RAIN GARDENS- Design and Installation


Sedge grasses are great for wet areas of the rain garden

Check with online resources or landscape professionals for guidance on size of garden needed as well as proper depth. They also can help you determine how the water will enter your garden through draintile surface run off or dry creek beds. Once you have those figured out and sketch a shape for your area the plant layout process can begin. Keep in mind light conditions of the garden throughout the day as well as bloom times so that the garden will have a long period of interest. Some people choose to go all native or pollinator plants, mixed shrubs and perennials or all grasses. There are many resource lists online to help narrow down plant choices. Most planting plans are divided into zones based on where the water will be the longest.

Popular Plant choices:

Grasses: Fox sedge, Blue Zinger sedge, Feather Reed Grass and Little Bluestem

Perennials: Blue Flag Iris, Coneflowers, Liatris and Lobelia

Shrubs: Red Twig Dogwood, Bush Honeysuckle and Spirea


Ok, now we’re ready to get out the shovels and do some digging! Draw out the outline of your planting space with spray paint or use a garden hose so you can move it around to get the shape just right. Also outline the area that will need to be the deepest part of your garden to hold the water. Decide if you are OK with herbicide to kill the grass and plan to do your spraying at least 3 days ahead of digging. If you would rather go a natural route strip the sod off and use elsewhere in yard or flip it over to create a small berm as designed in your new planting area. After surface material is removed continue to dig out the flat bottom bowl to the depth you need and size you’ve planned out.

Next bring in the compost material estimated to incorporate into the bottom of the bowl and use a garden fork to manually dig it in or employ a tiller for mechanical help. After the soil has all been raked out you are ready to place the plants using the design for proper placement. Or if you have a lot of small plants you may want to spread mulch first and then put in plants after to insure no plant gets buried in the mulching process.

Use root pruning techniques to prepare plants for proper root growth, dig your hole and plant! Mulch should be a good quality type that is fibrous and meshes well to get so as not to float and disturb the plants in a rain event. Plan for around 2” mulch depth.

As a final step thoroughly water each plant to settle it into the soil, removing air gaps and providing necessary moisture for needed root growth. Follow a landscape professional watering plan for ideal plant health and establishment.

Step back, take a look and enjoy your accomplishment. You are now benefitting the birds, bees, family, neighbors and most importantly the future of clean water.

3 month old planting

Our expert team is available to help out with planning for the right look, installation instructions and tips or complete a project for your own outdoor space. Give us a call today to schedule your consultation 507-581-6886 or email amy@ateamlandscape.com

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RAIN GARDENS- nature’s rain-water filtering system

Rain Gardens accomplish many landscape goals and have gained popularity throughout cities in the US over the last few years. These gardens embody sustainability, resourcefulness, environmental positivity and when done right beautiful artistic expressions.

To put it simply, properly designed rain gardens are a flat bottom bowl shape to collect water in rain events and drain into the soil within a 24 hour time period. Designers go through a process to determine amount of water that will be collected, type of soil garden will be in and complementary design creation. Plant choices are also specifically designed for the location within the gardens. The main idea is to incorporate rain water back into the ground water system and replenish our aquafers instead of directing water into a storm water system that carry debris and chemicals with it. This system elevates flooding because rain water is designed to stay on site and not be carried off to some other holding area.

A few things that rain gardens are not: ponds or wetlands that would hold just enough water to breed mosquitos, weedy wild planting beds or high maintenance plantings that stick out like a sore thumb. A properly planned, planted and maintained site will be beneficial to all both aesthetically and environmentally. Contact us to help you out with coaching, design, installation or maintenance of your Clean Water Landscaping. Call Amy Voight 507-581-6886 email aTeam@vhiinc.com and checkout our social media platforms to inspire your own journey!

