Beauty is in the Eye of the Bee-Holder Pt.2

This is Leah and Dan Cunningham’s landscaping story about bringing their yard back to nature. We’re sharing it with you in seven chapters, within seven blog posts.

Chapter 2: Rain Gardens, Prairie Meadows, and Erosion Control

Like many Minneapolis homes, the Cunningham’s have a small hill in the front yard, leading down to the public sidewalk and thin strip of land between the sidewalk and street. Four rain gardens were installed to capture water at the top and bottom of the hill. All four of the rain gardens were filled and surrounded with spreading native prairie and meadow plants. The rain gardens capture 100% of the rainwater from their rooftop, hill, and sidewalks and allow that water to enter their local watershed cooled, cleaned, and ready to nourish the landscape again. This combination of rainwater infiltration and the use of spreading native plants function together as long-term erosion control for the hillside.

Short term erosion control was accomplished using bee lawn seed mix containing white clover, self-heal, creeping thyme, yarrow, and a healthy portion of no-mow fescue grass as a ground cover throughout. The contractor also prepared the ground with compost and right before planting, inoculated the native plants with spores of beneficial fungi grown in labs. The combination of the focus on soil health and the use of the bee lawn seed blend as a “living mulch” resulted in a low-maintenance, rapid-growing, nature-filled landscape that surpassed their wildest hopes for the space.

Dan: The canopy that is created by the clover holds the water in way longer than normal. If you go stick your finger in the soil, it’s just damp everywhere. Last summer I planted four of the smallest pots of perennial sunflowers that I could get. Two of them didn’t even look like they were going to survive, and then this spring I look and there’s all four plants, and each have a dozen stems, and I’m like “how did you do that?”

Leah: Our lawn reminds me of when we were camping and backpacking in Colorado and this guy we bumped into said, “I like Minnesota because the ground is soft there.”

Dan: Yeah, he said “you can walk without your shoes on.”

Leah: When we had a regular lawn, the ground out there was like concrete in the summer. But now you can stick your finger in the ground and its lush and moist despite the fact that there’s been drought this year. All the fescue and thyme up under the spruce is really lush. I expect to see little fairies and gnomes popping out, it looks kind of magical.