Kanabec County Master Gardener Juanita Etter has high hopes for a native plant pollinator garden installed at her home on Knife Lake. 

Installing a hillside’s worth of native plants for birds, bees and butterflies was a collaborative project. It started when Juanita’s husband Dave was mowing the lawn and had trouble with the steep slope of the back yard. 

The Etters decided they would change their lawn into a low-mow lawn (which only needs mowing two times a year) and a native wildflower pollinator garden. 

Etter received a grant from Kanabec Soil and Water that helped her plan the site and Minnesota Native Landscapes, which was contracted to plant the 800 flowers.

Juanita spent hours and hours planning  the site to ensure there were a variety of plants blossoming with different colors throughout the year. 

The steep hillside was planted in the fall of 2018. Juanita explained when planting a garden like hers, gardeners must be prepared to be patient. The first year when the plants first work to become established is what she called the “sleep year.”

This year is her gardens “creep year” when plants build up their strength before being ready to blossom profusely the following year, also called the “leap year.” 

“That is when it will be the garden I planned. Time will tell; patience is a virtue especially in the garden,” Juanita said. 

Start Small

Juanita’s advice for others interested in starting their own pollinator garden was to start small. 

“Don’t think a pollinator garden has to be a field of flowers, a 25 square foot garden is enough to get started, it can even be incorporated into a garden you already have, of course the more flowers you have the more pollinators will visit the garden,” she said.

She advised choosing plants for continuous bloom so pollinators have a consistent food supply. 

Choose at least two plants to bloom early, mid-season, and late. Juanita suggested early plants Jacobs ladder and golden Alexander; mid-season plants of purple coneflower and prairie onion; late season of blazing star and obedient plant. 

An extensive plant list can be found at www.beelab.umn.edu/bees/flowers/plants-mn-bees.

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