Environmental gardens get boost from grant

“The goal of our project is to inspire better utilization of green spaces to increase local food production, urban pollinator habitat and water quality through outreach, education and development of community demonstration gardens,” he said. “We have added $8,500 in local matching funds, plus an additional $600 from Beltrami Electric Cooperative, to support additional garden materials, as only 15 percent of the NACD budget is for materials and the rest outreach and education.”

Both communities in Hubbard County and private landowners with projects will benefit.

“For people who are looking to put a rain garden or pollinator garden on their property, we can help them design it and give technical assistance,” Shaughnessy said. “We have funds available for no-cost site visits to help landowners develop plans to reduce erosion, improve water quality and increase erosion resilience. “

There will be a total of five community gardens in the county.

“These gardens will act as inspiration and educational tools to inspire hands-on learning and the spread of urban gardening and utilization of native plants,” he said. “Check out the progress on the community garden at Depot Park and a rain garden at the 8th Street city lot in Park Rapids, as well as at the pollinator garden at The Door coffee shop in Laporte. A native fruit garden is also being planned in Nevis. These will be hands-on educational gardens.”

Shaughnessy said using existing green spaces is a great way to turn low-use areas into beneficial landscapes.

“Rain gardens can be a great and natural way to address stormwater issues, such as erosion in a driveway or yard or puddling after storms,” he said. “Rain gardens can be highly beneficial to our water quality by reducing the amount of overland runoff reducing excess nutrient loading.”

A rain garden consists of native grasses, shrubs, perennials and flowers in a natural or manmade depression, with the goal of increasing infiltration of stormwater and increasing water quality.

Rain gardens come in all shapes and sizes. Some are designed to clean the water and reduce runoff for large parking lots, while others are used to reduce runoff from home gutters and other surfaces.

“The size of a private rain garden depends on how much water you are expecting to treat,” he said. “A good rule of thumb is that a rain garden should have a surface around 7-20 percent of the surface area of the impervious surfaces flowing into it.”

“Turning unused lawn into productive vegetable gardens is a rewarding way to connect with nature and get some fresh vegetables on the table,” Shaughnessy said. “Gardening together provides an opportunity for families to connect with nature and each other.”

Converting unused lawn into native pollinator habitat frequently reduces lawn care and expense while adding natural beauty. Pollinator plantings have the added benefit of increasing pollinators that help flower and vegetable gardens thrive.

“Native pollinator and prairie plantings are low maintenance and drought resistant,” he said. “Denser vegetation of these plantings can help hold moisture in your soil, reducing runoff.”

Free pollinator starter kits along with information about a free consultation for a planned project, such as a rain garden or shoreland project, are available by contacting the SWCD at 218-732-0121, extension 4.

“Creating or improving shoreline buffers with native plants can be a great way to stabilize shorelines, increase habitat and reduce nutrients entering our lakes and rivers,” Shaughnessy said. “Using native plants can be a beautiful and cost-effective way to improve water quality on our lakes and rivers. We are looking to help maintain or improve water quality across our county by using native plantings, buffers and rain gardens.”

He said excess sediment and nutrients from overland flow and erosion can have major impacts on the health and recreational enjoyment of area lakes.

“Much of this runoff is caused by impervious surfaces, like roads and roofs,” he said. “This is because water cannot soak in and is concentrated to one location causing quick moving overland runoff. This can cause several issues for land near lakes and rivers, erosion of beaches, stream bank erosion, shoreline destabilization and gully erosion. Many of these impervious areas play an important part in how we enjoy our waters. For this reason, counteracting the runoff is vital for the health of our lakes and rivers.”

There are many natural ways to slow runoff and reduce erosion, such as the addition of rain gardens, filter strips and shoreline vegetation planting. The goal is to intercept runoff or stop it from forming in the first place.

“In addition to the water quality benefits, native plantings increase habitat for beneficial species like bumble bees and butterflies,” he said. “Along with erosion concerns, native plantings can have a variety of wildlife benefits. Native plantings can create habitat for native pollinators, birds and can deter geese from hanging around your shore. One would be surprised how much benefit a few strategic plantings could have on the health of your shoreline.”

Shaughnessy will be the featured speaker at the Hubbard County Coalition Of Lake Associations (COLA) meeting at 6:30 p.m. His presentation “Developed Lands Pollinator and Runoff Reduction Gardening Grant” will be available for viewing on Zoom. Call Sharon Natzel at 763-355-7908 for a Zoom link or email [email protected]

Anyone interested in assistance with erosion reduction, habitat improvement or shoreline stabilization may also contact Shaughnessy via email at [email protected] or by phone at 218-732-0121 ext.112 or 218-508-2609.