WINONA, Minnesota (WXOW) – Winona State University is putting the finishing touches on their Native Prairie Garden. The garden is located in front of the Integrated Wellness Complex and will feature native plants that will require minimal maintenance.
The native prairie garden was dreamed up by a Winona State student Kaitlyn O'Connor for her capstone project. On Saturday, volunteers will be doing the actual transplanting of the garden.
"The idea is to develop a type of landscape that is self-sustaining," said Bruno Borsari, Associate Professor of Biology at Winona State University, "that is very biologically diverse, that requires minimum maintenance, and that will offer an opportunity to anybody to learn what the environment in this driftless area of the Upper Midwest might have looked like before settlement took place."
Besides being pretty, the garden will need minimal maintenance and will reduce storm run off and erosion. The garden will also create a habitat for bees and other pollinating insects.
The reason native prairie species are so resilient to stress is because of their vast network of underground roots.
"They are perennials," said Borsari. "So once they come and emerge from the soil they develop a root system that is so massive underground that in winter, when the part above ground dies or desiccates, from the underground the following spring a new population of plants sprouts."
This makes them perfect for a low-maintenance, self-sustaining garden.
"If you have a well established plant population of native perennials then you do not need to basically irrigate, fertilize or to be much concerned about protecting the plants from pathogens or insects or other parasites," said Borsari. "So the landscape becomes, I would say, relatively self-sustaining."
The garden will be completely finished sometime next week and will be open to the public to view. But don't be disappointed if the plants are still small this year. Borsari said it is the nature of prairie life to get more vibrant as the years go on.
"Probably this year the garden will not be extremely showy," said Borsari. "The point is allowing the vegetation to develop under the soil because it is from under the soil the next spring and then the following years many more plants will sprout. So my expectation is that [in coming years] all these brown patches will become completely colonized by native plants. Then we will have a solid cover of different colors that will become very attractive."
Within the next year, all the plants in the garden will be labeled with their scientific and common names and with an identification code. Visitors will be able to scan this code with their smart phone to find out more information about the plant on an online database.
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