As my son, Andy, and I cut up patches of sod from the lawn at his place on Congress Avenue, the neighbors’ questions and raised eyebrows about our activities taught us something. (See picture below.) There were several possible answers to their queries, and we learned that some of our replies were greeted more skeptically than others. We got better at answering as the day went on. The comments and questions were something like this: “Why are you tearing up that perfectly good lawn?”; “Why are you making such a big mess in that nice lawn?”; or “The previous owner kept this lawn so nice and tidy.”

Lawn around house with bare patches

Our early-in-the-day answer of: “We’re going to plant native shrubs for the birds and the bees,” garnered skepticism and outright dismissiveness.  Our later-in-the-day, and much improved response, of: “We are going to plant several different kinds of flowering native shrubs. We hope to give the yard some depth and some varied-height screening, as well as some year-round visual interest. The birds will like it too,” brought us much better responses accompanied by enthusiasm.

If you start tearing up your yard in town, I suggest you be prepared with answers that paint a picture of your future end product, as well as being educational.  People and wildlife can both benefit from attractive and native landscaping.

Using the rented-from-Nelson’s manual sod cutter was work for sure. However, getting rid of the sod, which was a big job at my rural place, was quick and easy in town. We kept the good sod in well-cut 3’ long pieces and rolled them and stacked them on the street corner with a “Free Sod” sign. It was gone in an hour.  We even had folks politely waiting for one to finish loading before they began to do the same. The poor-quality sod was kept separate and entirely filled my pick-up. It was hauled off to fill in a low spot at my rural place.

The plants, ordered from several sources, began arriving over the last couple of weeks. First were the service berries from the Land & Water Tree Sale. These, and most of the others, were good looking bare root plants. The ones from Chief River Nursery arrived just before the predicted several frosts of the week of May 10th. I called them wondering if planting  with frosts expected was a problem. They said “No.” And, they also gave me some really good advice. They suggested I soak the roots of these bare root plants for 6 hours prior to planting in order to rehydrate them and give them a good start. This made perfect sense and left me feeling that I should have thought of this myself. So, I soaked them as suggested. And, we got every plant in the ground within 24 hours of receiving them.

We used a gas-powered auger to dig our holes. Because I have planted several hundred trees at my place over the years, I bought one at Nelson’s a few years ago. Compared to a shovel and for large numbers of holes, it works really well. For the in-town site, we dug the holes just ahead of planting, as we wanted to avoid the liability of leaving open 18” holes in the front yard. At my rural place, they were dug weeks ahead of time so there’d be no delay come delivery and planting time.

The picture below shows Andy and his partner Carrie doing the planting at his house. They did it all. I carried water and put on the 2’ tall 4” diameter nylon mesh tubes designed for rodent and rabbit protection. I order these and the bamboo stakes that hold them in place from Forestry Supply out of Mississippi.

A man and a woman digging holes into cleared squares of ground in a suburban yard.

The last photo here shows the corner view of several already-planted red osier, nine bark, and American Cranberry that will someday screen the house from the intersection and church across the street. The unplanted holes in the foreground await delivery of the shorter New Jersey Tea and Northern Bush Honeysuckle.

A yard with young trees and shrubs planted in a yard to be a privacy screen at an intersection.

The next, and perhaps final blog in this series, will be about wrapping up the planting, mulching, and protection of the plants that, within a few years, will create a private outdoor room with seating surrounding a new fire circle at Nature Nooks Retreat. Our hope is that these native shrubs will add substantial interest and enjoyment for our guests as well as food and shelter for the birds, the butterflies, and the bees.