Many thanks goes out to the five Target volunteers who joined Metro Blooms for an afternoon of planting! It was a beautiful Friday afternoon to be working outside, and the group’s energy was palpable. With their help, over 800 individual holes were dug and then filled with native plants.
Metro Blooms landscape designer Andy shows the group his vision before getting started.
Local landscape company Earth Wizards restored the two raingardens and brought Metro Blooms on to lead a volunteer planting in front of and behind the Bii Di Gain Dash Anwebi Elder Housing in the Phillips Neighborhood. The gardens are designed to intercept runoff from the building’s sidewalk, roof and parking lot before the water finds its way through storm sewers and into the Mississippi River. They will also supply local pollinators with habitat and food, and provide the building’s residents with the opportunity to enjoy native plants and wildlife.
Hard at work.
If you or your business would like to help at one of Metro Blooms’ installations in the future, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
John Bly is a MN GreenCorps member serving with Metro Blooms
Thanks to the Target and Thomson Reuters volunteers who helped us complete our first Blooming Alley installation of 2015! Volunteers helped us mulch, plant, and water raingardens and native plantings. The groups came from project management, so they made short work of the installation! It was great to meet everyone and share a bit about what we do at Metro Blooms.
Volunteers hard at work spreading mulch in a raingarden!
Volunteers used raingarden plans to position the plants with the correct spacing.
The next morning, Thomson Reuters got to dig in the dirt and plant the seedlings in the ground. After the gardens were completed, volunteers took a tour of the Demonstration Blooming Alley, and learned about some of the functions of raingardens and the goals of the Blooming Alleys project.
Volunteers finish a brand-new raingarden!
Volunteers water a finished garden.
Metro Blooms landscape designer, Andy, shows the volunteers some of the features of a Blooming Alley.
The raingardens and native plantings in this alley have been installed! Residents will wait until the fall for their permeable pavement to be finished. We are expecting to do two more Blooming Alleys installations this fall. Thanks to everyone who helped make this project a success!
If you or your business would like to help at one of Metro Blooms’ installations in the future, email email@example.com.
In the fall of 2014 Metro Blooms worked with some great community members just to the west of Lake Nokomis to install the first ever “Blooming Alley” in Minneapolis. Since then, the idea has caught on like wildfire. We’re expanding the project around Lake Nokomis to another 15 alleys and the Lynnhurst neighborhood and neighborhoods surrounding Diamond Lake are starting their own Blooming Alleys projects. This means that over the next 3 years we’ll get to work with 260+ property owners to transform the look and function of 25 alleyways. Together these alleys create a 6-mile long corridor along Minnehaha Creek. Wondering what the heck Blooming Alleys is? Check out the demonstration for more info.
With all of this work ahead of us, we would never be able to accomplish it all without some great partnerships. But who will we work with? Who will do what? What are all of the roles that need to be filled? What do these communities care most about? To answer these questions, we worked with Peggy Knapp of the Freshwater Society to lead us and all of our current and potential Blooming Alleys partners through a series of discussions to get us the information we needed.
We invited about 60 Master Water Stewards, block leaders, Master Gardeners, landscape designers, and community partners to this meeting. It was very successful, with lots of discussion between a variety of partners (and we thank them all so much for their time and input!). We left the meeting with about 30 large post-its filled with everyone’s notes. Since then, our intern, Saif, has transcribed all of those into a 14 page word document. I can tell you from first glance, it’s so much great information! We’ll be analyzing all of this data over the next few days to pull out the patterns that emerge across the conversations and within each conversation. This will tell us what’s most important to everyone in this process.
We’ll share that information with everyone that wants it and then use it to define and assign clear roles for all partners. It will also provide us with information about how to market these projects and the resources we need to provide to make them successful. Again, thank you to everyone who participated. We look forward to sharing the results!
In the early part of spring, after the snow has melted and before new growth has started for the season, gardeners can remove last year’s decaying growth. We call this decaying plant material ‘duff’. Duff is a wonderful thing to let stand throughout the winter months as it provides habitat and food for over wintering birds, helps to insulate the ground during the coldest days of the year, and it can provide visual interest in the garden throughout winter. Once temperatures begin to rise, however, new growth will start to peak up through the soil and it will be good to have last year’s duff out of the way. Not only does this help to warm the soil by providing a little extra sunlight, it can be a very exciting time visually as well. Fresh new green popping up in the garden is a most welcome sign of the warm seasons to come.
