Pollinators at Mounds View City Hall


Mounds View City Administrator Nyle Zikmund poses with the newly redone garden in front of City Hall. After completing a master gardener course through the University of Minnesota, Zikmund set to work clearing out the overgrown space and replanting it with healthy, pollinator-friendly plants. (Bridget Kranz)

Before replanting, Zikmund says the area just to the left of the City Hall entrance had become overgrown and crowded out with weeds. Proper spacing, as well as pollinator-friendly plants, were important to him in the new garden. (courtesy of Nyle Zikmund)

New landscaping by city administrator welcomes tiny visitors

Visitors to Mounds View City Hall may now have the opportunity to meet some of city’s tiniest residents — pollinators — thanks to new landscaping outside of the building.  

After getting certified as a master gardener through the University of Minnesota Extension program, City Administrator Nyle Zikmund got his hands dirty earlier this summer. He says he would get to work around 5 a.m. to clean up, remediate and replant the garden in front of City Hall with pollinator-friendly flora.

The most common pollinators that come to mind are honeybees and butterflies. However, according to the Center for Pollinator Research out of Pennsylvania State University, the category also includes other species of bees, some birds and some bats — although the latter aren’t likely to drop by City Hall during normal business hours. 

In general, a pollinator is an animal that helps plants reproduce by moving pollen around to different parts of the plant, thereby fertilizing the flower’s eggs and helping it generate seeds and fruit.  

“Many plants reproduce by pollination, including a lot of food source plants, a lot of berries,” says Zikmund. “Can you do mechanical pollination? Sure ... But you’re not going to pollinate the planet mechanically. You want nature to do it.”

Zikmund applied for the master gardener course with his wife last fall, hoping to learn more about proper garden maintenance and pollinator-friendly plantings for their own yard. They were accepted, and completed five weekends of coursework at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum this past winter. 

“We were tiring of committing horticulture homicide,” jokes Zikmund, of signing up for the course. “We wanted to learn what we were doing wrong and what we could do better to not keep killing those plants.”

As part of the course, Zikmund learned from university educators and took tests on what he had learned about healthy landscaping. He then used that knowledge to replant the area on the left side of the City Hall entrance; something he says had been on his list since he started at the city a few years back. 

“We had other, higher priorities,” he explains. “And now I’ve got some time, so this is phase one.”

Phase two will be to replant the area on the right sight of the doorway, which will likely happen next summer. Prior to replanting the first side, Zikmund describes the area as a mess. “There was nothing recognizable other than some flowers popping up over the weeds,” he says.

The first step of the transformation was to remediate the soil, meaning every inch had to be hand-turned by spade, which Zikmund says is crucial to removing weeds. In addition to weeds, he also dug up two trash containers worth of old construction debris.

Then the area was left to sit, and finally planted with roughly $350 worth of new flora, spaced properly to optimize its growth and with plenty of nectar and pollen for the birds and bees to suck up and distribute. 

Zikmund was able to salvage and replant existing peonies, hostas and lilies, while adding in asters, catmint and other perennials. He also planted shrubs along the building, including boxwoods, which will keep their deep green color through the winter months. 

“It’s our main building, we should have it look nice,” he says. “With a little bit of maintenance, those plants have a 20 to 30 year life. That’s a pretty small investment.”

Going forward, he says maintenance should be minimal. To avoid using chemical sprays, he plans to hand-weed the garden every week for the rest of the summer.

“By the end of the summer, we should have most of the weed seeds and anything that’s in there that’s going to grow, gone,” says Zikmund. “In the spring, we’ll hit it with a pre-emergent, to kill any other weeds that we missed. We’ll put a little more mulch and then it’ll actually become a fairly maintenance-free garden.”

 

—Bridget Kranz can be reached at bkranz@lillienews.com or 651-748-7825.

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