Downspout rain garden
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Max Frei cranesbill  Geranium sanguineum ‘Max Frei’ Height: 8 inches Spread: 12 inches Flower Color and Season: Fuchsia late spring to early summer Foliage: dark green. Red in fall

Tiarella spring symphony Spring Symphony Tiarella Slightly fragranced, pink flowers Height: 6″ Spread: 8-10″ Dark green foliage, mounded shape with flowers that bloom in May-July. Shade-loving plant that is great as a groundcover or as a border/edger

Blue star amsonia  Amsonia tabernaemontana Height: 24 inches Spread: 36 inches Flower Color and Season: Blue late spring to early summer Foliage: light green. Yellow in fall

Gold Dicentra Bleeding Heart! Aren’t these flowers sweet?! These perennial shrubs generally grown 24-30” x 18-30”, depending on the variety, and bloom in the spring-early summer. This is a low-maintenance, partial sun or shade shrub that is considered a cottage garden classic! FUN FACT: Depending on where you’re from, this shrub known as either a Bleeding Heart or Lady in the Bath! Lady in the Bath?! Yes!! Because if you turn the flowers upside down, that’s just what they look like

Peony – These flowers are just breathtaking! Blooming in late spring to early summer, peonies have 6 flower types, 4 colors, and varying fragrance levels, so there is sure to be a variety that would work in your landscape! Peonies prefer a sunny spot with well-drained soil but are a perfect choice for a Minnesota garden because the cold winters are the perfect chill needed for bud formation. FUN FACT: In Greek mythology, Paeon, a student of the god of medicine and healing, was saved by Zeus from his mentor’s jealous wrath by being turned into a flower, the Peony!

[]Columbine  The resilient columbine grows best in full sun or light shade, with moist, fertile soil. The flower has a deep history in many cultures, and for many centuries, Christians believed that the columbine represented seven gifts of the Holy Spirit, including: wisdom, intellect, reverence or piety, strength, advise, knowledge and fear of God. FUN FACT: The root of the name columbine, columba, is Latin and means dove. But the columbine’s true Latin name is Aquilegia which translates to mean eagle. It was so named because the spurs of this flower reminded some observers of the the talons of an eagle. How neat is that? That’s pretty neat!

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Living with Black Walnut Trees

When dealing with mature trees many times we just think about the shade factor and if the tree has dense or dappled areas under it. Also root competition comes to mind as well as dry ground from rain being caught in the canopy before it can get to the soil. But some trees emit substances that can negatively affect near by plants and Black Walnut is one of the most notorious for harming it’s neighbors.

As a popular choice for shade canopy, Black Walnut is also grown for its lumber production and dye properties in its ‘fruits’. The concern lies in the production of Juglone which is in the roots, leaves, nut husks and even carried by water dripping of its leaves during rain. Areas effected by a tree go well beyond the canopy through the root structure and may effect nearby roots as far as ½” away.

The only real solution to black walnut toxicity is to install tolerant plants. Fortunately there a few plants that show little or no effect in relation to Juglone toxins. Many symptoms are a mimic of diseases or physiological disorders so look up before diagnosing a plant. Even cutting the tree won’t solve the problem since the roots still contain the chemical.

Plants to steer clear of are: Nightshade (tomatoes, peppers etc), yews, Pines, Azalea, Potentilla, Hydrangeas and lilacs. Some resistant to Juglone include: Cherry, Crabapple, maples, dogwoods, carrots, onions, snap beans, arbor vitae and daylilies. Checkout the Morton Arboretum  for a comprehensive list of plants.

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Planting Harsh Sites- SALT TOLERANT

When designing street scapes, Boulevard plantings or landscapes that border driveways and sidewalks a consideration factor is snow/ice and the control method that will be used. Many of these areas will receive a dose of de-icing salts in the northern climates. Salt damage can show up through aerial spray or build up in the soil over time through direct contact or runoff.

Other then careful plant selection there are a few ways to control salt effects in the landscape including little to no use of de-icing salts, spread salt after shoveling, is salt with sand, alter drainage patterns and use temporary barriers to protect plants.

Some of the best plants with resistant characteristics include: Serviceberries, Honeylocust, white oaks, Japanese tree lilacs, Junipers, forsythias, hydrangeas and sumacs. Colorful perennials like daylilies, beebalms, sedums and Karl Foerster Feather Reed Grass will add allseason interest to your mailbox planting. Be more careful with: maples, river birch, crabapples, arborvitae, boxwoods and viburnums.

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Spring Perennial Maintenance

With warmer Temps and longer sunlight hours comes the spring cleaning duties. Roll up the sleeves, sharpen the pruner and head outside to tidy up your landscape and get those spring cleaning chores done.


With the snow melted and gone and the soil temperature above freezing, now is a good time to cut down perennials left for winter interest. Ornamental grasses should be cut down to 3” or so before the new green growth starts to appear as it gets warmer. If your clumps have been planted for 3-5 years it may be time for division. A good sign of this need is a ‘balding’ center of plant. The best process to accomplish division is to first dig out the entire root area and divide into sections using a soil knife or sharp spade. Reinstall one of the divisions back in the original hole and plant the rest of the divisions in a new area or give away to friends!


