Native woodland in Iowa

Iowa State Program Helps Urban and Suburban Homeowners Practice Conservation In their Own Backyard

As Iowa becomes a more urbanized state, conservation is needed in the cities and towns just as much as the agriculture fields! Folks at Iowa State University are working hard to expand the resources available for those that want to practice conservation in their own backyards. Backyard conservation practices can make a big difference for wildlife diversity in the cities, help stabilize soil, and help improve water quality in urban areas.

Iowa State University Natural Resources Extension and Outreach has put together one website that focuses on lawn alternatives. The resources on the webpage encourage folks to plant diverse, low growing species in their lawn as an alternative to Kentucky bluegrass. This webpage has a list of species to consider, an overview for each of the suggested species, and some direction on where you can purchase seeds or plants. Folks can explore this new resource on the Iowa State University Extension and Outreach website.

Example of a diverse, broadleaf lawn. 

Planting native vegetation is a great way to support local wildlife, stabilize soil, reduce water runoff, and increase the beauty of your property! The Natural Resources Extension website has plenty of resources to help you plunge into planting native vegetation this year. Perhaps you have a sunny area that would allow for prairie plants to thrive? Check out the Prairie Restoration – Habitat Headquarters page for information on how to get started, tips for plant selection, and long-term management of the prairie!

Woodlands and shaded areas are not the best for prairie establishment, but you can still plant natives in these areas too! The Native Iowa Woodland Understory Restoration page can help folks decide what understory and shade loving native plants would be best for their property! The species list allows you to explore each plant in more detail and lists out which plants have been “proven performers” for restoration projects.

A new resource that is coming later this year is information for backyard rain barrels! Rain barrels are a great tool homeowners can use to reduce run off and allow water to infiltrate the soil. This program will aim to inform homeowners about the benefits of rain barrels and how they can install their own rain barrels at home! This program is in the pilot phase now, but online resources will be available soon!

There are a ton of online resources available for folks that want to implement backyard conservation practices. Along with the specific pages listed above, folks can find more resources on the Natural Resource Stewardship page and can download publications at the Iowa State University Extension Store

Kaycie Waters, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach

Headshot of Kaycie Waters

Kaycie Waters is a statewide Natural Resources Field Specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Kaycie works to create natural resources education programs for county use, and also assists in the coordination of the Iowa Master Conservationist Program. She previously worked as a wildlife biologist in Arizona, but in an attempt to follow in Leopold’s footsteps, moved to the Midwest to work at Iowa State University. Kaycie loves working in Iowa, and is excited to bring the research from Iowa State University to those in Iowa through Extension Education.

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