
Immediately after the last football game, the team begins fixing erosion areas and conditioning the soil with Aerify, which loosens any compacted clay and promotes soil activity. As soon as the first week of December comes, Baird begins putting out 2,000 pounds of seed and the best fertilizer according to that soil analysis from State.
All of this work means so much to Ole Miss students, especially seniors like Justin Green who believe that having graduation in The Grove helps to leave a lasting memory for everyone involved.
“Ever since I got here at Ole Miss, I’ve always been in love with coming to The Grove and having a good time with my friends,” said Green. “Anyone that goes to Ole Miss, I feel like they should have a chance to experience [or] have some experience when they leave, that they had in The Grove.”
Ultimately, Baird recognizes the importance of The Grove, not only in hosting the convocation ceremonies but also in acting as the definitive attraction for prospective students.
“I enjoy it because I think of it as a recruiting tool,” said Baird. “We are the best recruiter for this campus with all the natural beauty that we have, so we take pride in it.”

Story contributed by Gracie Snyder and Sarah Liese.

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