5 ways you can make your yard river-friendly

Bee on flowers

Whether urban, suburban or rural, our yards are part of the Mississippi watershed. The effects of how we landscape and route rain show up far beyond our property lines. Dig in to these tips to help protect the river right from your own backyard.

1. Plant natives

To endure Minnesota’s hot summers and deep-freeze winters, prairie grasses like big bluestem grow roots down to 8 feet to reach nutrients and water. These deep roots hold soil in place and allow the earth to absorb far more rain than a turfgrass lawn can. Plus, birds, bees and other critters that live here depend on native plants for habitat.

Unsure where to start? Visit Blue-Thumb.org for resources, including classes.

2. Reduce chemical use

Pesticides and herbicides that keep turfgrass weed-free can be toxic to people and wildlife. Lawn chemicals account for the majority of reported wildlife poisonings to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

To reduce lawn chemical usage in problem areas, try to find the root cause. The actual roots of your plants may be in poor soil. Aerate your lawn once a year to break up the soil so nutrients and water more easily reach roots. Mulch your leaves in place in the fall. Amend your soil with a thin layer of rich compost. You could also replace some of your lawn with native plants to make a garden that doesn’t need as much chemical assistance to flourish.

3. Rig up a rain barrel

Rain barrels collect the rain that runs off your roof and slides down your gutters so you can use it later to water your garden or lawn. But rain barrels do more than conserve water. They also prevent runoff and the pollution it carries from entering already-taxed stormwater systems.

Make your own or join us at one of our make-and-take rain barrel classes. Learn more at fmr.org/rain-barrels.

4. Prevent runoff

Thanks to climate change, when it rains it pours, causing stormwater system overflows. That means pollution discharges into the river. You can help by keeping rain where it lands. One easy way is to cut your lawn to three inches or more. The higher the lawn, the deeper its roots. And the deeper its roots, the more absorptive the ground.

Leaving lawn clippings in place also encourages richer, more absorptive soils. Finally, reroute your downspouts away from pavement and into grass, a rain barrel or rain garden.

5. Pick up after your pet

This one’s simple. Make sure to pick up after your four-legged friends. Pet waste contains harmful bacteria. If pet waste is still in your yard or at the park when it rains, bacteria leaches into runoff and into the river. In fact, some areas of the Mississippi are impaired for E. coli. So be vigilant, especially before rains and snowmelt events.

Want more tips on how to help the river?

Find 25 ways you can help the river here. Got more to add? Tweet us @FriendsMissRiv.