Gardeners and homeowners are invited to watch (or volunteer) at the planting of nearly 700 native plants during the installation of the first Climate Friendly Yard Makeover.

The Climate-Friendly Yard Makeover (CFYM) is a demonstration project of Missouri Organic Recycling (MOR) and its partners. Three homeowners were selected as winners last spring, and the first garden is going in the ground starting next week in the Northland in Kansas City, MO. The goal is to demonstrate how a typical yard can become climate friendly by adding native plantings, prairie patches, a pollinator garden, bioswale, berm, food forest or vegetable garden.

Stan Slaughter, MOR director of outreach and education, will be coordinating the planting project at the home of Jennifer Moldenhauer and Joel Closson from 9 a.m. – 2 p.m. on Tuesday, October 11. With the help of volunteers, they will be following a detailed native-plant landscape plan created by Caitlin Willis, designer and owner of Native Gardens KC.

Moldehauer grew up on a Kansas farm with lots of “hands in the dirt” experience. But she didn’t know much about all of the native plants around her. She hopes to create a landscape that will have “pops of blooms” throughout the growing season and provide year-round visual interest.

“I’m excited to be able to look out the front picture window of my art studio and see a beautiful landscape,” said Moldenhauer. “This has been such a learning process being introduced to the many benefits of native plants.”

The planting plan calls for a wide variety of native perennial flowering plants, bushes, grasses and trees, including prairie dropseed, wild plum, serviceberry, Ozark witch hazel, bee balm, phlox, coneflower and New England aster. It will cover an area approximately 160 x 30 feet.

Most native plants need about three years to be fully established, so the Moldenhauer-Closson household will be watering with an above-ground drip irrigation system and water collected in rain barrels for the first few seasons.

The selected plants will have many benefits, including:

  • Drought tolerant, reducing the need for watering
  • Pull carbon from the air and sequester into the soil
  • Beneficial to birds and insects
  • Uses fewer or no artificial inputs like fertilizer, or biocides
  • Costs less to maintain with lower environmental footprint

“Most modern yards and lawns actually have a huge negative environmental impact compared to the rich and diverse native landscapes they replaced,” said Slaughter. “We don’t have to replace all of our lawns, but we can make a big change for the environment by devoting lots of small areas to more native landscapes. Experts estimate that 40 percent of all weather is based on local patterns. What if our region could reverse the ‘heat island’ effect with mini-forests and prairie plantings?”

The three makeover winners received free landscape consultation and a detailed native-plant plan from an experienced native plant consultant, plus volunteer help with the installation. The homeowners are purchasing the plants from native plant nurseries, and MOR is providing free compost, mulch and financial support.

To attend or volunteer on planting day, contact Slaughter at [email protected] to receive the home address. To learn more and see videos of progress, go to Climate-Friendly Yard Makeover.

Illustration: Caitlin Willis, Native Gardens KC