Grasslands once covered a third of Minnesota and 40% of the United States, but today less than 2% of that original habitat remains. The prairies are gone along with the wildlife, birds and insects these places once housed – not just bison, but also little prairie vole, noisy prairie chicken, five-lined skink and the delicate Karner blue butterfly.
Fortunately, however, a native plant revival is underway, and the people of the state are working hard to bring native plants from the prairies and woods back to their gardens.
When Cheryl and Tom Rambosek of Woodbury bought their home in 1980, most of the town was still cornfields and green space. Their house spanned eight acres of land, and the previous owners rented the front and back fields to local farmers.
A handful of trees and scrub brush around the house were the only natural vegetation in sight. Ultimately, the Ramboseks worked with restoration ecologist Steve Thomforde to restore the field behind their native prairie home. Today their yard is an oasis of color and life with a cup plant, a compass plant, a rattlesnake master, bee balm, purple coneflower, yellow coneflower, faux indigo, a flaming star and asters in addition to monarch, black swallowtail and yellow swallowtail butterflies.
Laurie and Mark Pellerite, who also live in Woodbury, have a small yard in a residential area. When Laurie started replacing their front yard lawn with native plants, she was careful to keep a mowed border and incorporate other structural elements to give their gardens some curb appeal.
“It’s always fun when I’m working because people stop to visit me,” she says. “Feedback from neighbors is always positive and sometimes people tell me that they are also considering converting part of their yard into native gardens. Do you remember that old ad? You say it to two people and they will say it to two people? It is a bit like that.
For people new to landscaping with native plants, there are a multitude of resources and assistance available through state agencies, county soil and water conservation districts, and partnerships such than Blue Thumb – Planting for Clean Water.
Recently, the Minnesota legislature approved a third round of funding for the Lawns to Legumes program which was developed in 2019 to increase habitat for pollinators such as the endangered rust-patched bumblebee.
Minnesota residents can apply for grants of up to $ 300 to support native planting projects, and there are larger grants for demonstration neighborhoods as well. Over the past two years, Lawns to Vegetables grant recipients have created over 800,000 square feet of pollinator habitat, including pocket plantings, pollinator lawns, and pollinator meadows / meadows.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources also offers many online tools to help large landowners establish and maintain prairies.
These include a podcast on prairie restoration “Prairie Pod” with four seasons and 38 episodes, the Minnesota Prairie Landowners Handbook and a tax incentive program to protect the remnants of the prairies that don’t. have never been plowed. More info on www.dnr.state.mn.us/prairierestoration.
For individual guidance and access to local grant programs, Washington County residents can also request a free site tour with the Washington Conservation District: www.mnwcd.org. Native plantations that incorporate rain gardens or stabilize stream banks and banks will generally be eligible for Watershed Cost-Sharing Incentive Grants, which can be paired with Legume Lawns Grants to support larger projects. important.
“The stewardship grant really made us think big,” said Erin Murphy of St. Paul, who enlisted the help of the Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District last year to transform her yard. urban lawn in native garden. “For some reason 20 minutes of mowing seemed like an eternity, but now that we’re gardening it’s totally different.”
Angie Hong is an educator for East Metro Water, a local government partnership with 25 members – www.mnwcd.org/emwrep. Follow her on TikTok @mnnature_awesomeness or contact her at 952-261-9599 or [email protected]