Native plantings take over area yards
May 5, 2023
If you'd like to join a movement, helping the region become a pollinator-friendly one would be a good choice. That's because right here in Carlton County, you can find some of the best resources in turning home yards into an oasis for bees and other pollinators that affect the food chain, and the whole health of the outdoors exponentially.
"It's growing," said Alyssa Bloss, a conservation specialist for the Carlton Soil and Water Conservation District. She's been in the field for 14 years and has never been as satisfied as she is these days in leading the movement for more native plants in yards and landscapes across the county. And her work is spreading to other counties as well, although the Carlton SWCD remains on the forefront. "We're building great relationships," Bloss said of those who have sought help from the district in adding native plantings to properties.
So how do you start? Bloss recommends homeowners take a good look at their property, get a sense of what they might want to do, and then talk to the SWCD about how to proceed. Bloss can do a site visit, but her resources are stretched thin, she said, and gaining knowledge on the district website or by other sources can help her have a better understanding of what property owners want or need.
"A lot goes into it," Bloss said.
Location matters. Grass and invasive plants need to be cleared in order to make sure native plants will thrive, Bloss said. Get rid of tansy, buckthorn and other plants that tend to take over areas. To get rid of grass, there is the labor-intensive method of cutting the lawn out - with tools available for rent via the SWCD or a hardware store - or by laying down cardboard or black plastic to kill off grass.
If seeding an area, you can simply kill off the grass with black plastic or a non-toxic herbicide and then incorporate seeds into the dead matter with a rake.
"Site prep is the most important," Bloss said. "There is some maintenance up front, but native plants are low-maintenance afterwards."
If you have looked around and are still perplexed, Bloss can help via a phone call or a possible site visit.
Even a small-scale plan can contribute to the goal of making the region pollinator-friendly. "It's been proven that it makes a difference," Bloss said.
And the benefits go beyond attracting the all-important pollinators that balance the ecosystem. Native plants, with their deep roots, help with erosion. Attracting pollinators will mean the crops that you plant for eating - vegetables, blueberries or raspberries - will thrive with help from area bees.
"And they are nice to look at," Bloss said of native plants. There are descriptions with the packages of native plants the SWCD sells. You can plant so you get blooms in all seasons, and even have some vegetation that will look nice over the winter.
Bloss is proud of the progress the SWCD has made in just a few short years in focussing on pollinator habitat. After receiving a grant to bolster her efforts in 2020, she reached out to the district in South St. Louis County to acquire another grant. That one helped get projects going in the Midway River watershed that straddles both counties. Now the coordinator next door has the skills and knowledge to keep the movement going, Bloss said.
The ultimate goal is a mouthful, Bloss admits. It's to create a northeast Minnesota bee-friendly corridor, she said. And all of that can start in a small or large yard. It requires a host of players, she said, anyone who enjoys the outdoors.
It's about changing mindset, Bloss said. "We all love our lawns, but there's room for native plants."