Pull off or cut away any remaining leaves left on these plants. Division may be necessary for plants to remain healthy. While division can happen at almost anytime with these two spring is the best time.


Be careful not to uncover these sensitive type plants too early and expose them to freezing Temps if winter decides to revisit few times. Carefully pull away any leftover leaves to tidy them up.

Cleanup all other sticks and stalks and lightly rake your garden areas if there is an abundance of leaves or other debris. Don’t worry about getting every last little thing to allow natural composting to happen .

Call on us for your spring landscape maintenance needs. We can get you started on the right path for a beautiful landscape that will bring you joy all season. Visit www.ateamlandscape.com Email aTeam@vhiinc.com or CALL Amy 507-581-6886 to setup your groundskeeping consultation today.

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Early Spring Gardening in MN- February to April

Seed Starting Helpful Tools and Equipment: egg cartons, milk jugs, seed starting tray systems, clear bags, shop lights, metal shelving unit, seedling fertilizer, small watering can, wood label sticks or clothespins

Seed Starting- Indoors- Celery is first at the end of February followed by Brussel sprouts and onions a couple weeks later. Eggplants and peppers are started in mid March and Brassica family (Cabbage, broccoli etc.) toward the end of March. The beginning of April means 6 weeks until our last frost date (mid May) Tomatoes are started now followed up by squash, cucumbers and pumpkins on late April if you want to give them a head start.

Seed Starting- Outdoor- using milk jugs as mini greenhouse planters you can successfully start seed for cool weather vegetables or prairie type flowers. This year I’m trying this method with: Cabbage, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Parsley and Kale around Mid/Late-March. Towards the end of April spinach and lettuces could be started in the garden but may need night protection. If the soil isn’t too cold and wet Potatoes can be planted.

Groundskeeping Helpful Tools and Equipment: Felco hand pruners, hedge trimmer (manual or battery powered), Loppers, Pruning Saw, tarp to pile clippings on.

Groundskeeping- cut ornamental grasses and other perennials left for winter interest to 3” high. Pull away any leaves or other organic debris from planting beds once snow has melted and overnight temps are above freezing most nights.

Groundskeeping- Pruning – cut spireas, potentilla and weigela to 6” high every 3 years for fresh growth. The general rule is cut back no more then 1/3rd back and 1/3rd thining out for shrubs. Prune spring bloomers (like lilacs and azalea) right after bloom is finished. Most trees should be pruned by the end of March but birch and maple will drip sap at this time of the year.

Homemaking- Maple Syrup is dependent on weather for sap flow. Time to order chicks for meat or eggs.

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Lamium Purple Dragon- Long-lasting blooms Height: 6 in. Spread: 12 in. Dusty silver-white leaves that are outlined with blue-green. This groundcover perennial boasts purple snapdragon-like flowers that appear from April to June.

Winterglow Bergenia- H 12-15″ W 18″ Evergreen leaves are glossy green setting off the red flowers in April-June. Likes Partial Shade.

Bleeding Heart! -Aren’t these flowers sweet?! These perennials generally grown 24-30” x 18-30”, depending on the variety, and bloom in the spring-early summer. This is a low-maintenance, partial sun or shade shrub that is considered a cottage garden classic! FUN FACT: Depending on where you’re from, this shrub known as either a Bleeding Heart or Lady in the Bath! Lady in the Bath?! Yes!! Because if you turn the flowers upside down, that’s just what they look like

Bloodroot- These early spring bloomers cover the woodland floor with their shining white petals. The stems ‘bleed’ red when broken or crushed hence the name! Native to eastern united states and Canada they form large colonies with their spreading rhizomes. Ants, bees and deer are just a few benefited by this plant. Native Americans used it to induce vomiting so don’t try eating it!

Daffodils- You’ll have to plan ahead for these cheery flowers that require fall planting for spring blooms but they will provide years of enjoyment once you do. Deer and squirrel resistance are a bonus. These plants are perfect companions with summer blooming perennials and ornamental grasses.

