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Home & Garden Dakota County Tribune & Sun ThisWeek Newspapers 4•26•2013



Page 2 Spring Home & Garden • Friday, April 26, 2013

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Spring Home & Garden • Friday, April 26, 2013 Page 3


Some residents choose to let their lawns go native, among other alternatives to traditional turf BY ANDREW WIG Sun CURRENT Newspapers

Michelle Kalantari has a front-row seat to the beauty and drama of nature. Except, it’s in her backyard. Along with her cat, she watches the ac-

tion from a screened-in enclosure at the rear of her Richfield property, one of those tiny “postage stamp” yards common in the city. She hasn’t let the size stop her. “It’s like a mini nature preserve,” Kalantari observed. It is a product of a yard

gone native, a conscious decision Kalantari and other Twin Cities nature lovers have made in recent years. Kalantari noticed the difference when she made her first native planting, the violet meadow blazing star, in her Richfield yard about seven years ago.

“It was the first time I started getting butterflies,” she said. And it wasn’t just the Monarchs and other sundry varieties. Having planted a series of native bushes, such as those yielding gooseberries, winterberries, snowberries and hazelnuts, she’s attracted 24 varieties of birds she hadn’t seen in the yard before. “I’ve been growing my own bird food,” Kalantari said. With the birds flocking to the new food source, the natural drama in this mini, suburban ecosystem has ramped up, because along with the birds come the bird hunters, namely hawks. While she understands her yard is an intricate food web, a predator-prey microcosm of nature, Kalantari does play favorites as a backyard spectator, firmly on the side of her chirpy friends. “Fortunately, my shrubs provide cover for them … but sometimes they’ll get a bird,” she said. When the hawks do preLawns continues page 7

After: When she converted her backyard to a garden of native plants, Michelle Kalantari of Richfield built a screened enclosure to observe the plant life and the wildlife that appeared to her her property. (Sun staff photos by Andrew Wig) Before: The backyard of Richfield resident Michelle Kalantari, before she covered the property with native plants.

Page 4 Spring Home & Garden • Friday, April 26, 2013

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Dakota County Tribune

Dakota County residents looking to add landscape trees, plants and flowers to their yards have access to one of the state’s greatest resources for horitcultural education. The Master Gardener Education and Research Display Garden at UMore Park

in Rosemount dispenses knowledge and dazzles visitors with great frequency in the warmer months. The Dakota County Master Gardeners offer several programs throughout the year and are available for consultation on an individual basis. Among the programs are those that appeal to experienced and novice adult gardeners and youths who are just getting their start in plant education. The Research Display Garden is filled with perennials, annuals, vegetables, Gardening continues next page


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Spring Home & Garden • Friday, April 26, 2013 Page 5

Tips to avoid injuries while spring cleaning StatePoint — Cleaning your home from top to bottom this spring? Do so with care. From falls off ladders to muscle pain, heavy-duty chores can be hazardous to your health and wellness if you’re not careful. So before you roll up your sleeves and get into the thick of it, take a moment to review some essential safety precautions:

Avoid outdoor mishaps When mowing the lawn, wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes. Clear your lawn of stones, toys and other potentially hazardous debris before you begin, to prevent flying objects. Keep children away from your yard while you’re mowing. Reduce the risk of a ladder fall by always using a stable ladder. Be sure to use the correct height ladder for the job and follow all weight restrictions. Only set ladders on level surfaces. Pay close attention to what you’re doing and climb up and down the ladder slowly and deliberately.

Treat muscles right From lawn work to scrubbing floors, unusual repetitious motions can really

take a toll, resulting in muscle pain or bruising. Treat your spring clean like a workout and stretch your major muscle groups before you get started. When lifting those boxes in your basement and any other objects with heft, bend at the knees to avoid throwing your back out. If a chore is causing you pain, stop what you’re doing. “Start out slowly to avoid placing a sudden demand on your muscles that are not use to this activity,” says Dr. Anne Meyer, who focuses on sports rehabilitation medicine. If you feel stiff or sore after a long day of reaching, bending and lifting, Meyer recommends minimizing physical activity, elevating an injured arm or leg, and treating the first sign of muscle pain by applying a quick absorbing topical muscle pain reliever. Remember to take frequent breaks. And end your long day with a relaxing bath.

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Gardening continued from page 4 shrubs and daylillies. If it can be grown in Minnesota and would be a perfect addition for your landscape project, it is probably at UMore. The mission of the Master Gardener program is to teach others in the community about horticulture. In Dakota County, there are more than 130 active Master Gardeners who volunteer several thousand hours per year. One of the first Master Gardener programs of the year, is the Spring Plant Sale from 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, May 11, at the Education and Research Display Garden. On sale will be perennials, annuals, fruits and vegetables, including heirloom tomatoes and shrubs. People are encouraged to arrive early for the best selection. The sale will be held regardless of rain. The Tuesday Evenings in the Garden schedule for 2013 has not been set yet, but the classes are offered most Tuesdays from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Education and Research Display Garden. The classes allow people to expand their gardening knowledge, sharpen their skills and learn the latest techniques on topics including digital photo editing, creating a sustainable landscape, a fairy garden or saving seeds and more.

ternatives, such as vinegar or lemons is not an option, use the harsher stuff with care. Open all windows when using harsh cleaning products, especially ammonia. Wear gloves and consider protecting your nose and mouth with a surgical mask. Place products out of reach when you’re not using them if you have pets or small children. By following a few safety measures, you can make your spring cleaning a rejuvenating experience.

