Category Archives: Gardening

Yep – I’m THAT Neighbor…

The above picture may not be exciting to you, but to me it is – I’ve been working for a couple years to get Prairie Smoke plants to grow in a difficult space in my front yard and this spring they came back!! Yep – I’m THAT neighbor. While my yard doesn’t look like The Addams family lives here, you will immediately notice the front lawn has more than its fair share of dandelions and Creeping Charlie (excellent early pollen resources for the bees) and several spaces devoted to native prairie grasses and plants. If you were to look in the back yard, you would see even more native garden spaces (I’m excited to begin this year’s project – converting 50% of the remaining backyard green space back into its natural native prairie state).

If you speak to me one on one for almost any amount of time, my passion for pollinators (including bees and butterflies), the reestablishment of native prairie spaces in city spaces, and hatred of all things green lawn related will come up almost immediately. Things haven’t always been this way for me…it all started around seven years for purely selfish reasons. My divorce was complete, and I was stuck with a much too large house with an even larger yard. It was all too much for one person to maintain, so looking into ways to mow my lawn less was a priority. Almost immediately I found this article:

I bought into its message without hesitation: green grass lawns provide no long-term benefits to our, or the populations of wild animals, living experience. The article provides a great launching pad into this topic that everyone should be informed on. It states the obvious – the overuse of chemicals, combined with the overwatering of lawns is detrimental to our water supply (did you know that 99% of all open bodies of water tested in the United States contain common lawn pesticides?).

The article discusses how native prairies not only provide vital habitat to native birds and pollinators, but how their root systems extend up to 15 feet into the ground (as compared to the few inches that green grass lawns due). Why is that important? All green plants pull carbon gasses out of the air and store them in the ground. Native prairies are one of the most efficient ways we can reduce carbon gas from entering the atmosphere. Prairie root systems are also important for water filtration purposes (not to mention, once established they take little to no watering or maintenance). Be sure to check out the graphic showing different root systems compared to standard lawn grass.

As mentioned, I started looking for ways to cut back on lawn maintenance and it has quickly grown into a passion. As such, I can go on about a variety of topics related to lawns but will stop here for now and ask one thing from you: If you have a lawn, please consider returning some of it to a native state, or at least include native plants in your gardening and landscaping – our world needs it. The more you do, the more you will see your ecosystem change and I promise you that once the bees and butterflies begin showing up, the native birds will as well (it sounds geeky, but it is pretty cool). While you aren’t solving all the world’s problems, you will be contributing to the solution in a tangible way. Who knows, maybe it will become one of your passions that you can spread along to others as well.

Is That a Farm on Your Roof or an Alien Colony? By Charity Kihlstadius


If you look at the top of this building, you may wonder what is up there?
The answer is the future of produce.

Have you ever bitten into a fresh tomato only to b disappointed at the total lack of flavor? So have I. The reason for this is that most produce is not created for flavor but for transportation. Most of the produce we buy in supermarkets and feed our family’s were grown more than a thousand miles away. That means one little tomato has been bouncing around in the back of the truck for quite a while before it reaches the supermarket. And once there, it often sits in a box until placed on a shelf and selected by one of us. All this traveling means farmers need to think of ways to keep that tomato fresh long enough for you to get it home. The end result is farmers often focusing on hardiness over tastiness.

Now you may be wondering what all this has to do with the crazy rooftop. The answer is BrightFarms. BrightFarms is a revolutionary new way to grow produce. By utilizing the wasted space on the rooftops of supermarkets to create sustainable greenhouse farms, BrightFarms has found a way to offer delicious produce at affordable prices, not only for supermarkets, but for you and I as well. The produce grown in these rooftop greenhouses is fresher, tastier, safer along with more affordable and sustainable. Fresher means that the produce will actually have more nutrients in it (healthier) and last longer. Not only will it last longer in the store (saving the supermarkets money on wasted produce), but it will also last longer once you get it home.  Cutting out the need for transporting the produce also means cutting out wasted time and money spent on fuel and labor used to trek it across the country. The farms also help provide jobs by employing local farmers to care for the crops. 

The greenhouse farms are set up at or near the store and are financed, designed, built and operated by BrightFarms. The supermarkets then contract to purchase the produce for a set time (5-10 years). BrightFarms guarantees that the cost of the produce will never exceed market cost. It could be a win-win scenario!

Think about this, the next tomato you purchase could be grown right
above where you buy it by someone who shops at the same
store and buys the same tomatoes. Just that might be worth it.

BrightFarms recently announced partnership with Cub Foods in St. Paul, MN. The greenhouse should be open sometime this year.

Author: Charity Kihlstadius

Grow a Better Community

Looking for a way to get involved with your community? Joining or starting a community garden is a great way to do this.

A community garden is any piece of land gardened by a group of people. Members are able to work together, growing flowers, vegetables, spices, and other plants.

These gardens have awesome benefits to the public. Participating in such an activity will stimulate social interaction, encourage self-reliance, improve the look of a neighborhood, produce food, conserve resources, and promote exercise. Check out this website to find even more ways these gardens can improve your community.

It is important to be a proactive citizen, so start at home. Search for a community garden in your area. Or do you already have experience with growing locally? Share these thoughts and experiences with others interested below.