The Q&A Archives: Sustainable Garden Planning

Question: I am about to buy a house for the first time and would like to plant a massive wild garden using plants that are indigenous to Minneapolis. I have read about planning gardens to support and sustain the local ecosystem, but currently have very little gardening experience. What should my first steps be?

Answer: This is a complex question. First I would suggest you proceed slowly. You will need to analyze the growing conditions in your yard and then select native plants that are suited to them. In nature, different plants spring up in different locations depending on the growing conditions. They thrive because they are well suited to that particular spot -- not just because they are native plants in your region.

You will need to observe the plants in your neighborhood to see which ones grow well, you will also need to observe native plants in landscape situations to see which ones appeal to you.

Meanwhile you will need to develop a landscape plan that addresses both functional needs and aesthetic aspects of your yard; oddly enough, plant selection is actually about last on the list when it comes to planning a landscape. You might want to work with a landscape architect or garden designer who specializes in using native plants. Otherwise you can do some research on your own. A great place to start would be the Sustainable Urban Landscape Information Series from the Minnesota Cooperative Extension.

Since you are new to gardening, you might want to look at a book or two to build some basic knowledge. The books in the Dummies series are very practical and offer lots of straightforward information and advice. There is a book on landscaping in the series as well as one on basic gardening that you might start out with. Your local county extension should also be able to help you locate additional sources of information to help you toward your goal.

Enjoy your project!

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