Lake Nokomis Alley Get-Together

On April 12th, 2014 more then 35 neighbors from two blocks in the Lake Nokomis watershed got together to reimagine their alleyway.  Why? How? Where? Was there food? you may be asking.  To answer the most pressing question, yes, there was food.  There was also creativity flowing, neighbors interacting, idea sharing, and community forming.  It was a fantastic event that was made possible by the Center for Prevention at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of MN and three awesome block leaders.

The Why:  Lake Nokomis Neighbors for Clean Water is a project that Metro Blooms has been working on with neighborhood and local government partners to clean-up Lake Nokomis by re-inventing backyards and alleyways.  Lake Nokomis is impaired, which means there’s too much pollution in it to support a healthy aquatic ecosystem.  Most of that pollution comes from urban runoff, and most of THAT pollution flows through backyards and down alleyways to reach the lake.  Furthermore, alleys could be such cool spaces for neighbors to interact, and they can be pretty (really!) if we can change the way we view and use them.

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2013 Triumphs and Lessons Learned

As 2013 winds to an end, we find ourselves spending a lot of time planning for Certified RaingardenNEXT year.  At Metro Blooms we’re writing work plans for 2014, anxiously awaiting the results of grant applications, and scheduling maintenance and installations for the coming summer.  But I thought before the hustle and bustle of a new year begins, we should take a few minutes to remember the work that we’ve already accomplished, and the triumphs and lessons learned in 2013.

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Metro Blooms Garden Evaluation and Awards

On November 7th, 2013 over 150 people gathered at the Columbia Manor in Northeast Minneapolis to recognize beautiful Minneapolis gardens, and the people that create them, at our annual Minneapolis Garden Awards event.  It was an awe-inspiring evening filled with stories of how many of these gardens came to be.  And just how did we choose these gardens? That would be the work of our fabulous volunteer garden evaluators…

Every spring Metro Blooms sends out the call to garden lovers everywhere. “Help us evaluate the beautiful gardens of Minneapolis, and don’t forget to nominate your own!”  Nominations are how the system works.  Metro Blooms nominates all of the gardens that we’ve helped install over the years, but we count on citizens to nominate the rest of the beautiful gardens out there.  Only raingardens, you may be wondering?  No, no, no.  We certainly love raingardens, but we love beautification gardens too and we want to know about them all!

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Neighborhood of Raingarden Installations 2013

Throughout the summer and fall of 2013, Metro Blooms has been working hard with the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa to install raingardens in fiveMCC crew at a raingarden they installed different neighborhoods in Minneapolis.  The projects were partnerships with neighborhood associations and community members as part of our Neighborhood of Raingardens program.  Some of these partnerships were new this year, and some have been ongoing for the last four years!  Regardless, each of these projects was a success and we hope all of our partnerships continue into the future.

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East Calhoun Neighborhood of Raingardens

Last weekend, 14 families in the East Calhoun neighborhood of Minneapolis spent some time getting dirty and helping out the environment.  What were they doing?  Planting their raingardens of course!  This is the first year that Metro Blooms and the East Calhoun Community Organization have partnered to bring raingardens to neighborhood residents, and we hope it won’t be the last.

During May, residents in East Calhoun had on-sites with Metro Blooms landscape designers to determine where on their property a raingarden would be able to capture the most runoff.   Then, gardens were designed, plants were ordered, mulch was acquired and before we knew it the Conservation Corps of Minnesota and Iowa was excavating fourteen beautiful raingardens.  As planting day arrived, so did some pretty serious storms that knocked down trees, blew off shingles and even shattered some glass into one of the raingardens.  But have no fear!  Those East Calhoun residents are hardy and they arrived on planting day (many without cars to carry their plants home because of all the downed trees) and they planted those raingardens!

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Blooming Schoolyards 2013

Many Metro Blooms supporters have not heard of Blooming Schoolyards, Metro Blooms’ K-12 outdoor classroom education program.  And what a shame that is because I can tell you from experience that it is one of the most enjoyable programs I’ve had the opportunity to participate in as Metro Blooms’ GreenCorps member.

Blooming Schoolyards has occurred in some form or other in more than 12 schools throughout the twin cities, and was expanded quite a bit this year.  In the past, we’ve mostly focused on working with 4th and 5th graders as water education seems to fit so well into their science standards.  But it seems water education fits well with all science standards, so this year I worked with Kindergartners, 3rd and 4th graders, and an 8th grade enriched science class as well.  Because of the age varieties, we added a number of new activities to our typical Blooming Schoolyards program too, all of which focus on water pollution, stormwater management and/or raingardens of course (with a little room for playing in the dirt as well).

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The History of Lake Nokomis

This past Tuesday, myself, Mark Pedelty (a professor at the U of MN), and three of his students had the pleasure of learning about the history of Lake Nokomis from Steffanie Musich, President of Friends of Lake Nokomis, and Julia Vanatta
with Wild Ones.  I learned more about Lake Nokomis that day than I thought there was to know, and I was intrigued so I went looking for even more information.  I have to say, Lake Nokomis has a long and colorful history.  If you’ve ever wondered just how and when it came to be (that’s right, it hasn’t always been a lake fit for swimming) read on and find out!

Lake Nokomis, known as Lake Amelia until 1910, was originally meant to serve as a reservoir to maintain the constant flow of water over Minnehaha Falls.  The park board did not actually own the land around Lake Nokomis, Rice Lake (Lake Hiawatha), or Minnehaha Creek in the late 1800s but that didn’t stop them from making plans to deepen channels and dam the lake.  Luckily, most of these plans fell through for reasons unknown today, but they were all made with the hope of maintaining a flow of water over the falls.  In fact,  in 1900 President Benjamin Harrison was quoted at the falls saying “Minnehaha Falls would undoubtedly be very beautiful if there was water in the stream.”

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Raingardens and Beyond Workshops, Soon to be at a Community Center Near You!

Schnazy new title, and some new information too.  This year Metro Blooms’ classic Raingarden Workshops are doing just what the new title says…they’re going beyond the do-it-yourself approach to raingarden design and installation and covering topics such as simple healthy lawn care practices more in depth.  The information you’ll gain will be oh so helpful not only if you plan to install a raingarden this summer, but also if you just want to know how to take better care of the lake down the road by taking better care of your yard.

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Lake Nokomis Water Quality Survey

Nokomis subwatershedMetro Blooms has recently taken on its largest survey yet.  Throughout February we’ve been prepping, administering and entering oodles of data from our first ever KAP study  (KAP stands for knowledge, attitudes and practices).  The idea behind a KAP study is to survey a population, in this case 700 residents in the Lake Nokomis subwatershed, before AND after a project to determine changes in people’s views and behaviors over time.

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It’s in the dirt! Bacteria in soil may make us happier, smarter

This post was written by Naomi Sachs, a landscape designer and Founding Director of the Therapeutic Landscapes Network.   

Many people talk about the restorative benefits of gardening and the reasons why it makes us feel good.  Just being in nature is already therapeutic, but actively connecting with nature through gardening is value-added.  And why is that? All sorts of reasons have been posited: It’s a meditative practice; it’s gentle exercise; it’s fun; it allows us to be nurturing and to connect with life on a fundamental level.

And some recent research has added another missing piece to the puzzle: It’s in the dirt. Or to be a little more specific, a strain of bacterium in soil, Mycobacterium vaccae, has been found to trigger the release of seratonin, which in turn elevates mood and decreases anxiety. And on top of that, this little bacterium has been found to improve cognitive function and possibly even treat cancer and other diseases. Which means that contact with soil, through gardening or other means, is beneficial.  How did this discovery come about?

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