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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
View from the house
View from the patio
View from the patio
View from the patio
View from the patio
View from the deck
View from the deck
View from the deck
View from the deck
Fallen dead tree
Fallen dead tree
Fallen dead tree
Fallen dead tree
Telephone pole
Telephone pole
Deck and patio
Deck and patio
Bird feeders
Bird feeders
First wildflowers
First wildflowers
Early fall snow shower
Early fall snow shower
View from the east
View from the east
Grapevine stumps
Grapevine stumps
Fallen dead tree area
Fallen dead tree area
Toward the house
Toward the house
More stumps
More stumps
Raised garden bed
Raised garden bed
Eastern red cedar
Eastern red cedar
Buckthorn
Buckthorn
Northern white cedar
Northern white cedar
South side of the house
South side of the house
Patio garden
Patio garden
Back of the yard
Back of the yard
Back of the yard
Back of the yard
Back garden
Back garden
Patio
Patio
Little bluestem in snow
Little bluestem in snow
Snow garden
Snow garden
Milkweed in the snow
Milkweed in the snow
Compost bin
Compost bin
Die, Buckthorn Scum!
Die, Buckthorn Scum!
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
Cup plant
Cup plant
Small's penstemon
Small's penstemon
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
Deck garden
Deck garden
Monarch butterfly
Monarch butterfly
Butterfly weed
Butterfly weed
Little bluestem
Little bluestem
Wild bergamot (monarda)
Wild bergamot (monarda)
New England aster
New England aster
Purple prairie clover
Purple prairie clover
By the patio
By the patio
Royal catchfly
Royal catchfly
Wild bergamot, coneflower
Wild bergamot, coneflower
Cardinal flower
Cardinal flower
Butterfly weed
Butterfly weed
Back of yard
Back of yard
Stiff tickseed
Stiff tickseed
Prairie smoke
Prairie smoke
Pale purple coneflower
Pale purple coneflower
Columbine
Columbine
Monarch butterfly caterpillar
Monarch butterfly caterpillar
Serviceberry
Serviceberry
Smooth penstemon
Smooth penstemon
bottlebrush.jpg
bottlebrush.jpg
coneflower.jpg
coneflower.jpg
royal-catchfly.jpg
royal-catchfly.jpg
Monarch on coneflower
Monarch on coneflower
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
View from the deck
View from the deck
Hummingbird moth
Hummingbird moth
Under the pine trees
Under the pine trees
East side of the yard
East side of the yard
Back of the yard
Back of the yard
North east corner of the back yard
North east corner of the back yard
North side of the garage
North side of the garage
Pine tree area
Pine tree area
Front yard
Front yard
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