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For a Healthy Native Minnesota Landscape Project, a Mix of Plants Is the Answer

If you’ve checked out any of our native Minnesota landscape restoration projects you have probably noticed we use a combination of plant species. Shown below is one of our corporate native prairie restoration projects, for Carlson Toyota in Coon Rapids. At first glance you probably see the purple liatris and golden heliopsis (common ox-eye daisy), but this stretch of ground bordering their parking lot is host to quite a few native wildflowers and grasses.

native Minnesota wildflowers beside parking lot

Just like we formulate seed mixes for our restoration projects, we design our ready-to-plant kits for home restoration with a mix of native plant seeds. Our wildflower mixes contain on average two dozen different plant seeds. There’s a very good reason behind planting multiple plant species – in nature, as in life, diversity is healthy. A mix of plants rather than a monoculture creates a healthier plant and wildlife community.

Perhaps you’ve noticed one particular plant as you drive through the countryside. While one species might meet your eye, usually because its vibrant color dominates the horizon, if you look closely you’ll find the area includes a number of different plants. And that’s how we approach things when we design and install a native plant restoration project.

Why is a mix of plant species good for a particular ecosystem? There are a number of reasons:

  • Each plant species requires slightly different nutrients from the soil. Having only one type of plant can cause depleted soil, which farmers who plant only one type of crop have realized. That’s why crop rotation is so important, and it’s also why fertilizers are needed.
  • As native plant parts decay, they contribute different elements to the soil. It’s nature’s balanced fertilizer. And since plants have different nutrient needs, it just makes sense to have plants that contribute a variety to the soil.
  • A mix of plants supports a diverse wildlife community. Many birds, insects, and animals are picky eaters, preferring one type of vegetation over another. But it might surprise you to find out that they generally like a diet that includes choices. Even the monarch butterfly, who many people assume thrives on milkweed, also will eat meadow blazing star and goldenrod as well as many other nectar-producing flowering plants. (Minnesota has a number of native goldenrod species, by the way – you’ll find quite a few in our online catalog.)
  • Plants grow and establish themselves at different rates. The early emergers will feed the soil as well as provide sheltering cover for those plants that come up afterward. Another benefit of this is that there are multiple food sources for wildlife at different times of the year.
  • Plants of varying height provide diverse cover for both wildlife and other plants. Certain species of native plants do better in the shade, and having taller plants around them provides that.

There are more reasons why we choose to plant a mix of seeds in our native landscape restoration projects as well as making seed mixes available to the public, but these are just a few to consider. If you have a project you’re considering, please give us a call. Our staff can suggest or help formulate the right seed mix for you. And if you’re doing a restoration project that involves a state or grant program or your land is subject to certain governmental requirements (like wetlands) we have developed seed mixes that should meet their requirements.

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