Now is the time of year when yard tools get a bit of a breather -- the snowblower isn't needed yet and the lawn mower may have already done its last mow of the year.
There are ways you can set yourself up now to have less to mow next year.
Consider reducing the size of your lawn. Lawns are useful for outdoor socializing and games, but they suck resources and provide little habitat and ecosystem help in return. Consider setting aside some yard space for a prairie.
That sounds like expensive, hard work — and it can be. This is the time of year when it doesn’t have to be.
Planting new pollinator-friendly native plants in the spring takes some effort and often requires stratifying seeds to get the best results.
Stratifying seeds means simulating cool, wet winter conditions to trigger your seeds’ clock and trigger them from dormancy to grow in the spring. Storing seeds for stratifying requires drying and storing them through the winter.
Two of the main advantages of doing it yourself indoors is that your seeds aren’t prone to extreme temperature swings and foraging critters. Stratifying them at home allows you to place your seeds where and when you want them to sprout.
If that extra work doesn’t appeal to you, let nature take its course.
As for the seeds, now is the time of year to find them abundant.
Native pollinator-helpful plants that grow well and establish deep roots on a well-drained lawn include black-eye and brown-eyed Susans, coneflower varieties, milkweed, butterfly weed and native prairie grasses.
These should be finished flowering and going to seed this time of year, according to the University of Minnesota Extension office.
The Extension service recommends planting seeds between mid-October and before the first freeze. You could purchase seeds, or, because these plants are going to seed around us now, find some in nature to plant.
While much cheaper than buying seeds in the spring, it can be tricky. These plants are abundant, but foraging them from public lands may not be legal. Minnesota law is clear on foraging is on public lands, stating “(c)ollecting or possessing naturally occurring plants in a fresh state in state parks is prohibited, except that edible fruit and mushrooms may be harvested for personal, noncommercial use.”
That said, flowers gone to seed aren’t exactly in a "fresh state." It’s a grey area and I personally wouldn’t recommend exploring the boundaries of the legal definition of “fresh.”
Generous neighbors may find they have some extra seeds to share. Post Bulletin news editor Randi Kallas was kind enough to share with me some purple coneflower heads that have gone to seed.
One tip if you are able to collect full flower heads, cut the stem about 6 to 8 inches below the flower head and plant the whole head upside down an inch or two into the soil. The stem will help you keep track of what you have planted and where.
Milkweed is fun to harvest. Look for seed pods that are brown and have already split open. Their silky fluff, also called coma, should be showing. These seeds can be set in the ground now.
If you are able to collect seeds but want to wait until spring to plant, make sure to store them in a dry, breathable container such as a paper bag. Milkweed seeds are especially prone to molding.
Or, just put them in the ground now. That’s a bit of work now, less work in the spring and, hopefully, less mowing next summer.
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 email@example.com.