There are many species of weeds that will take advantage of this time of the year. Cool season weeds will start to germinate in the spaces between your desired raingarden plants. This is an excellent time for pulling these weeds out before they become established. Typically, your desired perennial plants will have a larger more distinct clump as well as a designed pattern in the garden. Raingarden design employs multiple specimens of the same species organized into groups. This can be another clue to help in identifying which plants will want to be left, because weeds are very randomly spaced.
Spring is a good time to assess your mulch. New mulch is more easily applied in the spring because plant material has not grown in the way. It is easier to see bare spots where mulch is thin and soil is peaking through. A good rule of thumb for mulch is to maintain a 3” layer. This will provide a good barrier against weeds and will help to keep the soil moist for desired plants. Remember to always use double shredded hardwood mulch in raingardens because it binds together and doesn’t float during large rain events. Check the Blue Thumb webpage for local distributors of double shredded hardwood mulch. It is typically available in bags or in bulk and can be either picked up or delivered for a small fee.
Spring is also an appropriate time for replanting any bare spots in the garden. There are many options for how to approach replanting. By following the planting plan for a project, gardeners can choose to use the same plant variety they have in the design and replace missing plants with what is shown in the plan. Another option is to replace with a different type of plant altogether. This is a particularly good approach if several plants of the same species have completely died out. Perhaps the designed plant variety is not as well suited as the designer had originally thought and some experimenting with a new variety might warrant better results. Replacing with a new variety can be a fun way for participants to further engage and take ownership of their garden. As mentioned earlier, the Blue Thumb Plant Selector Tool can be an invaluable resource for choosing plants and learning a given plants’ characteristics.
Another great activity for spring gardening can be the division of established perennials. This is an activity for more established plant material that has reached maturity. Many varieties of established perennial plants can be dug up completely from their home in the garden and then divided into smaller specimens for use in other areas of the yard. This can be particularly useful for gardeners wishing to add another raingarden to their yard without the expense of purchasing new plants. Spring is the best time for division and transplanting because it gives transplants time to establish new roots throughout the coming growing season. A good rule of thumb is to try and find specimens for transplanting just after the new foliage has begun to peak up out of the soil. With a little research online, gardeners can discern which of their plants would be most appropriate for division and use in other spots of their yard.
In a world without bees, your next plate of food would have considerably less
variety. By some estimates, one of every three bites of food we take depends on pollinators like bees. Pollinators are the small creatures—among them bees, butterflies and hummingbirds—that carry pollen from plant to plant as they forage, unknowingly performing an important step in the production of fruits and seeds.
In recent years, we have observed severe declines in various pollinator populations. Honey bees are a key example. According to the USDA, beekeepers lost an average of one-third of their colonies every winter from 2006 to 2011. In the last couple of decades, the monarch butterfly population has declined 90 percent in North America.
This is worrisome. Consider the following: more than 80 percent of plants depend on pollinators for survival. In this country alone, bees and other insect pollinators contribute more than $24 billion a year to the economy.
Why are pollinators disappearing? A leading cause is lost habitat. Quite simply, many pollinators no longer have the food and other resources they need to survive. They are also vulnerable to pesticides, in ways that are currently being studied.
While this problem exists globally, we can act on a personal level to help solve the problem. Our gardening practices can create urban habitats that attract and sustain pollinators. Choosing native plants is a step in the right direction: pollinators and plants that evolved in the same areas generally benefit one another. For example, milkweed attracts bees and butterflies. To reproduce, monarch butterflies actually need milkweed because it is the only plant their caterpillars eat. Practices on this scale can establish pollinators in our own backyards.
Which brings us to raingardens, one of our favorite topics. Metro Blooms teaches people how to plant raingardens as part of our mission to promote gardening, beautify the community, and help heal the environment. These shallow depressions, planted with native vegetation, allow stormwater to be cleaned naturally as it soaks into the ground, diverting polluted runoff from our waterways.
Creating raingardens that are also habitats for native pollinators is, quite simply, smart design. The raingardens help clean and preserve natural bodies of water and function as habitats for bees, butterflies, and other insects and small animals that pollinate. In turn, the pollinators, just by doing what they do, help the raingardens thrive so they can work efficiently to clean our water.
