Protecting land and water

Learn actions you can take in the way you care for your property to protect our land and water.

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Earth-friendly home landscaping

The Quick Reference Guide to Earth-Friendly Home Landscaping is a great place to start for information on environmentally friendly landscaping tips.

Landscaping Guide contents

Download the entire guide (PDF) or download a specific chapter:

  1. Landscape design (PDF) — Information on planning an earth-friendly landscape, including how to create a base map, how to improve soil and how to select the right plants.
  2. Plant selection (PDF) — Includes plant lists for trees, shrubs, ground cover, ornamental and native grasses, and native wildflowers and tips on selecting the correct plant.
  3. Practices to improve water quality (PDF) - Tips on managing storm water, preventing pollution and conserving water.
  4. Rain gardens (PDF) — Rain gardens can reduce runoff by collecting rainwater and allowing it to slowly filter into the ground. Includes tips on installing a rain garden, such as site design, site preparation, planting and maintenance. A plant list is included.
  5. Home composting (PDF) — Composting can add nutrients to your soil and reduce the amount of garbage your household produces. Includes a list of materials that can be composted and tips on starting and maintaining a compost pile.
  6. Creative uses for yard waste (PDF) — Ideas for reusing yard waste.
  7. Mulching (PDF) — Mulches hold moisture, deter weeds, moderate soil temperature and protect the environment. Includes information on the types of mulches available and tips on applying mulch.
  8. Watering and rain barrels (PDF) — Tips on how and when to water. Also includes information on using rain barrels to capture and reuse rainwater.
  9. LILAC or Low Input Lawn Care (PDF) — A strategy of lawn care that reduces water, fertilizer, and labor inputs necessary to maintain a healthy lawn
  10. Common mistakes to avoid (PDF) — Employ sustainable landscaping techniques by avoiding some common mistakes.
  11. Resources and clean air landscaping (PDF) — Resources for more information. How to improve air quality with landscaping steps and a map with earth-friendly landscaping practices.

Printed copies

Printed copies of the guide can be ordered from the environmental literature order form. Look under the Yard and Garden section for the title A Quick Reference Guide To Earth Friendly Home Landscaping.

This resource was produced by Hennepin County in partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension Service of Hennepin County. Portions were reproduced with permission from Dakota County Environmental Management and the Dakota County Soil and Water Conservation District.

Landowner guide

The Hennepin County Landowner Guide is intended to help landowners care for their land and the natural resources on their property. The guide recommends practices that can be implemented to protect and enhance natural systems. Each section also suggests additional resources and publications that offer more specific information for each subject area.

Landowner Guide contents

Download the entire guide (PDF 7MB) or download a specific section:

  • Getting started - assess your land (PDF) — Information on assessing the current condition of your land, developing a plan, improving soil and creating a base map.
  • Identifying and protecting natural areas (PDF) — Information on identifying natural areas, implementing best management practices and establishing conservation easements.
  • Protecting and establishing prairies (PDF) — Information on identifying and protecting existing prairies and steps for establishing prairie species.
  • Managing forest and woodland areas (PDF) — Information on forest and woodland types, managing forests and woodlands and saving energy by installing a windbreak.
  • Plants that need to be controlled (PDF) — Information on noxious weeds and invasive plants and steps that can be taken to control them.
  • Protecting water resources (PDF) — Information on ways to protect water resources such as determining your watershed, taking care of your shoreline, and avoiding or controlling invasive aquatic species.
  • Preserving wetlands (PDF) — Information on wetland types, the Wetland Conservation Act, identifying wetlands and way to protect wetlands on your property.
  • Providing habitat for wildlife (PDF) — Information on providing food, water, shelter and open space for wildlife.
  • Managing pastures and livestock (PDF) — Information on proper pasture management, proper manure management, preventing water pollution, cleaning up dirty water and maintaining healthy soils.
  • Maintaining wells (PDF) — Ensure that you and your family have a healthy source of drinking water by maintaining your well, testing you well, treating contaminated water and managing unused wells.
  • Maintaining septic systems (PDF) — Protect groundwater by properly maintaining your septic system, getting your septic system pumped regularly, and keeping garbage out of your system.
  • Managing your waste (PDF) — Information on proper management of garbage including hiring a waste hauler, eliminating burn barrels, reducing waste, recycling, collecting organic waste and and properly disposing of household hazardous waste.
  • Resources (PDF) — A list of resources and publications with additional information for landowners on protecting and conserving natural resources.

