Visions of Gardens Danced in Her Head

T’was the first week of spring when at many homes, people gazed wistfully at garden gnomes. Leaning askew on muddy brown lawns, the statues elicited nothing but yawns. No flowers, no bluebirds, and nothing was green. Their yards were the ugliest they’d ever seen.

Does your yard look bleak and barren?

According to the calendar, spring officially began on March 20. In Minnesota, however, the view outside the window remains unconvincing. The grass is  lifeless and brown. Trees are bare and gardens look like little more than tangles of dried stems lying in heaps on the ground. Even so, the songs of birds outside and the recent burst of warm weather reassure us that the world is indeed returning to life.  Now is the time when visions of gardens dance in our heads.

This spring, the East Metro Water Resource Education Program will team up with Master Gardeners and local cities to hold Spring Dreaming Landscaping Workshops. The sessions are designed to get people ready for the planting season and will focus on wildlife and water-friendly gardening projects. Each workshop will cover three main topic areas: lawns, composting, and planting for clean water.

A beautiful raingarden in Lake Elmo helps to protect nearby Klawitter Pond from runoff pollution.

During the lawn portion of the workshop, we will talk about alternatives to conventional lawns that can help you to save time and create a more eco-friendly yard. Low-mow lawns, comprised of low-growing fescue grasses, are one option that is appealing to many people. As the name implies, low-mow grasses only need to be mowed once or twice a year and they usually don’t need to be watered. Another lawn alternative growing in popularity are bee-lawns. These lawns are made up of low-growing plants like clover, thyme, and self-heal. The result is a drought-tolerant, living lawn that provides nectar to bees and other pollinators.

Low mow lawn is a good option for sunny yards (Photo from Douglas Owens-Pike).

Next, Master Gardener Lynn Markus will talk about the basics of backyard composting. Composting yard waste and kitchen scraps helps to reduce landfill waste and also provides a free source of nutrients for your gardens. Lynn will discuss what items to compost, how to tend the pile as it decomposes, and how to use the final product.

Composting is a good way to turn waste into a resource (Photo from Clean Water Minnesota).

At the end of the workshop, we’ll talk about native plants, raingardens and other lake and water-friendly “Blue Thumb” gardening projects that can help to reduce runoff pollution and correct erosion problems in your yard. The Ramsey and Washington Conservation Districts provide site visits to homeowners to help plan and design Blue Thumb projects and area watershed districts provide cost-share grants for raingardens and shoreline planting projects as well.

To register for one of the upcoming spring landscaping workshops, go to Classes will be held on Thu., April 6 in North St. Paul; Tue., April 11 in St. Paul Park; Tue., April 18 in Oakdale; Thu., April 27 in Hugo; and Tue., May 2 in Forest Lake. The classes are from 6:30-8pm and all five will cover the same information. Registration is free, but please sign up one week in advance to receive an aerial map of your property for the class.