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Liz Stanley | profile | all galleries >> My Backyard >> Native Gardening tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

Native Gardening

This gallery contains photos and description of my ongoing effort to rid the yard of invasive weeds and establish native species. I am not a gardener, so this has been a lot of trial and error, but a great learning experience both in terms of general gardening as well as becoming familiar with native plants.

The lot size is .44 acres and is located near the Minnesota River. Even with all of these photos, it's hard to convey the sorry state the yard was left in by the previous owners of this house. Not only did they let the buckthorn, white mulberry, wild grape, and numerous weeds take over the yard, but they also used a raised garden bed as their own private landfill. I'm still finding trash out there. Someone forgot to tell these people that old soda cans, small electronic devices, plastic trash bags, and numerous other items do not qualify as compost. Over the last year and a half I have become quite handy with the chainsaw, axe, shovel, tiller, and wheelbarrow. One of the most useful tools in my arsenal is the Weed Wrench for pulling buckthorn. I have the medium size, which can pull plants with trunks up to 2" in diameter. Wearing this shirt is also very helpful.

I've had to call in lawn care services to remove large bulky items such as the rotting railroad ties used for the garden bed (a.k.a. landfill) border, and a huge dead tree that fell over in the storm. I wanted to keep the dead tree, or plant a snag it its place, but couldn't find any practical way to do it. I've also applied Roundup more times than I can count - as much as I don't like chemicals, drastic situations like this require it.

The project began in 2007 with a landscape consultation and design by EnergyScapes, which specializes in native landscapes. The design was amazing, but we couldn't justify spending so much on the yard (although I don't think the estimate was at all out of line with the amount of work that needed to be done.)

In late summer 2007, with the help of a neighbor who donated some of her garden plants, I started planting. In early spring 2008 I began planting with some plants ordered online from Prairie Nursery. I also explored some local native nurseries such as Prairie Restorations and Outback Nursery.

In summer 2008 I got serious about clearing out the backyard mess, and starting tackling the buckthorn and white mulberry. I bought a tiller and killed off a significant amount of the lawn (which was in very poor shape to start with), and planted many plants along the south side of the house, generally following the EnergyScapes design. In the fall I tilled toward the back of the lot, on the east side, which was chock full of weeds. I spent several months, going into spring/summer 2009, killing off very persistent weeds in that area, and continuing to remove buckthorn and other larger shrubs. In fall 2009, I finally dismantled the out of control wild grapevine, got rid of more buckthorn, and additional bulky items (like an ugly cement block wall, whose purpose was unknown) as well as more trash.

Finally, with the weeds under control, I planted some northern white cedar where the grapevine had been, and some native winterberry and nannyberry shrubs where the ugly cement block wall had been. Lastly, I seeded the area (some 1500 square feet) with a low growing prairie mix in the sunny area, and a woodland edge/savanna mix for the more shaded area, both purchased from Prairie Nursery. To keep the birds out of the seed, I covered it all with 5 yards of shredded leaf compost purchased from Herman's Landscape Supply.

A nice bonus was that being out in that area of the yard so much, I had spoken with a neighbor about buckthorn, and he removed a considerable amount that had been growing right on the edge of his property. Follow along with the photos below to see the progression of the yard. I didn't take any official "before" photos, but I hopefully have enough photos around the yard during the first couple of years to give a sense of what shape it was in, and how it's changed.