Class fees range from $10-$40 depending on supplies. Call (651) 480-7700 to register for classes. From May to July, Master Gardeners will hold Plant Health Diagnostic Clinics to help identify plants and insects and to diagnose common plant diseases. People can bring in a weed or ornamental plant, fruit, vegetable, tree sample, shrub sample turf sample or an insect for identification and recommendations for cultural control. Clinics are from 6-8 p.m. unless otherwise specified and will be held in various locations throughout the community. The schedule may change to include additional dates. More information is at www. • May 11 and 25, 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Valley Natural Foods in Burnsville • June 11, July 9, Aug. 6 and 20 at the University of Minnesota Extension Office in Farmington • June 25, July 23 and Aug. 13 at the Burnhaven Library in Burnsville For more information or to request an application to become a Master Gardener in Dakota County, contact Peggy Madden, Master Gardener support staff member, at (651) 480-7700 or margaret.

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Page 6 Spring Home & Garden • Friday, April 26, 2013

Decisions can reduce remodeling cost No one likes to cut a budget, especially when it’s his or her own, but when it comes to planning a remodeling project, homeowners must establish a realistic budget and actively manage it, according to the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Preparing for a remodeling project is a lot like preparing to buy a car, NARIMinnesota officials say. Homeowners may know the room and style they want, but the options they choose may drive prices higher than they can reasonably afford. But NARI officials say there are ways to stretch the remodeling budget and end up with stylish results within budget. Minnesota NARI offers the following tips for those looking to complete a remodeling project.

Getting started The most important step is finding a professional remodeling contractor. NARI has a member directory on its website at The association encourages homeowners to hire a professional contractor who is familiar with local building codes. Updating work that does not meet code can be extremely expensive. A well-written contract can prevent costly mistakes or additions to the scope of your project. It is a critical step in maintaining a budget. People can save money by planning ahead. Homeowners should undertake a design process first and choose everything they want to include in the new room or rooms, from appliances to light fixtures, etc. This will define a budget and prevent hasty (and costly) decisions later in the project. People should include all product and



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Spring Home & Garden • Friday, April 26, 2013 Page 7

Native and organic yards can reduce yard work for homeowners Lawns continued from page 3 vail, Kalantari hopes it is a non-native bird they manage to pluck from the ground.

Natural healing

A few miles to the west, another mini suburban oasis is taking shape. For Marilynn and Tom Torkelson, it started when they installed rain gardens in their front yard. Rain gardens allow storm water to infiltrate the ground instead of becoming polluting runoff. With the rain gardens came a large selection of native plants such as the regent serviceberry bush and big blue stem grass. Next, the Torkelsons turned to their backyard and their pondside shoreline, where they took advantage of city grants to re-introduce plants such as native grass-leaf arrowhead and swamp milkweed, which are meant to take over the invasive reed canary grass that lines the lake. As they watch their yards transform, both the Torkelsons and Kalantari must refrain from old habits in order to maintain their personal spheres of diversity. “As a gardener,” Marilynn Torkelson said, “I used to look at any bug as a bad bug.” Except for invasive insects like the Japanese beetle, she has learned to become more tolerant, concluding that all the living things in her yard will find a way to coexist. “If you promote biodiversity in your yard, it’s all going to balance. You’re going to have very little damage,” Torkelson said. Despite the aesthetic and environmental benefits of a yard gone native, these native evangelists will find it challenging to convince their neighbors to take such measures. A green lawn, with space for children to play and for dogs to run, may just be too entrenched in the suburban lifestyle.

The organic alternative

A man who calls himself Organic Bob, and others like him, offer another alternative. Bob Dahm promotes organic lawn care with his St. Louis Park-based business. He went organic in 1986, when he worked as a groundskeeper for a now-defunct children’s psychiatric hospital in Minneapolis. Having grown up in a farm family in Iowa, he had not forgotten losing both his father and grandfather to cancer, which he blamed on the toxic chemicals that were part of their everyday lives. Dahm refused to use chemicals on the hospital’s playground. Other hospital staff were supportive of the stance, but soon the playground was a mess, and the children were coming in from outside caked with mud. “The administration said, ‘OK, now you have to fix this,’” Dahm recounted. So Dahm searched for a solution and began his career as an organic landscaper. When chemicals are used, lawns become dependent on the fertilizers and herbicides as their microbial base is depleted, Dahm explained. Weeds

such as creeping Charlie and dandelions can be a sign of a pH imbalance, while 95 percent of chemically fertilized yards, he added, are compacted. It takes about a year to relieve a yard of its chemical dependency, Dahm said. Aiding that are practices such as top dressing the lawn with peat moss and compost, and infusing it with a concentrated dose of soil microbes through aeration. Proponents of both native and organic yards say going those routes can actually reduce their amount of yard work. For those who are tired of mowing, Dahm promotes a “no-mow fescue,” which grows to about 6-8 inches before flopping over, giving the appearance of guinnea pig hair. A clover lawn is another alternative, he said. A recent snow melt revealed beds of dead leaves that Kalantari and the Torkelsons hadn’t bothered to rake. The leaves provide habitat for insects, and worms will actually pull the natural litter underground, Kalantari explained. She also leaves other organic debris, such as dead logs. Those, too, serve as habitat for the bugs that attract the vibrant birds. And, of course, there is that weekly ritual of summer that Kalantari has ecshewed. “I didn’t enjoy mowing anyway,” she said.

A Cooper’s hawk finds a landing spot in the Richfield backyard of Michelle Kalantari. The property, covered in native plants instead of a traditional lawn, has become a magnet for birds — and the larger winged creatures that hunt them. (Sun staff photo by Andrew Wig)

Marilynn Torkelson inspects her Eden Prairie yard prebloom. Torkelson’s front yard in Eden Prairie became a piece of certified wildlife habitat after she replaced the lawn with a covering of mostly native plants. (Sun staff photo by Andrew Wig)

Page 8 Spring Home & Garden • Friday, April 26, 2013



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