City garden grants program is growing

A butterfly feeds on swamp milkweed. (Post Bulletin file photo)

There are many grand reasons to plant pollinator-friendly plants. How about a grand?

A rebranded city garden program offers up to $1,000 toward material and labor costs of planting pollinator-friendly habitat.

The Rochester Garden Grants program is growing from the Realize Rochester Rain Gardens program to include other pollinator-habitat plantings.

The change updates the decade-old program to better coordinate with the state’s Board of Water and Soil Resources Lawns to Legumes program launched last year. That program offers people up to $350 in matching costs for planting pollinator-friendly plants and habitat .

The Rochester Garden Grants program will offer up to $1,000 in material and labor costs toward creating pollinator gardens and does not restrict the grants to rain garden plantings. The change gives local support to the state initiative and also makes the program more accessible.


"It was time to look at what’s changed in Rochester," said Stephanie Hatzenbihler, environmental education specialist with Rochester Public Works.

Pollinator habitats provide a variety of flowers and blooms that are not only attractive, but are needed for pollinating insects and animals as a source of food and habitat. The plants roots also help mitigate erosion and heavy storm water runoff and filter pollutants and create healthier soil.

Over a decade, the rain garden program helped Rochester residents and organizations create more than 40 rain gardens in the city.

However, Hatzenbihler added, rain gardens aren’t appropriate everywhere and the initial costs to build one can be high.

"We were looking at it through an equity lens," she said. "The resources to get started with a pollinator garden is a little less intense than doing a rain garden."

Once established, she added, both types of gardens take little maintenance and upkeep.

The city grant program requires a 25% matching costs or in-kind investments. That could include estimated costs of installation work. That’s a change from the rain garden program, which required a dollar cost match to apply for a grant. It’s also open to public entities, such as schools that aren’t eligible for the Lawns to Legumes program.

If you’re ready to help pollinators by planting habitat for them and want to learn how either the city or state programs can help, you can sign up for an application and planning workshop being held Feb. 24  at Cascade Meadow, 2900 19th St. NW. The event is free, but registration is required .


The workshop is presented by Blue Thumb and sponsored by the City of Rochester, Olmsted Soil and Water Conservation District, and Minnesota Board of Water & Soil Resources.

A Lawns to Legumes application workshop held in November filled up, and some people who weren’t able to register for that workshop have already signed up for this month’s event.

For those who do register, Hatzenbihler suggests bringing an aerial photo of the property where the garden is being considered. Photos are available from the county geographical information system; even a photo from an online map search would be helpful, she added.

"It’s really helpful to have an idea of where the property is, what it’s near, and how it’s used to get people started," she said.

What:Lawns to Legumes Application and Planning Workshop

When: 6 p.m. Monday, Feb. 24

Where:Cascade Meadow, 2900 19th St. NW


Info:Register at .

Greenspace — John Molseed column sig

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