View from the house 2005
View from the house 2005
View from the patio 2006
View from the patio 2006
View from the patio 2006
View from the patio 2006
View from the deck 2007
View from the deck 2007
View from the deck 2007
View from the deck 2007
Fallen dead tree 2007
Fallen dead tree 2007
Fallen dead tree 2007
Fallen dead tree 2007
Telephone pole 2007
Telephone pole 2007
Deck and patio 2007
Deck and patio 2007
Bird feeders 2008
Bird feeders 2008
First wildflowers 2008
First wildflowers 2008
Early fall snow shower 2008
Early fall snow shower 2008
View from the east 2009
View from the east 2009
Grapevine stumps 2009
Grapevine stumps 2009
Fallen dead tree area 2009
Fallen dead tree area 2009
Toward the house 2009
Toward the house 2009
More stumps 2009
More stumps 2009
Raised garden bed 2009
Raised garden bed 2009
Eastern red cedar 2009
Eastern red cedar 2009
Buckthorn 2009
Buckthorn 2009
Northern white cedar 2009
Northern white cedar 2009
South side of the house 2009
South side of the house 2009
Patio garden 2009
Patio garden 2009
Back of the yard 2009
Back of the yard 2009
Back of the yard 2009
Back of the yard 2009
Back garden 2009
Back garden 2009
Patio 2009
Patio 2009
Little bluestem in snow 2009
Little bluestem in snow 2009
Snow garden 2009
Snow garden 2009
Milkweed in the snow 2009
Milkweed in the snow 2009
Compost bin 2009
Compost bin 2009
Die, Buckthorn Scum! 2009
Die, Buckthorn Scum! 2009
Planting northern white cedar
Planting northern white cedar
Wild Ones sign
Wild Ones sign
Toad
Toad
Taking a break on the patio
Taking a break on the patio
View from the patio
View from the patio
Northern white cedars and shrubs
Northern white cedars and shrubs
Winterberry
Winterberry
Nannyberry
Nannyberry
Pile of compost
Pile of compost
Seeded and mulched
Seeded and mulched
Prepared for seeding
Prepared for seeding
Garden bed
Garden bed
Seeded
Seeded
Mulched
Mulched
Back area seeded and mulched
Back area seeded and mulched
Looking north
Looking north
Looking west
Looking west
Sign post and nannyberry
Sign post and nannyberry
Looking east
Looking east
Spreading juniper and prairie dropseed
Spreading juniper and prairie dropseed
Rye grass sprouting early
Rye grass sprouting early
Composting in action
Composting in action
Owl shack
Owl shack
Bluebird boxes
Bluebird boxes
Jacob's Ladder
Jacob's Ladder
Wild Columbine
Wild Columbine
Prairie Smoke
Prairie Smoke
View from the patio Spring 2010
View from the patio Spring 2010
View from the deck Spring 2010
View from the deck Spring 2010
Between patio and deck
Between patio and deck
South of the patio
South of the patio
Milkweed beetle
Milkweed beetle
Small's penstemon
Small's penstemon
Cup plant
Cup plant
Monarch caterpillar
Monarch caterpillar
Butterfly weed, purple prarie clover, little bluestem
Butterfly weed, purple prarie clover, little bluestem
Coneflower, royal catchfly, monarda (wild bergamot)
Coneflower, royal catchfly, monarda (wild bergamot)
Cupplant
Cupplant
Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly
Deck garden
Deck garden
Prairie smoke
Prairie smoke
Butterfly weed
Butterfly weed
Stiff tickseed
Stiff tickseed
Purple prairie clover
Purple prairie clover
Butterfly weed
Butterfly weed
Back of yard
Back of yard
Cardinal flower
Cardinal flower
By the patio
By the patio
Royal catchfly
Royal catchfly
Wild bergamot (monarda)
Wild bergamot (monarda)
Wild bergamot, coneflower
Wild bergamot, coneflower
Pale purple coneflower
Pale purple coneflower
New England aster
New England aster
Little bluestem
Little bluestem
Columbine
Columbine
Smooth penstemon
Smooth penstemon
Serviceberry
Serviceberry
Monarch butterfly caterpillar
Monarch butterfly caterpillar
Monarch on coneflower
Monarch on coneflower
Royal catchfly
Royal catchfly
Pale purple coneflower
Pale purple coneflower
Bottle brush grass
Bottle brush grass
Cat enclosure
Cat enclosure
Back of the yard
Back of the yard
Back of the yard
Back of the yard
Back of the yard
Back of the yard
Back of the yard
Back of the yard
Flowers by the patio
Flowers by the patio
Royal catchfly
Royal catchfly
Purple prairie clover
Purple prairie clover
Hummingbird moth
Hummingbird moth
View from the deck
View from the deck
Front walk before landscaping
Front walk before landscaping
Front yard 2013
Front yard 2013
Front yard before landscapings
Front yard before landscapings
Front yard landscaping
Front yard landscaping
Coneflower in the snow
Coneflower in the snow
Pasque flower
Pasque flower
Pasque flower
Pasque flower
Pasque flower
Pasque flower
Wild columbine
Wild columbine
Wild indigo
Wild indigo
Spiderwort
Spiderwort
North side of the garage
North side of the garage
North east corner of the back yard
North east corner of the back yard
East side of the yard
East side of the yard
Pine tree area
Pine tree area
Under the pine trees
Under the pine trees
Back of the yard
Back of the yard
Front yard
Front yard
Fence at the back of the yard
Fence at the back of the yard
Back side of the fence
Back side of the fence
20140726_130302.jpg
20140726_130302.jpg
20140726_130412.jpg
20140726_130412.jpg
Between patio and deck
Between patio and deck
View from the patio 2014
View from the patio 2014
Toward the house 2014
Toward the house 2014
Looking into the front yard
Looking into the front yard
Front walk
Front walk
Next to the front walk
Next to the front walk
south side
south side
Cat enclosure
Cat enclosure
Bees on coneflower
Bees on coneflower
Dragonfly
Dragonfly
Baby toad
Baby toad
Front corner yard
Front corner yard
Great blue lobelia
Great blue lobelia
Monarch caterpillar on butterfly weed
Monarch caterpillar on butterfly weed
Spider
Spider
Front garden bed
Front garden bed
Wolly bear caterpillar
Wolly bear caterpillar
Wandering glider dragonfly
Wandering glider dragonfly
Cranberry
Cranberry
Little bluestem and prairie dropseed
Little bluestem and prairie dropseed
Mushroom
Mushroom
Asters
Asters
Asters and sedum
Asters and sedum
Seeded area
Seeded area
Seeded for poke milkweed
Seeded for poke milkweed
Garden path
Garden path
Swallowtail caterpillar
Swallowtail caterpillar
Fall garden
Fall garden
Winter garden
Winter garden
Winter roost box
Winter roost box