July Mini-Challenge: Sustainable Yards

In July we’re taking a look at how sustainability issues affect the urban land around us. In Longfellow, many people are particularly mindful of the effect we have on water – and the effect water has on us:

  • Water runoff from our neighborhood, directly bordering the Mississippi river, carries waste water directly into the Mississippi, potentially damaging the water quality for everyone downstream from us
  • We seem to live with high water levels under our houses so the problem of water in basements affects many in our areas, creating the conditions for unhealthy mold growth
  • Of course, when our water runs off into rivers it’s not going down into the ground to replenish our aquifers
  • And a repeated problem for many years has been water runoff that overwhelms our storm sewers, causing water to back up into the street or worse — to blow the tops off manhole covers. A few years back a Longfellow neighbor suffered permanent spinal cord injury when a manhole cover blew up from under him.

Rain gardens, rain barrels and watershed friendly (non-turf) yards are three ways people address the issue of water on their property.

On July 24, from 3 – 6 pm, Longfellow is sponsoring a watershed-friendly yard tour. You can pick up a map at Holy Trinity Church, 2730 31st St. E. Visit their new Rainwater Discovery Courtyard then take the self-guided walking or biking tour featuring native plants and rain gardens. Gardeners will be on hand to answer questions. Maps will be available at the Longfellow Community Council website.

To learn more about rain gardens, you can also check out Metro Blooms. No classes are currently available, but bookmark it and check back later.


I wanted to link you to the Permaculture Research Institute for Cold Climates website but it appears to be down. They do have a blog so you can see what they are up to – and what others are doing in the city.

I’m sure there are many wonderful gardeners whom I don’t yet know. Who I do know is Russ Henry of Giving Tree Gardens. We LOVE his renegade style. When we wanted a garden plan, he was the only gardener who didn’t insist we take out what we had and start over. He was willing to advise on how to fix up what we’d done so far and he took our busy schedules into account. He knows all there is to know about who’s doing what in urban agriculture in Minneapolis. You can see his work outside the Seward Coop. He’s their gardener.

Irrigation-Free Landscape Project in Longfellow

In the last issue of the LCC newsletter, they were looking for households that wanted to participate in a landscaping demonstration project. We contacted the organizer, Spencer Agnew, to learn more about it.

LCC will be selecting one or more properties in the neighborhood on which to install an irrigation-free landscape garden. The property owner will pay $400 to $600 (about 1/8th of the total project cost). Site selection will begin in August and planting will begin in early to mid-September. There are already more interested participants than funding, so there will likely be a lottery or application process.

On our property we have a rain garden with native plants with deep roots, a planted boulevard to mitigate runoff, a rain barrel, a vegetable and herb garden. Because we live on the corner, we try to remember several times a year to rake out the storm sewer grate beside our house to keep our streets clear and to prevent plant matter from getting into the sewer.

Please share your ideas for sustainable yards!

About thinkofitasanadventure

We are a 50-something couple living in the Longfellow neighborhood of Minneapolis. We attended a sustainability conference at our local high school in November 2010, with keynote speaker Richard Heinberg from the Post Carbon Institute. What we heard shocked us deeply. We finally understood the need to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. We immediately began to change the way we live. We joined together with other folks in our neighborhood to learn more, to do more and to have fun doing it! We're part of Transition Longfellow. We're choosing to change now and to "think of it as an adventure." If you are on this journey too, we'd love to hear from you.
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