Plant Grant | Part 1


 plant grant header

Front Yard Landscaping

Happy Arbor Day! Do you like free plants? Then this post is for you. Showing our habitat some love today with this front yard project. I wish I had some before pictures for you — I’ve looked high and low, but can’t find any — so you’ll just have to take my word when I tell you how badly our front yard was in need of some landscaping. This is a project we actually tackled in the fall, but the fruits of our labor are finally starting to show!

trees budding


Last year, we went to our town meeting (as proud, responsible adult citizens) and learned that our city has a plant grant program. They offer to subsidize large-scale projects such as rain gardens that help curb phosphorus runoff. But they also completely cover smaller projects to restore natural habitats. Essentially they will give anyone who qualifies $500 to spend on native plants! Whoa, whaaa? No catch, I promise. Well, except they need to be native to the area. I would highly advise doing some research to see if your city offers a similar incentive.


DIY plant grant trees landscaping yard survey

All we needed to do was apply, and the district sent consultants out to our house. We had a Natural Resource Specialist from the Conservation District print us a land survey and give us recommendations on the best types of plants and spots for them to grow. We gave her some of our ideas and she gave us a list of qualifying plants, potential contractors, and specific nurseries who specialize in native plant varieties. It was a very collaborative process!

serviceberry treesAfter much research, my heart landed on the Downy Serviceberry (Juneberry) tree. It’s got beautiful white blooms in the spring and also fall colors in the fall! After some more research, I found out deer do not eat them – HUGE bonus. They grow ~25 feet tall and 20 feet wide. So we can trim them to look with either like trees or hedges. It has edible berries too! Some people make Juneberry pies. Never had one, buy hey, they attract birds and bees. Two thumbs up. The thing that sealed the deal was that they’re low maintenance. High shade and water tolerance; two things our front yard is notorious for. I originally wanted the Autumn Brilliance variety, but I learned that was a cultivar, which means not a true native species, but one that was genetically bred. My mom would be so proud of how much I learned.

power lines

We had a spot in the front yard that was awful. But perfect for these Serviceberry trees! There’s a telephone pole that runs from the street to our garage, and we had two pine trees planted right below the wires. They must have been planted before the age of electricity because the placement could not have been worse. The trees could only grow so far before someone lopped off the tops of them. They could only ever grow half their potential height. Now I know it sounds horrible to cut down trees, but you have to understand these were not only an eyesore, but a safety hazard running into the wires. We thought we could do better.

Plant Shopping

Once I outlined what I had in mind, I got the green light to go ahead and buy the plants. We were instructed to keep our receipts in order to get the $500 after they were planted and inspected.

DIY plant grant trees landscaping

So I enlisted the help of the two greenest thumbs I know, my parents. We went to Outback Nursery in Hastings, Minnesota. I can’t speak highly enough about the service and selection there. Highly recommend them. So my mom and I drove home with three trees in the back of a truck.

I relied on my parents’ expertise, but here are some good guidelines we were sent home with for proper planting and care.

planting suggestions


Tree Triming

power lines and treesSo yes, we cut the trees down once and for all. Joe and my dad were so fast with the chainsaw, I didn’t even have time for a picture. See the two pine trees? They were running right up against the power line and some kind of vines were actually growing up from the trees onto the power lines. 


Tree Planting

DIY plant grant trees landscaping

We decided where we wanted to plant these and got started digging. *We made sure these shrubs would not grow to the height of the power lines, but we planted them a little out of the way, just to be safe.

DIY plant grant trees landscaping

Here’s my dad determining how far each one could span in 10, 20 years’ time.

DIY plant grant trees landscaping

We decided to stagger the three trees along the driveway, keeping them at least 15 feet from the pavement.

DIY plant grant trees landscaping Once we positioned everything in its place, stepped back and nodded, we planted them!

DIY plant grant trees landscaping

Then I made a mulch ring around the base of each one and poured a giant bucket of water into each.

DIY plant grant trees landscaping

Ta dah! We called up our plant grant peeps, and they approved of our lovely job. Hello check in the mail.

DIY plant grant trees landscaping

Looks much better. Besides the power lines… You can see the creeping vines I was talking about!

DIY plant grant trees landscaping

Had to yank those down, delicately.

Removing the Old StumpsDIY plant grant trees landscaping

We were left with two big ol’ stumps. We thought about burning them, but figured since they were fairly small, we’d pull them out with the truck and a long chain.

Stand clear… It worked!

DIY plant grant trees landscaping

Not without some digging with the shovel and axe. Then we filled in the holes and planted some grass seed.


Serviceberry trees in bloom

Apparently fall is the best time to plant trees, but spring is when you get to see the fruits of your labor.

Serviceberry trees in bloom

I’m happy to report they made it through the winter, all three of them.

Serviceberry trees in bloom

They should be blooming any day now. I’ll report back if/when we start seeing some blossoms. It’ll be fun to look back some day when they are fully grown and reminisce about when we planted them right after moving. I Ahhh, our own little trees. Our 2 year houseversary is coming up, can you believe it?



Learn more about Arbor Day by checking out the National Arbor Day Foundation. Did you know they’ll give you 10 trees for $10? Happy planting!

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