Making the Most of Big Backyards

Monarch waystation at the Green’s home

If you’re only spending time in your yard when riding on the mower, might it be time for a change?

On Tuesday, July 25, West Lakeland Township will sponsor an event for area residents with large lots at the home of Mary and David Green. During this free, informal outdoor workshop, the Green’s will share their story of how they have transformed a three acre yard full of thistle and poorly graded land into an outdoor living space that is attractive and family-friendly, provides wildlife habitat, and helps to protect nearby water resources. The event will be an opportunity for folks from West Lakeland and other nearby communities to meet one another and get in touch with resources through the Middle St. Croix and Valley Branch Watersheds, the Washington Conservation District, and the Minnesota Master Gardener program.

When the Greens bought their home 14 years ago, the yard was nothing but thistle and other weeds with a poorly graded backyard slope that sent water into the basement. Since then, Mary, a Master Gardener, and her husband have risen to the challenge of re-grading, redirecting drainage, beating back the weeds, and adding dozens of picturesque gardens around the perimeter of the yard. They have also taken steps to improve and protect the natural areas on their land, adding a swale to manage runoff from spring snow melt and replacing invasive weeds around a woodland pond with native plants that attract birds like bitterns, indigo buntings and orioles. Last summer, their yard was featured on the 20th Annual Family Means St. Croix Valley Garden Tour.

Following lawn care recommendations from Minnesota Extension and other experts results in healthy grass that’s good for people and wildlife.

During the June 25 “Evening in the Big Backyard,” there will be stations set up around the yard for people to learn about topics such as maintaining turf for healthier grass and less environmental impacts, taking care of trees, planting for pollinators, creating habitat for wildlife, and managing drainage issues to protect local water resources. The Green’s will also share their tips for dealing with common large yard challenges such as how to water far away plantings, how to minimize Japanese beetle damage, and how to incorporate areas for outdoor recreation and children’s play space. While there, people can sign up for a free site visit from the Washington Conservation District and get information about grants available for projects such as raingardens and swales, converting turf to prairie, and bluff and ravine stabilization.

West Lakeland Township hopes that local residents will come away with a better understanding of how their individual properties connect to one another through watershed pathways and habitat corridors, as well as some ideas for how they can make the most of their own big backyards.

West Lakeland Evening in the Big Backyard: Tuesday, June 25, 6:30-8pm, 14559 24th St. N. Please RSVP to Mary Green at (651) 439-5481 or Angie Hong at The workshop is sponsored by West Lakeland Township with support from the Washington Conservation District, Minnesota Master Gardeners, Middle St. Croix WMO and Valley Branch Watershed District.