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A healthy lawn isn't necessarily green

Diversity can help pollinators and add color to your yard.

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(Image by fancycrave1 from Pixabay)

Even if you’re not a farmer, chances are you’re cultivating the most widely grown irrigated crop in the U.S.

According to a NASA-sponsored study , turf grass covers about 63,000 square miles of land in the U.S. — an area about the size of Georgia.

Thirsty lawns take water to maintain. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, about 7.8 billion gallons of water per day in the U.S. is devoted to outdoor irrigation .

Chemicals used to maintain a perfect slate of monoculture green can hurt pollinators and beneficial insects as well as pollute water.

While moving away from a perfectly manicured lawn may be the environmentally responsible thing to do, that doesn’t mean you have to give up Kubb, croquet or any other lawn game.

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You don’t need to plant a prairie preserve to add diversity to your lawn. The University of Minnesota has lists of low-growing flowering plants that grow well in Minnesota and benefit pollinators and bees .

Sargent’s Nursery in Red Wing sells a mix of seeds that includes a variety of fescue, white clover, creeping thyme and self-heal.

The seeds can be applied to a regular lawn with a bit of preparation. First cut the grass down to about an inch tall. Rake the clippings and expose as much soil between the grass as you can. Then spread the mix of seeds and water, taking care not to wash away the seeds.

If you want to plant some larger pollinator plants, Olmsted County Soil and Water Conservation District offers trays of grasses and flowers to plant in your yard. The county has a variety of six plant kits for sale . Each kit has a total of 36 starts of five different plant varieties and one grass.

You can choose from a woodland and shade mix, a pollinator mix, a rain garden mix, a monarch butterfly mix, a songbird mix, and a deer-resistant mix. (The county notes those plants are deer "resistant," not deer proof.)

Statewide nonprofit Metro Blooms, on behalf of Blue Thumb clean water initiative, is presenting a resilient yards workshop April 13. Blue Thumb teamed with the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources in 2019 to offer financial support to people planting pollinator-friendly gardens through the Lawns to Legumes program.

You can sign up for the free virtual workshop at bluethumb.org or by calling 651-699-2426.

John Molseed is a tree-hugging Minnesota transplant making his way through his state parks passport. This column is a space for stories of people doing their part (and more) to keep Minnesota green. Send questions, comments and suggestions to life@postbulletin.com .

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John Molseed "Greenspace" column sig

John Molseed joined the Post Bulletin in 2018. He covers arts, culture, entertainment, nature and other fun stories he's surprised he gets paid to cover. When he's not writing articles about Southeast Minnesota artists and musicians, he's either picking banjo, brewing beer, biking or looking for other hobbies that begin with the letter "b." Readers can reach John at 507-285-7713 or jmolseed@postbulletin.com.
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