Grantee Guide

Are you a Lawns to Legumes grantee? This guide is for you!

Step 1: Getting Started

  • Confirm your participation in the program! Follow the link that was emailed to you to accept your grant.
  • Before you start your project, remember to take “before” photos of your project area. You will need to take “after” images once your project is completed.
  • Attend a grantee training webinar (you will be emailed details) or watch a webinar recording (see below). The Fall 2024 webinar recording will be available after July 17th.
  • Review reimbursable project expenses in the Eligible Expenses Guide.
  • All grantees will have access to “The Hive!” The Hive is a new community platform for grantees to connect. You will receive an email to access The Hive. Connect with each other in your region’s “space,” share resources, get answers from coaches, and get program updates from L2L staff.

Watch our 2024 Spring Grantee Kick-off webinar. Closed captioning is available on YouTube.

2024 Spring Grantee Kick-off slide show:

Stay Updated!

If you are a current Lawns to Legumes grantee, you should be receiving regular email newsletters from Blue Thumb. If you are not receiving emails or would like to update your email address, let us know at l2lhelp@bluethumb.org.

Spring 2024 Grantee Newsletters

Step 2: Choose Your Project

The best way to protect native bumblebees and other pollinators is to plant a diversity of native floral species. We recommend selecting a project type that meets your needs for your yard while supporting as many pollinator species as possible. But don’t bite off more than you can chew! It’s better to have a smaller, successful project than a bigger project that you’re unable to finish or maintain. 

Choose one (or a combination) of the following for your Lawns to Legumes project:

 

Pocket Plantings are small native gardens that pack a punch in terms of pollinator impact without taking up much space. They are a great way to get started if you are new to gardening, or want to expand your existing garden. Choose species that bloom in all three growing seasons (spring, summer, and fall) for the biggest impact. Variations of a pocket planting include rain gardens and shoreline plantings.

 

Flowering native trees or shrubs can provide as much pollinator forage as an entire garden. Early bloomers like willow provide high quality pollen for emerging bumble bees when few other resources are available.

 

 

Pollinator Lawns with low-growing fescues and flowering species offer less support for pollinators compared to a small garden or tree planting. However, they offer a realistic option if you frequently use your yard for activities like recreation and are still a better choice for pollinators than a typical turfgrass lawn. If incorporating a pollinator lawn in your yard, we strongly encourage prioritizing native species over non-natives when possible. See exceptions in the Eligible Expenses Guide

 

Pollinator Meadows, expansive areas with a diversity of native plant species, are the most beneficial choice for supporting as many pollinators as possible. If you have the time and space to create a pollinator meadow, go for it! The easiest way to achieve this might be to plant pocket gardens side by side, eventually creating a meadow that takes up your full yard.

 

 

Step 3: Plan and Install Your Project

Step 4: Complete your Project!

  • When your project is complete, submit your project on our Request Reimbursement page. Here’s what you’ll need:
    • Size of your project: You’ll need to estimate the size of your pollinator habitat in square feet or acres.
    • Before and After photos: Don’t worry if they’re not pretty! We just want to see that you successfully installed your project. Try to take your photos from a similar angle. Take photos of the whole project area, not individual plants. If you planted in multiple areas, take a before and after photo of each area.
    • Receipts: Receipts must be legible and show that purchased plants are native (with a few exceptions noted on the Eligible Expenses Guide). If your receipts are not itemized, you can also submit a list of plant names or a photo of your plant tags. If your receipt includes purchases that are not part of your L2L project, circle or highlight the purchases you are requesting reimbursement for. Receipts must be from purchases made on or after the date you were notified of your grant award.
    • Time spent on your project: You’ll need to share an estimate of the total number of hours you spent working on your project. This can include time spent planning and watching L2L webinars.
  • Please be patient as we send out your check and sign. There may be delays, but we are doing our best to review and approve reimbursement requests as they come. Once you receive your check, please deposit it within 90 days or your check will be voided.
  • Map your completed project so we can share the impact of our collective work on protecting the pollinators.

Project Gallery

Every Lawns to Legumes project is unique. Browse projects by previous Lawns to Legumes grant recipients for ideas and inspiration!

Frequently Asked Questions

Project Eligibility and Reimbursable Expenses

What is eligible to be reimbursed?

See the Eligible Expenses Guide. To summarize, your grant must be used to purchase native plants and vegetation, as well as supporting expenses including mulch, equipment rental, and contractor work. Please make sure you are not purchasing a cultivar or hybrid of a native plant.

Is there a way to have my list of plants confirmed before buying them?

Search for your plant on minnesotawildflowers.info.

If you do not find it on there, it probably is not a true native plant. You can also prevent purchasing cultivars and hybrids if you build your plant list off of our plant list resources on our website.

If you are really unsure about a few plants, you can email us at the L2L Helpline (L2Lhelp@bluethumb.org), but we do not have the capacity to go through your entire list.

Is there a particular number of plants I need to plant? Is there a minimum size the garden needs to be?

It would be best if you had plants that bloom in every season to ensure pollinators have habitat year-round, so we recommend aiming for 12 different native plants. There is no minimum size or number of plants you need to have.