Learn more at one of our eco-friendly raingarden workshops. This year we will offer lots of information on designing raingardens for pollinators: http://metroblooms.org/workshops.php
Aleli Balagtas is a freelance writer interested in gardening ecologically.
Wow. I know I said last year was busy, but 2014 was so busy we hardly had time to blog about, well, anything. Over the last 12 months we’ve worked with some amazing partners to install 96 raingardens, 6 bisowales, 1 trench drain, and 4 permeable pavement systems. We’ve held 7 corporate volunteer events, educated 430 citizens at our workshops, maintained 18 stormwater management practices, worked with volunteers to evaluate and recognize almost 1,000 gardens, and significantly expanded our work with businesses. I’d say who’s counting, but clearly we are – after all we’ve got to let all of our generous supporters know what we’re accomplishing! None of these projects would be possible without the work of dedicated citizens who are doing so much to make a difference in their environment. So before we move on to 2015 and a new series of adventures, let’s remember some of the great projects and partnerships we’ve had the fortune to be a part of in 2014.
Each year we work with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota, citizens, and neighborhood organizations to install raingardens through our “Neighborhood of Raingardens” program. In 2014, we had a record number of projects – 7 different neighborhoods installed 67 raingardens which provide over 8,000 square feet of urban habitat for pollinators and filter thousands of gallons of stormwater runoff each year. Five of the neighborhoods, Sheridan, Columbia Park, Longfellow, Cedar Isles Dean and Field Regina Northrop, were new partners, and two, Cleveland and Audubon, continued previous partnerships. During the Cleveland installations we had the opportunity to teach a group of students from South Korea about raingardens (see photo). In total, Metro Blooms has partnered with 18 neighborhoods since 2009 to install 423 raingardens through this community-driven program!
Lesson Learned: A giant pry bar is the best tool to remove copious amounts of rocks from unpredictably difficult soil (Cedar Isles Dean we’re talking about you!)
In other areas of the metro we were able to partner with local government organizations to design and oversee unique stormwater management projects. We’ve been working with the City of Bloomington since 2012 on their project Green Streets for Blue Waters to design a backyard bio-swale and 18 curb cut raingardens in an area of town that drains directly to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This summer we saw that project come to fruition while we provided oversight during the installation of the curb cut raingardens and maintenance education for residents post-install. You can read more about that project in our previous blog. We also finished up an engagement and installation project with the Vadnais Lakes Area Watershed Management Organization (say that fast) for which we worked with a variety of community organizations and businesses to install 6 stormwater management projects.
Lesson Learned: Pull tree seedlings that creep into your garden early on, or you’ll need a saw, a team of strong pullers, and possibly a horse to get them out.
This was a very exciting year for our Nokomis Neighbors for Clean Water project and residents all over looking to spruce up their alleyways. The general idea of the project is to work with neighbors to create community spaces along their alleyway that also have an ecological function: to infiltrate stormwater and provide habitat. Last spring we got to design a super fun and effective engagement process to implement with neighbors from a couple of blocks to the west of Lake Nokomis. You can read all about that here. Then, this summer along one of the blocks we installed the first ever Blooming Alley for Clean Water in Minneapolis with funding from the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, the City of Minneapolis, and Hennepin County. In total, ten residents gave up space on their property and shared in the cost to install 5 raingardens, 4 permeable pavement systems, 1 trench drain and 6 bioswales. We worked with 35 volunteers from Cummins, the neighborhood, and the Conservation Corps of MN to install the raingardens and bioswales during a two day digging and planting extravaganza. The permeable pavement and trench drain were installed by the fabulous crew at Earth Wizards.
I know you’re already planning to check out the alley this spring, so I’ll tell you now, it’s located between 50th and 51st Street and 16th and 17th Avenue just to the west of Lake Nokomis. The neighbors would LOVE to see you out there. In addition to providing funding, the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross Blue Shield created a short video about the project as part of their Pulling Together Minnesota campaign, demonstrating how community action can create super cool spaces where neighbors are able to interact and be active. Check it out below. To cap it all off we hosted a Blue Thumb Alley Tour for interested professionals and citizens. Almost 50 people attended, proving the community’s desire to create beautiful community spaces that protect water AND habitat. I mean really, how could that not interest you?
