Ecological landscaping: Low-maintenance and good for the Earth | BusinessNorth Exclusives
We are finally close to the spring and summer seasons in the north. While the longer, sunny days come relief for many, this season also introduces a lot of extra work in the form of lawn care and maintenance in your home or business. But what if there was an easier way?
Ecological landscaping, which includes planting native species, actually results in less mowing and general lawn maintenance. It also provides a healthy habitat for pollinators such as birds and bees.
This strategy is fully supported by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) in Minnesota, particularly along the coastal properties. And it’s growing in popularity with homeowners and business owners alike.
Conservation of the coastline
According to an online DNR publication by Restore Your Shore:
“A residential lawn offers little habitat for wild animals, has shallow roots that do not stabilize the soil, and requires artificial inputs for its maintenance, such as fertilization and mowing. A variety of native plants naturally provide better wildlife habitat, protecting and building the soil, and filtering polluted runoff through the soil. ”
Paul Radomski is a research fellow at DNR’s Lake Ecology Unit and works in the Brainerd office. He expanded this principle of landscaping along the coast (any body of water – whether lake, river or stream) taking into account ecology.
“The three principles of waterfront landscaping include protecting assets, creating assets, and connecting people with nature,” he said. To achieve this, Radomski offered various tips for private or business owners.
“You should control the drainage so that it gets into the ground close to where it falls. That way it is filtered and pollutants are removed, ”he said. “Another tip is to put a buffer strip of vegetation such as native trees, shrubs, and flowering plants along the waterline to slow the runoff.”
Following these tips will do a lot of things, Radomski said. It creates beauty, adds privacy, reduces erosion, and helps create a habitat for birds. “It also means you can stop mowing along the coast,” he said.
Radomski recommended placing fireplaces at a safe distance so that the ashes don’t blow into the water. Concentrating human activities such as hiking trails, boats, docks, and swimming beaches in one consolidated area can also help minimize the negative impact on the environment.
Go on site
Dan Schutte, owner of Shoreview Natives in Two Harbors, grows a variety of plant species, including his four best plants for pollinators: goldenrod, purple prairie clover, narrow-leaved mountain mint, and milkweed. He sells them at local farmers markets and at the Whole Foods Co-op in Duluth.
Shoreview Natives also takes care of the complete landscaping for homes and businesses. “We can handle anything from 100 square feet up to 5 or 6,000 square feet,” said Schutte. “Our wheelhouse does not perform chemical yard transitions from turfgrass to native pollinator habitats. We are committed to removing grass and planting wildflowers. ”
They have several commercial installations for the public to visit and enjoy, including rooms in the Castle Danger Brewery in Two Harbors; the front entrance of Lake Superior College in Duluth; various municipal plantings for the city of the two ports; and areas along Duluth’s Lakewalk, particularly 26th Avenue East.
While these types of installations are useful anywhere, they are especially useful for shoreline features. “We have carried out some large buffer projects on the shores of the Upper Lake,” said Schutte. “We recently created a 15 foot buffer and it turned out to be wonderful. This customer had a serious problem with goose traffic on their lawn. Now the geese avoid it. It also provides surface water filtration and pollinator habitats. We go to great lengths to teach people that there are other, preferable options than mowing down to the water. ”
Zone 3 Gardens outside of Ely has a similar mission.
“We work with home and business owners to incorporate innovative and functional outdoor lifestyle design while providing habitat and protection for native plants, birds and pollinators in their garden and yard,” said co-owner Florencia Sund. They provide planning, installation and maintenance services and focus on solutions for optimal garden health and growth using water and biological gardening techniques.
Zone 3 Gardens has installations in several highly visible locations in Ely, including the North American Bear Center, Pebble Spa Company, International Wolf Center, and Bear Island Land Company.
“We have a lot of clients who own lake properties that need to be restored on the coast, and we recommend that they opt for habitat restoration rather than bringing in boulders and tearing up rap or grass,” said Sund. Some of their clients in northern St. Louis County are applying for grants for coastal habitat restoration projects being carried out on their land. “It’s really amazing,” said Sund. “We also have more customers each season who are interested in having a pollinator habitat versus a regular lawn, which is phenomenal.”
Sund shared several other reasons for considering native landscaping installations. “Native plants are well suited for many landscape and habitat plantings of wild animals, because once they are established they rarely need to be watered, mulched, protected from frost or continuously mowed. They provide nectar, pollen, and seeds that serve as food for native butterflies, birds, and other animals. When it comes to organic landscaping, we swear to use mulch in all of our gardens. It helps retain moisture and use less water overall. “
They don’t use herbicides or pesticides and opt for organic methods, Sund said. “We also use a biodegradable fabric instead of plastics for native installations that will continue to support soil health in the long run rather than removing beneficial nutrients.”
For gardens and open spaces to be healthy and sustainable, they must be filled with a wide variety of native plants and animals. A healthy ecosystem provides food and shelter for animals, but it can also provide services to society. “We help prevent soil erosion, reduce flooding, detoxify chemicals in air and water and improve the local climate. Can your lawn do this? Definitely not.”
If you’re a DIY enthusiast, there are many ways you can get started with a healthier, greener lawn.
“It’s about creating a space – a living space – in which life can flourish and flourish,” said Sund. She recommended removing either part or all of the grass. “You can become part of the no-mow movement! Grass is practically no habitat for pollinators and other animals … and can cause more harm to animals. Runoff from lawns can carry pesticides and fertilizers into rivers, lakes and streams, eventually poisoning aquatic animals. “
She suggested planting native species, shrubs, or native seeds that produce pollen and nectar. You can also plant a flowering lawn with flowering plants, as well as lawn grasses, to provide natural forage for pollinators.
Shoreview Natives is creating a YouTube channel with short tutorials to get you started. But Schutte said: “Start small. You don’t feel like you have to do it all at once. Anyone can do that. Plant a flower – see what happens. ”