Resources for creating native plant, pollinator gardens in Becker County
Local resources are available to help people support pollinators. There are programs that assist in the creation of small to large pollinator gardens, rain gardens, or even a whole native plant meadow, and there’s information about which kinds of native plants are optimal for this region.
Pollinators are in trouble. Populations of bats, birds, bees, butterflies and moths are in decline, some severely.
A United Nations-sponsored report estimates that 40% of invertebrate (insect) pollinators and 16.5% of vertebrate (animal) pollinators are threatened with extinction.
This is a big problem for people, who rely on pollinators for successful seed and fruit production. According to the National Park Service , “Pollinators are vital to our food security, economy, and overall environmental health.”
News stories about the plight of pollinators have been spreading across the globe for well over a decade already, and as awareness and concern about the problem grows, so, too, does the human response.
National governments and leading scientists around the world are working to address the population declines, as are more localized entities such as county governments, community groups and even individual property owners.
Here in Becker County, there are a number of resources available to help people support pollinators. There are programs that assist in the creation of small to large pollinator gardens, rain gardens, or even a whole native plant meadow, and there’s information about which kinds of native plants are optimal for this region, along with where and how to find them.
The Becker County Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD), for example, offers Native Plant Kits and free professional planting advice to any property owner, as well as assistance and funding with certain lake-friendly projects and practices, such as lakeshore restoration.
The SWCD is also a good local resource for information about Minnesota’s Lawns-2-Legumes program, which provides technical assistance and funding for certain residential pollinator habitat plantings.
Logan Riedel, a resource technician for the SWCD, said his office exists to help people with exactly these sorts of projects, and they welcome phone calls, emails and visits from the public.
“Our office, I feel, has been an underutilized tool in that area,” he said. “There’s a lot of really smart minds in our office who can help out. So people can reach out to us.”
A quick case study on lakeshore restoration
One person who’s glad he reached out is Darren Leno.
A few years back, Leno and his wife, Jane, needed to repair some muskrat damage to about 100 feet of their lakeshore on Little Cormorant Lake. They called the Department of Natural Resources first, for some information on riprapping (lining the lakeshore with stones), but the DNR recommended that they call the SWCD.
“The SWCD came out and did a survey (of the property) and came back with a recommendation for a pollinator garden,” Leno said. “It sounded like something that we wanted to do … It matched how we think about the lake -- that it’s a beautiful place to live and we want to take care of it as much as we can. And restoring native plants along the lakeshore seemed like a good fit for what we wanted to do out here."
It took a couple years of planning and preparation, as there was an invasive plant species along the Lenos’ shoreline that needed to be eradicated before the new garden could be installed. But last year the new flowers bloomed for the first time, and, “We’re really pleased with the results,” Leno said. “It looks beautiful when it’s in full bloom, and it’s really brought a lot of butterflies and pollinators into the yard.”
The project was a large one, and it took a fair amount of help to complete. A team of SWCD volunteers came out to the property for a few days at one point, moving dirt around with a payloader and doing other site prep. But thanks to a cost-sharing program that the project qualified for, Leno said the expense was manageable.
He now encourages anyone considering riprap to look into native plant restoration instead. In addition to the aesthetics and the pollinator-friendliness of the project, Leno said it’s also healthy for their lakeshore, as the roots of native plants are long and strong, and really grip the soil to prevent erosion.
“We would definitely do a project like this again,” Leno said. “The result is really nice … It’s a really beautiful garden.”
More about the Native Plant Kits
These kits contain 36 or 40 young native plants, consisting of six or 10 different species, enough to create at least a 50-square-foot garden. There are four kits to choose from:
Butterfly/Pollinator Kit: Contains plants that pollinators love, like Butterfly Weed, Whorled Milkweed, Anise Hyssop and others.
Rain Garden/Shoreland Kit: Contains moisture-loving plants like Swamp Milkweed, Great Blue Lobelia, Wild Bergamot and more.
Woodland Edge/Shade Kit: Contains plants that do well in the shade, like Columbine, Big Leaved Aster, Jacob’s Ladder, Brown-Eyed Susans and more.
Complete Pollinator Package: This package is bigger than the others, containing 40 plants instead of 36, with 10 different species included, rather than six.
Sample plans and instructions for planting are included with the kits. The Complete Pollinator Package costs $78; the rest are $65 each. Individual plants are also available, for those who don’t need or want a kit. Orders can be made at the local SWCD office.
Riedel said all the plants are supplied by Minnesota Native Landscapes, an ecological restoration company with a main office in Otsego and a greenhouse in Foley.
All the plants they supply, Riedel said, “are native, meaning they are historically found within 200 miles of Becker County.”
In addition to the live plant kits, the SWCD also offers Native Seed Packets, which can cover up to 5,000 square feet of shoreline or yard. The packets are designed for habitats like Upland Dry Prairie, Mesic Prairie, Short Lakeshore and Septic Mound Mix, which Riedel said is the most popular. There’s also a Pollinator Packet. Each packet contains 25 or more plant species. Prices range from $72 to $96.
