A properly maintained cemetery discourages vandalism and is pleasant to visit. It should be maintained out of respect for those who are buried. Choices for the ongoing maintenance depend upon the budget for the cemetery. If the cemetery has no income, volunteers may be doing the only maintenance or it has been abandon with no one to care for it.
Keeping the grass mowed and the weeds under control can be very costly for the cemetery. They may have employees or contract the work out to a landscaping company who may just simply cut the grass on a specified schedule. Many city cemeteries have maintenance done by the city maintenance crew. Whoever is reasonable for the mowing and other grounds work needs to train the crews to respect the headstones and markers in the cemetery. Safety issues are to be a priority! The crew will be faced with a unique set of challenges you may not face when simply mowing your own lawn.
Careless mowing can harm marble and granite headstones. You just don’t want a 100-year-old stone to be broken by a careless act of a crewmember. Without proper training, supervision and follow through, ground maintenance can be very damaging to the stones.
Make sure the crew is using the right equipment. All mowers used in the cemetery should have discharged guards to protect the gravestones from thrown debris. Project the discharge guard away from the headstones while mowing, as mowers can throw rocks a great distance and they can chip a headstone. The mower should have bumpers on all the features on the mower that might come in contact with a stone. It should be made clear to workers that mowing equipment should never make contact with the stones, but having bumpers will help incase it happens. Bumpers can be fabricated out of old inner tubes or tires. Make sure everything is firmly attached and do checks before using the equipment.
When mowing try to stay at less 12 inches from the headstones, that area can be trimmed with a trimmer using line that measures no more then .09″ in diameter. The heavier the line the more damage it can do to a headstone. The work must be precise because a stone can show the damage from trimmers being used to close to the stone. Many times the maintenance crew feels they need to work fast to get the job done; this also can lead to carelessness. Rather that mow around a footstone or flat marker, the crew may simply mow over it. This can make scratches on stone or bronze markers with each mowing.
The crew should report any damages to the cemetery management, however this may not happen. The cemetery should be inspected by management for any signs of carelessness. It’s also an opportunity to carefully inspect overall landscape conditions and evaluate possible problems like the sinking of new graves. The crew may failure to report or correct the problem reflects poorly on the cemetery and poses a significant public hazard. There should be a process for delaying maintenance in the event of a funeral or burial.
Do not use herbicides to control the weeds, as many obtain salts that are acidic and will cause severe harm to limestone and marble. Even granite can be affected over time. It causes deterioration of the stones and destruction of groundcover will result in erosion around the base of the stone and make depressions that will collect water and cause even more damage. Also the dead grass distracts from the beauty of the landscape.
Cemetery maintenance is much more then mowing and weed control but everything comes with a cost. So many things like trash collection, planting, seeding, fertilizing, raking, mulching, watering, pruning, tree care & removal, fire ants & other pest, pathways, drives, parking areas, irrigation systems and many other services related to the grounds can take a great deal of money. This all leaves little time or money for headstone raising, resetting, aligning, cleaning or any repairs. There for many cemeteries make it a rule that family must maintain the headstones. They see it as the family’s private property no matter what happens to it.