Visions of gardens danced in her head

Angie Hong
Guest Columnist

T’was the first week of spring when at many homes, people gazed wistfully at garden gnomes. Leaning askew on muddy brown lawns, the statues elicited nothing but yawns. No flowers, no bluebirds, and nothing was green. Their yards were the ugliest they’d ever seen.

According to the calendar, spring officially began on March 20. Up here in Minnesota, however, the view outside our windows remains unconvincing. The grass is still lifeless and brown. Trees are bare, and gardens look like little more than a tangle of dried stems lying in a heap on the ground. Early spring can sure be ugly.

Even so, there are signs here and there that the world around us is slowly returning to life. A robin hops across the barren lawn. Geese and ducks are returning to local ponds, and two weeks ago, I heard a sandhill crane flying overhead, playing an off-key tune as it passed. Now is the time when visions of gardens dance in our heads.

This spring, the East Metro Water Resource Education Program will team up with master gardeners and local cities to hold Spring Dreaming Landscaping Workshops. The sessions are designed to get people ready for the planting season and will focus on wildlife and water-friendly gardening projects. Each workshop will cover three main topic areas: lawns, composting and planting for clean water.

During the lawn portion of the workshop, we will talk about alternatives to conventional lawns that can help you to save time and create a more eco-friendly yard. Low-mow lawns, composed of low-growing fescue grasses, are one option that is appealing to many people. As the name implies, low-mow grasses only need to be mowed once or twice a year and they usually don’t need to be watered. Another lawn alternative growing in popularity are bee-lawns. These lawns are made up of low-growing plants like clover, thyme and self-heal. The result is a drought-tolerant, living lawn that provides nectar to bees and other pollinators.

Next, Washington County Master Gardener Lynn Markus will talk about the basics of backyard composting. Composting yard waste and kitchen scraps helps to reduce landfill waste and also provides a free source of nutrients for your gardens. Lynn will discuss what items to compost, how to tend the pile as it decomposes, and how to use the final product.

At the end of the workshop, we’ll talk about native plants, rain gardens and other lake and water-friendly “blue thumb” gardening projects that can help to reduce runoff pollution and correct erosion problems in your yard. The Ramsey and Washington Conservation Districts provide site visits to homeowners to help plan and design Blue Thumb projects and area watershed districts provide cost-share grants for rain gardens and shoreline planting projects as well.

To register for one of the upcoming spring landscaping workshops, go to Classes will be held on Thursday, April 6, in North St. Paul; Tuesday, April 11, in St. Paul Park; Tuesday, April 18, in Oakdale; Thursday, April 27, in Hugo; and Tuesday, May 2, in Forest Lake. The classes run from 6:30 to 8 p.m., and all five will cover the same information. Registration is free, but please sign up one week in advance to receive an aerial map of your property for the class.

Angie Hong is an educator for East Metro Water. Contact her at 651-330-8220, ext. 35, or [email protected]