Lesson Learned: Working with communities means you have to be flexible, but it also guarantees your outcomes are meaningful, and in this case simply inspiring.
In addition to our community-focused projects we got to work with a couple of schools on raingardens this year. Last spring we worked with Professor Mark Pedelty’s class at the University of Minnesota to design and install a raingarden outside of Rapson Hall College of Design. Thank goodness for dedicated students from Mark’s class and Mr. Pedelty himself – we didn’t have the help of the Conservation Corps on this particular project and it was seriously hard work! Off campus, our MN GreenCorps member, Aida, taught 4th and 5th graders at Bethune Community School in north Minneapolis about environmental stewardship and raingarden design. Thanks to funding from the Hennepin County Green Partners program we were able to install and plant the garden with students in May and then teach them about maintenance this fall.
Lesson Learned: Do NOT, under any circumstances, try to excavate, mulch, and plant a 1,200 square foot raingarden in one day without professional help.
Well I think I’ve rambled on about installations long enough. Now for the other half of Metro Blooms’ uniqueness: education and garden evaluations! We kicked off our Raingardens and Beyond workshop series last February, a bit earlier than usual, but after a cold winter we figured everyone was ready to start thinking about being outside again. From February-June over 430 people came to 16 workshops throughout the metro to learn about raingardens and work with a landscape designer and Hennepin County Master Gardener to design their own property. By October, 42% had already installed a raingarden or were currently working on one and another 30% have plans to install one in the future. Stay tuned for our 2015 workshops, Raingardens and Beyond: Clean Water, Healthy Habitats. We’ll be incorporating more information about pollinators and the plants they rely on in 2015.
In other education news, Metro Blooms became the new host site of the Blue Thumb program this year. Blue Thumb is a regional network of water quality professionals including local governments, nurseries, landscape companies, and nonprofits. We had a great time hosting Blue Thumb activities this summer/fall including the Blue Thumb Alley Tour, tour of Lakeville stormwater management practices (led by Ecoscapes), Landscape Revival, and State Fair booth and are now exploring a permanent relationship with the program.
Lesson Learned: State Fair visitors LOVE the Blue Thumb “Magic is in the Roots” display. We need more cool displays.
Our Development Director, Barb, had a very busy year, adding 7 corporate volunteer events to her already packed schedule! We partnered with about 250 volunteers in 2014 to accomplish some fantastic projects. Those volunteers include our 113 garden evaluators, who evaluated some 970 gardens throughout Minneapolis. The evaluations culminate in the top 10-15 gardens which we recognize at our annual Garden Awards event. The event was at the Columbia Manor again this year and nearly 200 people attended to recognize beautiful Minneapolis gardens and the people that create and maintain them.
Lesson Learned: Not only does Columbia Manor have delicious desserts, they also have fantastic appetizers (thanks Prom Catering).
2014 also marked a very exciting year for us in the commercial sector. We received a Great Streets Business District Support Grant last winter from the City of Minneapolis to work with businesses along East 38th Street and within the Whittier Neighborhood of Minneapolis. The grant supports site consultations, education, stormwater management plans, and assistance with funding applications for businesses in eligible areas. Our office just so happens to be located along 38th Street, in Sabathani Community Center, and our designers have had a ball working with them and other businesses such as the Black Forest Inn and the Fire Arts Center.
Lesson Learned: Business owners don’t attend workshops and site consultations at Black Forest Inn seem to take twice as long as usual…I’m sure it has nothing to do with their delicious menu:)
I swore this year maintenance was going to get its own paragraph, because we (by we I mean our designer Andy) put a lot of work into it. This year we partnered with the Conservation Corps of MN to maintain stormwater management practices at 14 Minneapolis Public School (MPS) sites. But the exciting part is the stormwater credits: we worked with the schools and the City of Minneapolis to secure over $60,000 in stormwater credits for MPS every year due to their stormwater management practices. We also started working with the City of Champlin to maintain a few raingardens on City property and partnered with volunteers to pull weeds and re-plant at Sentyrz, Irving Triangle, and Folwell School in Minneapolis.
Lesson Learned: Canada thistle looks pretty, until you sit on it multiple times. Then it’s not pretty, at all.
