On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

The natural: Transforming a yard from nasty to native

Share story

Sphinx moth caterpillar
A sphinx moth caterpillar in Susan Damon's boulevard, which is filled with native plants, Wednesday, June 11, 2014 in St. Paul.
Jennifer Simonson/MPR News

When Susan Damon and her husband bought their St. Paul home a couple decades ago, invasive plants had a stranglehold. Now their yard is home to more than 100 species of native plants and a food source for an array of critters.

It's proof that even city dwellers can create a welcoming habitat for butterflies, bees and songbirds. 

Susan Damon
Susan Damon, surrounded by native plants in her front yard, Wednesday, June 11, 2014 in St. Paul.
Jennifer Simonson/MPR News

They replanted with prairie grasses, high bush cranberry and hazelnut, among other species. There's almost no weeding — the natives crowd out the dandelions — and hardly any watering since some of the plants have roots sunk up to 10 feet deep into the soil. 

• More Minnesota Sounds & Voices

Damon estimates she and her husband have spent maybe $2,000 on native plants but adds that the yard takes care of itself with just a bit of cleanup and some thinning of plants in spring. 

She recommends six plants to get started — see the gallery below for more details. And click on the play button above to hear her talk about the joys of ditching the lawn and how to do it.

• More on native plants from University of Minnesota Extension