I purchased project materials before I was notified of receiving a grant. Can I still be reimbursed?

Unfortunately, no. We are only allowed to reimburse you for receipts containing eligible expenses that are dated on or after the date of your notification.

Can I add to an existing garden?

Yes! You can plant in multiple areas as part of the grant. Just make sure it is clear in your photos where you added the new additions. Your existing garden does not have to be native plants, but all new additions under the grant must be (no non-native plants, cultivars, nativars, or hybrids).

Do I have to buy materials from any specific nursery?

No, but plantings must be Minnesota native species, preferably sourced from 175 miles from one’s location, or closer (with exceptions mentioned here). We recommend seeking out your local native plant nursery, but if you don’t have one near you, many native plant retailers in Minnesota offer delivery. See our Native Plants Nurseries and Retailers List

Are plant kits reimburseable?

Yes, just be sure to review that all plants in the kit are Minnesota native or eligible for reimbursement.

Can I combine another grant with my Lawns to Legumes grant to fund my project?

Yes. Please indicate on your receipts which portions of your project you are requesting Lawns to Legumes reimbursement.

Can I do multiple projects with my grant?

Yes, as long as you can show all projects in your before and after photos. You can only submit a maximum of 4 before and 4 after photos.

Can I start a project from seed?

Yes, Lawns to Legumes plantings can be started from seed. Please use a native seed provider who does not treat seeds with harmful insecticides like neonicotinoids. And note that native plants from seed may take 3–5 years to fully establish.

I’m focusing on a pollinator lawn or pollinator friendly tree/shrubs for my project. Do I still need to include plants that bloom across all three growing seasons?

Having plants that bloom in each of the 3 growing seasons is more of a recommendation than a requirement for the project. Most trees and pollinator lawns bloom early in the spring, before a lot of other food sources for pollinators appear, so it’s ok to stick with that!

Can I be reimbursed for hiring a contractor to complete my project?

Work done by contractors may qualify for reimbursement as long as the services fall under the list of eligible expenses. This includes design work, site prep, and installation. The resident must be approved for the grant before any expenses can be requested for reimbursement. Keep in mind, the focus of your project must be on the incorporation of native plants, trees, and shrubs in your landscape. BlueThumb and MN BWSR have the right to refuse reimbursement if it is clear that project funds were not used for the primary purpose of creating native pollinator habitat. 

Does the mulch need to be all-natural to be reimbursed?

No, we will reimburse any type of mulch, but we recommend double shredded (sometimes called “premium”) hardwood mulch. It’s usually sourced more locally and does its job well.

Do grasses bloom? Do grasses count toward the blooming species per season guideline?

Yes, grasses have “flowers” that bloom and grow in a structure called a spikelet. However, they don’t provide direct nectar or pollen to pollinators. Please try to incorporate three blooming flower species in your project.

Why aren't cultivars of native plants reimbursable?

This program is intended to create habitat for native pollinators. Native pollinators have evolved with native plants, which provide them the right nutrients and the right times of year, with flower colors that pollinators recognize. Hybrids and cultivars have not evolved with pollinators–they have been created by people to display traits that people prefer. It is unclear how much these changes have affected the benefit they provide to pollinators, so the safest and surest way to help pollinators is to put in the plants they know and recognize. See our Native Plants vs Cultivars handout for more information.

Can we use transplanted flowers/plants from neighbors or family, or should we not trust that it's truly a native plant?

Yes, you can use transplanted plants. Please try to confirm that the plants you’re using are native. If you’re not sure, we’d prefer that you get or purchase native plants elsewhere.

If we know for 100% certainty that a (free) transplant is native to MN, how should it be documented to the L2L program, since there is no retail receipt?

There will be a place where you can enter the names of the native plants included in your project if you did not purchase them.

Can I add non-native plants to my project, or plant in an area with non-native plants?

Yes, and yes. Feel free to add any plants you want; however, non-natives plants won’t be reimbursed (exceptions are mentioned here).

Are seed starting materials reimbursable?

Soil and containers can be reimbursable up to $100, as stated in the Eligible Expenses guide. Unfortunately we cannot reimburse grow lights.

Can I purchase signs to put in my pollinator garden?

No, but every grantee who completes their project receives a free sign when they are reimbursed.

Do I need to purchase a stake for my L2L yard sign?

Yes, the yard sign we will send to you does not include a stake so you will need to get one of your own or use what you have. Stake materials are reimbursable. Using the drill holes, you can affix the sign to any wooden post or stake (which can be found at a standard hardware store). Feel free to get creative!

Someone said that most of the reimbursement must be for plants. Is there a required ratio for that?

As of Spring 2024, we no longer require a certain percentage of your project expenses to be for native plants. This is because some projects have lower costs associated with plant materials (seeding projects, pollinator lawns). However, keep in mind that BlueThumb/MN BWSR has the right to refuse reimbursement if it is clear that project funds were not used for the primary purpose of creating native pollinator habitat. If you’re not sure whether your project focus is eligible for reimbursement, please email the L2L Helpline.

