Jump into spring with a Planting for Clean Water or Wetlands workshop

Workshops to be held in Wyoming, Hugo, Oakdale, Lake Elmo, and Cottage Grove

After buying a home on Bone Lake a few years ago, Tom Furey downloaded the Score Your Shore tool from the Minnesota DNR website and set to work to learn more about his new property. From conversations with the Comfort Lake – Forest Lake Watershed District, he already knew that water quality was improving in the lake and he wondered what he could do to help keep the water clean. Says Furey, “I went through the manual and identified 10-15 things to do my first year. I realized I should get my well water checked to make sure it’s safe to drink and I should probably check my soil too before I begin any landscaping projects.”

Furey eventually decided to replace a substantial portion of his turf grass with native plants that would require less maintenance and help to prevent erosion on the hilly lot. He quickly found help from the Washington Conservation District to design the planting project, and grant funds from the watershed district to cover part of the cost.

Tom Furey talked about water quality in Bone Lake during a neighborhood gathering last spring. After beginning a planting project on his property, he convinced a neighbor to follow suit. He then went on to become certified as a Master Water Steward for the Comfort Lake – Forest Lake Watershed District.

On Thursday, April 4, the East Metro Water Resource Education Program (EMWREP) will team up with Comfort Lake – Forest Lake Watershed District and Chisago Soil and Water Conservation District to host a workshop at the Wyoming Area Library for local landowners, who like Furey, are interested in transforming their yards. During this Blue Thumb – Planting for Clean Water Workshop, instructors will provide advice on using native plants to create raingardens, shoreline plantings, and other landscaping features that protect water and provide habitat for birds and pollinators. They will share photos from local projects and help participants to sketch landscape plans for their yards with tracing paper and aerial photos. The same workshop will be held in Cottage Grove on April 11, with the city and South Washington Watershed District as local partners.

“We’re lucky to have several nurseries in the area that specialize in growing native plants,” says Tara Kline, a landscape and habitat specialist with the Washington Conservation District. “Most homeowners aren’t plant experts, though, so they really appreciate getting advice on what to plant where and how to deal with issues such as erosion and invasive species.”

Tara Kline, a landscape and natural resource specialist with the Washington Conservation District works with homeowners to design projects such as raingardens and shoreline plantings.

During the Wyoming and Cottage Grove workshops, attendees will learn about the resources available for water-friendly gardening and landscaping projects, including incentive grants, free site visits, garden designs, plant lists, and conservation plans for larger properties. The goal is to give people all the tools they need to get started on a project of their own.

Furey’s advice to other homeowners is to think about their goals and how they want to use their property, “Make sure you can still use your property the way you want to and design something that works for you.” Native plantings can be used to attract birds and butterflies, manage drainage problems, or reduce the amount of time someone needs to spend mowing. But, these projects can also be designed creatively to allow space for lake access, play areas, or privacy from neighbors.

Native plants can be both beautiful and functional. Along a shoreline or streambank, they help to prevent erosion, while in a raingarden, they loosen the soil and create pathways for water to infiltrate.

In addition to the Wyoming and Cottage Grove sessions, EMWREP will also hold workshops in Hugo (April 25), Oakdale (May 23), and Lake Elmo (June 6) that will focus on wetlands properties specifically.

Wetlands (also known as marshes, swamps, and bogs) are home to 43% of the threatened and endangered plant and animal species in the U.S. and also provide habitat for spawning fish, migrating waterfowl, breeding frogs and turtles, and insects such as dragonflies. Wetlands protect nearby homes from flooding and help to reduce shoreline erosion along the edges of rivers and lakes. But, it can be more complicated to landscape a yard that has wetlands on or nearby.

During the Wetland Wonders workshops, Master Gardeners and Conservation District staff will share information about native plants and shrubs that grow well in wetland soils and will also talk about rules that affect what landowners can and can’t do with wetlands on their properties. In addition, participants will take guided hikes to nearby wetlands to look for birds and wildlife and practice identifying native and invasive plants.

A border of native plants blends seemlessly with the nearby wetland at a home in Oakdale
A border of native plants blends seemlessly with the nearby wetland at a home in Oakdale.


To register for an upcoming workshop:

Planting for Clean Water – Blue Thumb Basics

Planting for Clean Water – Wetlands Wonders

  • Thursday, April 25, 6-7:30pm: Hugo City Hall
  • Thursday, May 23, 6-7:30pm: Oakdale Discovery Center
  • Thursday, June 6, 6-7:30pm: Sally Manzara Nature Center, Lake Elmo

Register for any of the three wetlands workshops at: tinyurl.com/wetgarden2019

All workshops are free and open to people from any community.