Riedel said “it’s been one of our better years” for kit sales this year, with about 65 kits sold as of the beginning of June. The last weeks of May, and all of June, are the best times to start the gardens, he said: “Installation-wise, July and August get too dry and hot.”
In some cases, the SWCD will help install a project for a landowner, and even help find some cost-sharing opportunities, as was the case for the Lenos. Other times, Riedel said, “folks are really just looking for advice, and we provide that free of charge.”
Riedel and other SWCD technicians like to get out of the office and do site visits, he said, any time during the summer or fall, before the snow covers the ground. They enjoy getting to know landowners and their properties, and offer free assessments.
For more details and species lists, as well as the order form for the kits and seeds, visit the SWCD website .
The Lawns-2-Legumes program offers technical assistance and funding for select pollinator gardens in residential yards. Riedel said the program has been around for about a year.
Managed by Minnesota’s Board of Water and Soil Resources, Lawns-2-Legumes makes up to $350 of funding available for eligible applicants and also offers workshops, coaching and planting guides.
There’s a public education component to the program, and the establishment of demonstration neighborhoods (which showcase best practices of pollinator habitat projects) is part of it, too.
The program has grants available for both individual property owners and demonstration neighborhoods.
Funding is targeted to areas of the state where pollinator habitats will do the most good for the Rusty patched bumblebee and other at-risk species. While top-priority areas mostly lie around the Twin Cities, there are several moderate-priority areas around Detroit Lakes. A map of the areas can be found on the Lawns-2-Legumes website . This site also contains information and tips on how to design and create your own native plant gardens or meadows.
The benefits of native plants
*From the Becker County Soil and Water Conservation District
Bank Stabilization: Native plants have dense, deep intertwined root systems that physically strengthen soil and stabilize banks from erosion. During wet periods, plants remove excess moisture, adding resistance to erosion or slumping.
Clean Water: Deep-rooted vegetation intercepts rain water runoff by slowing it down and filtering out much of the nutrients, soil particles and other pollutants.
Fish and Wildlife Habitat: Diverse shoreland vegetation and woody debris both on shore and within the water provide shade, shelter, food and migration corridors for fish and wildlife.
Protection Against Nuisance Geese: Geese are less included to wander through vegetated shoreline to get to a lawn, for fear predators may be hiding in the tall vegetation.
Help For Pollinators: Many pollinators are in decline. Native plants provide nectar for birds, bats and beneficial insects like bees and butterflies.
Low Maintenance: Once established, native plants are nearly maintenance-free.
Add Beauty: Native plants add beauty, habitat and biodiversity, with an array of colors and textures throughout the seasons.
How to make a yard more pollinator-friendly
*From the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources
Expand garden beds and plant pollinator habitat such as native flowers.
Remove existing lawn (using sod cutters, etc.) and seed a pollinator lawn seed mix that typically includes no-mow fescues and flowers.
Inter-seed flowers into existing lawn and increase mowing height and decrease mowing frequency.
Convert large areas to prairie vegetation.
Plant a rain garden with pollinator-beneficial plants.
Incorporate flowering shrubs and trees in the landscape such as chokeberry, dogwood, ninebark, hawthorn, cherry, plum, apple, maple and basswood.
Provide nesting and over-wintering opportunities.
Eliminate the use of insecticides and fungicides to the extent possible.
*From the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources
Planting for Pollinators design guide.
Pollinator Garden Templates: Shady Garden ; Rain Garden , Sunny and Low (Boulevard) Garden . These templates provide base designs for native plant pollinator gardens, including boulevard and shade garden designs. They are customizable with substitutions for each plant.
Native Plant Selection : A quick guide to high quality pollinator plants to provide blooms throughout the growing season.
Other local resources and expertise can be found at the University of Minnesota Extension Office in Becker County , available by phone at 218-846-732, and the Becker County Master Gardeners .
Native plant guide
*From a flyer by City of Detroit Lakes Greater Sucker Creek. For more information, contact Sally Hausken, Becker County Master Gardener and Chair of the City of the Detroit Lakes Greater Sucker Creek, at 218-847-8032.
Best native plants for prairie and meadow: Black-eyed Susan, Maximilian sunflower, Prairie smoke, Big bluestem grass, Little bluestem grass, Indian grass, Purple prairie clover, Milkweed, Bergamot, Liatris, Gaillardia, Lupine, Golden Alexander and Prairie rose.
Shade tolerant native plants: Canada anemone, Harebell, Virginia Waterleaf, False spikenard, False Solomon’s seal, Hepatica, Wood anemone, Merrybells, Pennsylvania sedge and Bottlebrush grass.
Ground cover choices: Canada anemone, Virginia waterleaf, Pennsylvania sedge, False spikenard, False Solomon’s seal and Wild ginger.
Blooms for each season:
Spring: Marsh marigolds, Hepatica, Wood anemone, Merrybells and Virginia waterleaf.
Early Summer: Ladyslippers and Canada anemone.
Mid-summer: Harebell, Blue vervain, Lupine and Northern bedstraw.
Late Summer: Black-eyed Susan and Maximilian sunflower.
Fall: Asters, Goldenrods, Bergamot and Ironweed.
Winter: Enjoy new shapes and textures in the beiges and grays of native plants in dormancy.