This morning I woke up, got ready for work and looked at the snow-covered driveway in distain. “I am not going to shovel,” my husband announced defiantly. While our son Charlie finished his breakfast, Gary and I debated whether or not my Prius would be able to make it out of the driveway without getting stuck. It did not. So in the end, we grabbed our Papa, Mama and baby sized snow-shovels and headed out the door to shovel the driveway after all. Charlie thought it was fun, but Gary and I knew better. If I’m shoveling in April, it better be to plant a garden.
Normally late April is an ideal time to plan landscaping projects in Minnesota. The conventional advice is to wait until Mother’s Day to start planting, and local community plant sales are in full swing from mid-May through early June. Usually, April is the perfect time to assess the yard, make note of any problems areas, and plot out locations for new gardens, trees and shrubs.
When planning landscaping projects for your yard, it helps to have an idea in mind of how you would like to use the space available. Consider how much lawn you need for kids’ activities and lawn chair lounging, and think about where you spend the most time in your yard. You should also take into consideration how much time you want, or are able, to spend maintaining your yard. If you work full-time and spend evenings and weekends running, biking, swimming, chasing a toddler, visiting friends, going camping and hanging out in downtown Stillwater like I do, then you might want to consider a smaller lawn with native or perennial gardens that require little regular maintenance. If you have more time on your hands and enjoy spending summer days in the garden, then you can be a bit more indulgent with what and how much you plant.
Once you have an idea of what you would like to have in your yard, it is time to look at drainage pathways, contours of the land, and existing vegetation. When we bought our home in Stillwater, we noted that both the driveway and one of the rooftop downspouts drained to the same part of our backyard. Though the area was grassy and close to the house, it quickly became apparent that it would be too wet there for playing ball or lounging. So, we converted the wet spot into a raingarden and decided to use the lawn in the middle of the yard where it is sunnier for recreational space instead. Our last home had a hilly front yard, so we stopped mowing half of it and let the woods take over in its place. I’ve found that it is easier to work with the yard you’ve got than to grow grass in a wet spot or daylilies in the shade.
If you’re looking for advice and ideas on how to create an outdoor living space that is attractive and family friendly, provides wildlife habitat, and helps to protect nearby water resources, check out one of two free workshops in Stillwater, upcoming the second week of May.
The first workshop, to be held Tuesday, May 7 from 6-7:30pm at Community Thread, will focus on raingardens. Learn how to map drainage pathways in your yard and manage runoff and erosion issues using raingardens, swales, dry creeks, and other techniques that add visual interest and help to protect local water resources. Visit www.tinyurl.com/StillwaterRaingarden2013 for more information or to RSVP.
The second workshop, to be held Saturday, May 11 from 10:30-11:30am at St. Peter’s UCC on 111 Orleans St. E, will cover a variety of topics related to sustainable yard care, including low-impact lawn care and low-mow lawns, rainbarrels, native plants for shade and sun, raingardens, and local resources for assistance. The church will be holding an Environmental Fair that day from 10am-2pm, so stick around for native plant giveaways, children’s activities and information about composting, natural cleaners and more.
As the saying goes, “April showers bring May flowers.” Then again, if spring keeps going like this, I guess we’ll soon be gardening in the snow!
Angie Hong is an educator for East Metro Water – which includes Brown’s Creek, Carnelian Marine – St. Croix, Comfort Lake – Forest Lake, Middle St. Croix, Ramsey Washington-Metro, Rice Creek, South Washington and Valley Branch Watersheds, Cottage Grove, Dellwood, Forest Lake, Lake Elmo, Stillwater, West Lakeland, Willernie and Woodbury, Washington County and the Washington Conservation District. Contact her at 651-275-1136 x.35 or firstname.lastname@example.org.