Like I said, it was a busy year! Thank you for sticking with us and for your continued support. We’ve got some exciting projects coming up in 2015, and we can’t wait to share them with you. In the meantime, Happy New Year from all of us here at Metro Blooms:)
As you may have read in our recent blog post ‘Green Streets for Blue Waters’, our two year project in partnership with the City of Bloomington just wrapped up. The project included the addition of 18 newly installed curb cut raingardens and a fabulous vegetated bio-swale. After installations were complete, we were charged with ensuring these new practices are maintained by residents so they continue looking great and functioning properly. When raingardens aren’t maintained they can fill with sediment, lose their ability to infiltrate water, get taken over by weedy species and lose their aesthetic appeal, which leads to poor public perception. It’s an issue everywhere raingardens are installed, so making sure homeowners have the tools they need to maintain their gardens is no small task!
To kick off our maintenance education in Bloomington, each participant had the opportunity to meet one on one with Metro Blooms designer and maintenance expert Andrew Novak. Our hope with these visits was to instill a sense of confidence and ownership in participants as they care for their new raingardens. Gardening can be a very rewarding experience, both physically and mentally, and good maintenance is the most important aspect for ensuring the longevity and success of each garden.
We would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the participants of the Bloomington Green Streets for Blue Watersprogram for taking part in this important project and give everyone else a quick overview of all that’s been accomplished!
Over the last two years, Metro Blooms, in partnership with the City of Bloomington and the Lower Minnesota River Watershed District, worked with residents to design and install a vegetated bioswale and 18 curb cut raingardens in Bloomington neighborhoods that drain to the Minnesota River.
Curb cut raingardens are unique in that they not only capture runoff from the property itself but from the street as well. The project area was selected because it is adjacent to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Individual sites were selected based on site suitability and resident participation. In total, during an average year with 30″ of rainfall, the completed practices:
Treat stormwater runoff from 55.42 acres
Remove over 3,500 pounds of solids
Remove 8.5 pounds of phosphorous and
Infiltrate 1.9 million gallons of runoff
The solids and phosphorus removed would otherwise end up in the Minnesota River, causing algae blooms which deplete oxygen and diminish aquatic habitat when they decompose. The millions of gallons of runoff infiltrated reduces flooding and recharges groundwater to ultimately reach the Minnesota River clean and cool. In addition the bioswale and raingardens beautify City neighborhoods and provide habitat for pollinators and other wildlife. This project was made possible by funds from the Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment and local matching funds.
Finally, it was an alley’s time to shine. Blue Thumb recently hosted a tour of the first Blooming Alley in Minneapolis, a green project to redesign back alleys. The tour showed that narrow back lanes separating neighbors from one another can be reinvented as places that connect people and function to protect the environment. All it takes is a little know-how, a willingness to think “outside” of the conventional alley, and the synergy of neighbors working together toward a shared goal—key ingredients in a Metro Blooms initiative called Nokomis Neighbors for Clean Water.
Restoring Lake Nokomis is the ultimate goal. The lake is classified as impaired by the MN Pollution Control Agency, or too polluted to support a healthy ecosystem. Most of that pollution is urban runoff, dirty stormwater that flows through backyards and down paved surfaces such as alleys, eventually reaching the lake. The idea behind a Blooming Alley is simple: invite neighbors on the block to re-invent their alley as a shared common space that also diverts runoff and encourages natural habitat. Think raingardens and permeable pavement, which allow stormwater to filter slowly through soil before reaching the lake, rather than running directly into storm drains.
Come see Metro Blooms’ first Blooming Alley, and rediscover back alleys. The idea is to look beyond garbage cans and garages and envision alleys as inviting, ecological community spaces. That’s what neighbors on a block near Minneapolis’Lake Nokomis did last spring when they started planning their alley makeover as part of a project called Nokomis Neighbors for Clean Water. This is alley beautification with a green mission: to create lovely neighborhood spaces that incorporate strategies to reduce storm water runoff and promote native habitat.
Stormwater flowing through backyards, driveways and alleys is a major culprit in Lake Nokomis pollution. Metro Blooms undertook this project to partner with local groups, government and residents to reduce the problem. The key is community engagement: provide the tools—namely, expertise in landscape design and stormwater management—that allow residents to work together to find a solution, and make their community a better place to live in the process. Funding from the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, the City of Minneapolis, and Hennepin County supported the project and, over several months, Metro Blooms helped neighbors on the block design and create the first Blooming Alley.