Landscape & Grounds

Williams manages its landscaping using an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) approach. “Integrated pest management (IPM) uses a combination of biological, cultural, physical/mechanical and chemical management tools to solve pest problems while minimizing risks to people and the environment” (AASHE STARS)  It combines four different practices to control any given pest: cultural, mechanical, biological, and chemical. Cultural practices are preventative measures to create inhospitable environments for pests. Mechanical controls physically remove the pests. Biological control is releasing beneficial insects that prey on harmful pests. Chemical controls include pesticides (herbicide, insecticide, and fungicide) and natural compounds (insecticidal soaps, compost tea, vinegar and citric acid). IPM stresses only applying chemicals after all other methods have been tried and places emphasis on using the least toxic methods.


Click to enlarge. Graphic by Jennifer Lee ’22.

The College has a number of gardens on campus. The Parsons Garden has blackberries, annual vegetables, asparagus, and some well-built compost bins. TheWilliams College Children’s Center also has its own garden. At the ’66 Environmental Center, you will see gardens on all sides – perennial beds in front with asparagus, rhubarb, and strawberries; annual garden beds and a berry patch in the back, herb beds near the kitchen, low-bush blueberries in a variety of locations, and a small fruit tree orchard in front. The produce is loved by all, but it is also is a Living Building Challenge requirement that 35% of the site must be in food production.

The Williams Sustainable Growers student organization manages Parsons and the beds on the north side of the Environmental Center (next to Goodrich House) during the school year.  The herb beds and perennial beds on the south side (towards Sawyer Library) as well as the fruit tree orchard, low-bush blueberries, and high bush berry patch are maintained by a ZC student landscaping and garden intern during the school year. They are all maintained by ZC garden interns during the summer.

Watch a video put together by ZC garden interns in 2016 here.

The Williams College Community Garden is set to open in the spring of 2021.  The garden is intended for staff, faculty, students, and community members to care for individual plots.


Williams has turf for different purposes and as a result they receive different treatments. In all cases, Williams chooses species of plants and trees that are least susceptible to common diseases in the area. Those species may or may not be native. Grass clippings are left on the grass to decompose and return nutrients to the soil. On all fields, weeds are managed primarily through prevention and physical suppression.

Game fields where varsity and junior varsity competitions are held are expected to meet NCAA standards for play and as a result require the most maintenance. pH is monitored, as is phosphorus and potassium to determine the need for fertilization. During the playing season, grass on these fields is maintained at an inch and a half per NCAA standards, which generally equates to mowing the fields twice per week. During the off-season, the height of the grass is raised to two inches which is accomplished by mowing approximately once per week. These areas are watered with permanent in-ground irrigation systems. Irrigation is not set on a permanent timer, and watering only occurs when soil samples indicate low water levels, or if fields show visual signs of moisture stress. Synthetic fertilizers are applied several times during the summer and fall. Game fields are treated with herbicides – generally only as needed after weeds have sprouted, but several vulnerable fields are treated with pre-emergent herbicides. They are also treated with a preventative insecticide for grub control, and with several fungicides during the summer depending on temperature.

Practice fields are where varsity and junior varsity practices are held, and where rugby practices and games are held. These fields are given much less maintenance than game fields, much closer to that of common grounds. They are mowed approximately once per week, keeping them at a height around two inches, and are not watered. Synthetic fertilizers are applied several times during the summer and fall. No measures beyond natural prevention and physical suppression are used to manage weeds and insects.


The lawns surrounding residence halls, classroom buildings and offices are generally for day-to-day use, but not athletic events. Intramural and club sports play on fields that are maintained as common grounds. These areas are mowed approximately once per week, keeping them at a height around two inches, and are not watered. An organic fertilizer is applied annually in the fall. No measures beyond natural prevention and physical suppression are used to manage weeds and insects.

Campus Tree Survey

Image of Campus Map with Trees

The Campus Tree Survey was conducted by Davey Resource Group in 2022.


Campus Landscape Study

In 2018, Williams hired Reed Hilderbrand to conduct a campus landscape study in order to, as the report puts it, “describe the attributes of the Williams landscape and to provide criteria for evaluating change.”  This report was finalized in January 2020.  Two excerpts from the beginning of that report serve as a good introduction for that report.

Campus Landscape map“Throughout much of Williams’ history, practical approaches to building on a landscape of rolling hills have shaped a pattern of open space, building, circulation, and vegetation that fits with the larger landforms and prevailing viewsheds. More recently, many factors, such as larger building footprints, increased building density, tree loss, and parking provisions have fragmented the campus, blurring the clarity of the landform and planting. This study finds ways to reassert rolling landforms, prioritize views, increase pedestrian connectivity, and foster community in ways that recognizes diversity and the increased programmatic requirements of inclusion, flexibility, and sustainability.” (p. 4)

“Williams has asked, how do we understand our own landscape? What opportunities are here, on our grounds, for continuing to pursue knowledge and community well-being? How can we avoid wasting resources and aggravating the disconnection between people and the ecosystems that surround them? To answer these questions, we have undertaken a Landscape Study that explores and defines Williams’ landscape — past and present — and provides a framework for realizing and organizing change.” (p. 5)

Click here to read the campus landscape study, which was spearheaded by Scott Henderson, project manager in Planning Design and Construction and finalized in January 2020.  For more information about the work of Planning Design and Construction, visit their website.

Where to find special landscaping areas