Plant Natives for Soil and Water Conservation

I get giddy this time of year thinking about spring. I can almost smell the rich earthiness and feel the moist soil now! I can hardly wait to dig some holes and start some new plants! I just placed my spring native plant order with my county soil and water conservation district office! The Linn Soil and Water Conservation District (Linn SWCD) is located right on 7th Avenue in Marion. You can purchase native wildflowers and shrubs if you get your order in by March 26th. The Linn SWCD says that these Iowa Wildflowers invite bees, songbirds, butterflies and other "critters" to our gardens and by planting native Iowa plants, you can help preserve these unique species, create wildlife habitat and enjoy a self-sufficient garden.


If you have a small yard or an acreage, you can add native grasses, start a prairie patch or grow aronias, hazels or hardwood trees and shrubs. This is the best way to do it! You can get plugs, stock or seeds that are easy to plant and grow successfully.

When we moved to our house in 1993, all the elm trees were dying. We bought trees and shrubs from the JCSWCD plant sale. We were able to stop soil erosion from the loss of our diseased trees with these plants. They grew so well over the years that we have even cut a few of the crowded evergreens for Christmas trees! Last spring, I added fruit and nut shrubs so in a few years I can be making plum and aronia berry jam and hazelnut butter! To aid in stormwater management, we are adding “terraces” of native grasses like Little Blue and Big Blue stem. The rain garden I put in last year has native forbes (flowers) andgrasses to help the soil better absorb the torrential spring rains.

Think about how the rain moved across your yard last year. Paved surfaces and mowed grass lawns shed water creating flood conditions when it rains heavily. The storm water washes the pollutants directly into the ground water through the storm drains or ditches. Native plants in amended soil can become natural sponge filters that keep the toxins out of the water supply.

What is YOUR favorite native plant – flower, grass, shrub or tree? I’m thinking . . . . .

Kristi Cooper
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Linn County Family Life Specialist

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