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Five Groundskeeping Tips

aMY TOP FIVE Groundskeeping Tips

  1. Weeding: set aside a time twice a week to spend walking over your landscape and remove those pesky little plants by hand. A dandelion digger, soil knife or small trowel are excellent tools to help with this task. If undesirable plants are allowed to get bigger you may have to use a tree puller or large shovel! Use of pre-emergent herbicides are helpful but are commonly applied several times during growing season and can have chemicals that runoff into waterways polluting the water.
  2. Pruning: there is a right and a wrong time of the year to complete pruning for many plant varieties. One general rule is spring bloomers need to be cut right after they finish blooming. Shrubs also should be managed in a timely fashion so that extra energy wouldn’t be required for trimming as is the case when they are overgrown. Using a hand powered hedge clippers, Felco pruners or loppers can be a great workout with no fuel emissions involved. Dispose of the debris at a compost site or use in your firepit!
  3. Mulching: when a locally sourced product is used at a proper depth (3-6” for wood mulch and 2-3” for landscape rock) it conserves moisture and greatly reduces weed growth in the landscape. Varying product types also provides great textural interest. Often mulch needs topdressing every couple of years or so to maintain a fresh look and maximum weed suppression. A leaf blower is highly recommended for rock areas to keep out debris and plant litter over the season so that a layer of compost (dirt) is likely to begin to form in the rock.
  4. Fertilizing: proper soil preparation and plant selection will ultimately lead to a decreased need to supplement fertilizer for plant health. Many available fertilizer products add too much of one type of nutrient and not enough of another and are developed for a ‘quick shot’ approach to plant health. The ‘unused’ nutrients can runoff into the water system and negatively affect areas downstream. Native plant material is a good place to start for selection in a landscape design that won’t need special treatments.
  5. Watering: similar to fertilizing, the proper plant in the proper place will just about eliminate the need for supplemental watering once established. Also properly designing a landscape with swales and depressions for water collection or directing can be helpful to replenish ground water.

Learn more tips and tricks by scheduling a Landscape Coaching appointment with us today!

Email: amy@ateamlandscape.com    Phone: 507-581-6886   

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Creating Sustainable Landscape Solutions to Improve Your Outdoor Habitation!

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Social Network Planting

 Our human social networks can complement our everyday lives by helping us achieve success, pushing us to go further, lifting us up in encouragement or just being a listening ear when we need to vent. Our chosen online platforms help us to mingle with others that have similar interests and invites them into our lives.

Plants do the same type of thing and harmony describes the plant world social network. When plants are thoughtfully chosen and planted, management becomes less stressful because the focus can be on the whole garden instead of individual plants. This concept of plant communities instead of individual elements creates sustainable gardens that use less water, are visually stimulating and require less maintenance overall once established.

The use of ‘green mulch’, which refers to groundcover plants, shades the soil and aids in preventing weeds and loss of water due to evaporation. Some of the great plants that fit the groundcover category are: low sedge grass such as Pensylvania Sedge, strawberries, self seeding columbines, woodland poppies and prairie dropseed grass.

Your garden can reflect your personality just like your profile and/or picture on your social network site does. Color choices, accent pieces, leaf shapes and more can all play a role in representing your creative self (or with the help of a landscape designer the creative you are deep down!).

“Garden plants evolved from diverse social networks.” Thomas Rainer, Landscape Architect

Plants have grown in their communities since the beginning of time and do many things in support of each other. Think of prairies and how grasses and wildflowers combine to create expanses of ‘groundcover’ in the heat of full sun and blowing wind. Prairies usually fade into woodland edges (often called savannahs) and different set of plants are present with the introduction of shade. Woodlands then rely on a high tree canopy that creates shade almost the entire day to the understory trees and shrubs, ferns, wildflowers and sedges at the forest floor. These inspirations in nature can be applied to our own urban plantings that surrounds our homes and businesses and through creative design and educated choices will be beautiful and sustainable.

As you think about your landscape and gardens this year find out how your current plants (or desired new ones) can benefit from giving them a ‘social network’ and implement the right community for the long term health of the environment. Also take time to sit and recharge, observe the ‘community’ in your own yard and learn from the interactions within nature that seem so simple yet can be highly complex but take place for the ultimate health of all its members. Create your landscape to give back!

Our expert team is available to help out with planning for the right look, installation instructions and tips or complete a project for your own outdoor space. Give us a call today to schedule your consultation 507-581-6886 or email amy@ateamlandscape.com

SOCIAL NETWORK PLANTING-      by Amy Voight   Owner of A Team Landscaping Inc

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