This resource was produced by Hennepin County in partnership with the University of Minnesota Extension.

10 actions you can take to improve Minnesota's lakes, rivers and streams

When it rains, the stormwater that runs off driveways, lawns, houses and parking lots can carry pollutants like oil, paint and chemicals down storm sewers and into nearby lakes, streams and rivers. By taking the following easy, no-cost or low-cost steps, you can have a big impact on reducing runoff and protecting our water resources and wildlife habitat.

Also see the Ten Things You Can Do to Improve Minnesota's Lakes, Rivers and Streams brochure (PDF).

1. Use your runoff

You can keep water in your yard and reduce runoff by directing downspouts onto your lawn or garden or into a rain barrel. Rainwater is free and naturally "soft," so it is ideal to use in watering your lawn or garden.

2. Don’t rake grass clippings and leaves into the street

Leave them on your lawn, use them for compost, or bag them up. Grass clippings and leaves left in the street end up in the storm sewer, where they are carried to nearby lakes and streams. Clippings and leaves contain phosphorus and other nutrients that feed algae and other aquatic plants. This can cause excess algae growth that can negatively impact other plants and wildlife and can be unsafe for pets.

3. Scoop the poop

Grab a bag when you grab the leash and pick up after your pets. Pet waste left on the ground can be washed into lakes and rivers with rainwater and runoff. Pet waste contains bacteria that can cause illness in humans and animals.

4. Use chemicals wisely

Read and follow the label instructions when using herbicides and pesticides. Use the minimum amount needed to control the problem. If you can, consider using alternative or natural remedies to control weeds and pests, or remove the problem by hand.

5. Fertilize smart

Sweep up any fertilizer that spills onto hard surfaces. Excess fertilizer washes away into nearby lakes or streams where it can feed algae, causing rapid growth known as algae blooms. Algae blooms stress fish and wildlife and make swimming and fishing unpleasant or impossible.

6. Keep a healthy lawn

A healthy, vigorous lawn needs less watering, fewer chemicals and less maintenance. Aerate your lawn periodically to loosen the soil. Seed bare patches to prevent erosion and soil loss. Mow at a higher setting. Grass mowed to a height of 2 ½ to 3 inches develops deeper, healthier roots and has a competitive advantage over weeds.

Learn more earth-friendly lawn care tips.

7. Plant a rain garden

Rain gardens are depressions planted with a diverse mix of native wildflowers and grasses designed to collect rainwater and allow it to soak into the soil. This will reduce the water running off your property into storm sewers.

Learn more about rain gardens (PDF).

8. Replace turf with native plants

Swap some of your high-maintenance lawn for low-maintenance native ground cover, plants or grasses. Many native plants develop deeper root structures than turf grass, which reduces runoff by allowing for better water infiltration.

9. Reduce your footprint

Replace some pavement - such as a walk, patio or driveway - with pavers or pervious pavement. The porous surface will allow water to seep through.

10. Adopt a storm drain

Keep neighborhood storm drains free of leaves, seeds and grass clippings. Storm drains are directly connected to nearby water bodies. Water running into storm drains can carry with it anything dumped nearby including leaves, grass clippings, soil, oil, paint and chemicals.

Keeping storm drains clear will protect the water quality of nearby lakes, streams and rivers. Learn more about adopting a storm drain (DOC).

Aquatic invasive species prevention

Hennepin County is pursuing a variety of strategies to slow the spread of aquatic invasive species, including

  • Installing permanent boat-washing stations
  • Redesigning public accesses
  • Developing interactive educational displays
  • Training volunteers to be early detectors
  • Enhancing enforcement of AIS laws
  • Deploying rapid response protocols
  • Providing grants to cities, watersheds, park districts and lake associations

Learn more about these programs.

Taking care of trees

Trees and forests provide many benefits, including improving our air and water, making ourselves and our communities healthier, reducing the urban heat island effect, providing wildlife habitat, saving energy and increasing property values.

The tree canopy in Hennepin County faces a number of threats, including development, insects and diseases, climate extremes, and poor installation and maintenance.

Hennepin County has a variety of programs and resources available to help protect and enhance our tree canopy, including information about the emerald ash borer, tree waste disposal, and tree care volunteer programs. Learn more.

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