On Tuesday, May 11, students in Rachel Newman’s horticulture class at Grand Rapids High School played hooky – for a good cause. They spent a sunny morning at the University of Minnesota’s North Central Research and Outreach Center (NCROC), helping to pot 150 native plants, preparing them for transplanting. In shoreland zones, the large root systems of these plants filter water and help prevent phosphorus from leaching into a lake or river – a major cause of destructive algae blooms.
The project, spearheaded by Itasca Waters members David and Susan Lick, was part of an ongoing collaboration among several agencies. From seeds provided by Prairie Restorations Inc., the plants - including ox-eyed daisy, giant hyssop, wild bergamot, and aster - were grown last year in a NCROC greenhouse. The year-old plants will be transplanted at native plant demonstration sites in Itasca County, in joint projects of Itasca Waters and some of its partners. The City of Grand Rapids is preparing a site along the Mississippi River near the KAXE tent for some of the plants. Another demonstration site will be the children’s garden at the Itasca County Family YMCA, tended by Mrs. Newman and Mrs. Lick, both Master Gardeners.
The collaboration will continue into the future, too. In addition to these 150 plants, NCROC has planted 4 more flats of them, which Mrs. Newman and her students will transplant to the ISD318 greenhouse. Next year, Itasca Waters will use these yearlings for plant nurseries and additional demonstration sites.
Itasca Waters is a local non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the health of area lakes and rivers. Through boots-on-the-ground projects like this, and their Shoreland Advisors program, their efforts help to make Itasca County a terrific place to live, work, and play. To learn more about Itasca Waters, or to request a visit from one of their volunteer Shoreland Advisors, visit www.itascawaters.org.