Planting and Maintenance

Are there any volunteers who can assist me in planting because of physical limitations?

You can reach out to the Lawns to Legumes community on The Hive or reach out to local volunteer groups such as Minnesota Master Gardeners and Master Naturalists, boy/girl scouts, church communities, or posting to a site like Next Door.

Does sod cutting and loosening soil around trees damage their roots?

Be careful around trees with sod cutters. Most trees have some roots near the ground’s surface because they rely on them for oxygen transport to their lower root systems. You can try carefully using a spade to remove grass near your tree. If your grass is already sparse by the tree, it may be safer to use a thicker layer of mulch where you’ll be planting near the tree.

How do I find deer and rabbit-resistant plants?

Some native plants don’t tend to get nibbled as much, including native plants in the mint family and onion family (this includes wild bergamot, giant hyssop, and prairie onion). Plants that are rough, prickly, or hairy (such as black-eyed susan) also get gnawed on less. Ask your local native plant nursery for more recommendations.

How do I protect my plants from rabbits and deer?

We recommend wire or mesh nets and cages to prevent them from reaching your plants.

Can we use milk jugs to winter sow and start our seeds?

If you are a spring grantee, yes! Check out this resource on Winter Seed Sowing. We would recommend having a Plan B in place so that you can still get reimbursed for some plants, for example, making room in your budget to purchase some back-up native forb (flower) plugs if your winter sown seeds don’t make it. We can only reimburse completed projects.

Is it feasible, timewise, to sheet mulch properly in the spring and get planting done before the July 15 deadline?

Yes. Since snow levels are low in many parts of the state, you can apply your cardboard, mulch, or leaves in the late winter and plant in the spring (May or June). You can plant through your cardboard. Your weed suppression may not be as complete as opposed to sheet mulching for 6 months or more, but you will still be giving your planting a strong start.

How do I find out what type of soil I have in my yard?

You can do a soil test. The University of Minnesota Soil Testing Lab offers soil tests at a low cost, however soil tests are not a reimbursable expense under the Lawns to Legumes grant. Soils don’t often need to be amended for native plants because these plants are already adapted to our current soil conditions. You can bring in a sample of your soil to your local native plant nursery and ask them what plants would do best in your soil.

How can I improve my soil?

Decompacting your soil and amending with compost can help. See more guidance on our Healthy Soil 101 handout.

I have extra soil I need to dispose of. How do I go about this?

Search out landscape supply centers in your area. In the Twin Cities metro, we use Hiawatha Landscaping in South Minneapolis. The other thing we recommend to some people is finding a way to use the soil on your site—is the ground around your foundation settling? If so, you can build it back up and help direct runoff away from it by piling more soil against it. Or, incorporate a cool berm into your planting.

What advice do you have for planting on a slope?

It is helpful to create a slight terrace and mulch to slow down and capture water. Water slowly to reduce runoff and erosion. Including native grasses and sedges in your planting can also help reduce erosion.

What are some ways I can tackle and prevent the spread of invasive species in my yard, like garlic mustard? What about grubs?

It is helpful to mulch native plantings in landscapes where there is a high risk of invasive species to prevent establishment from seed. More frequent weeding will also be beneficial. To stop the spread of invasive species like garlic mustard, it is important to remove it before it blooms. Small infestations may be controlled by repeatedly pulling plants in the spring. Large infestations may be mowed several times in a season to kill plants and prevent seeding. Be sure to mow invasive plants before they bloom.

Native plants are resilient, but grubs can pose a threat to roots of native plants when they are first establishing. We’d recommend avoiding planting in areas that you know are heavily infested with grubs. You could try a pocket planting or a tree planting in an area that has been less impacted by grubs in your yard.

What are some strategies for incorporating native plants in a yard that is used by dogs?

Trees and shrubs planted in masses are helpful in landscapes where dogs may damage plantings. Turf alternatives are generally not recommended for areas used by dogs. Plant with your dog in mind – choose spaces that your dog does not frequent as often. You can mulch areas that get a lot of dog traffic to keep compaction down, but those areas won’t be a good fit for adding native plants.

How can I tell apart my new native plants from weeds?

Label where you plant your plugs or seeds. Popsicle sticks can work well for this. We share more tips in our All About Weeds Zine and plant identification blog post. 

How long do I water for to get to one inch of water?

We recommend putting out a watering gauge or even a tin can to catch the water and tell you how much the plants have received. For more maintenance tips, check out this blog post.

Can you recommend your favorite weeding tools? My knees, back, and hands hurt just thinking about hand pulling!

Long-handled tools can be helpful. For more tips on how to take care of your body while gardening, check out this Accessible Gardening Guide.

How do we provide evidence that we maintained our planting for three years? What if you move within three years?

We do not require evidence of this, it is more of a commitment on your end to maintain your new project. We ask that you communicate the importance of the garden/planting to the new homeowner and ask they keep it. But you’re not responsible for what they decide to do.

When should I plant in the fall?

If you are a fall grantee, check out our blog post on fall planting. If you are planting seeds, wait until later in the fall (October 15th or later) unless there is good soil moisture. Planting seeds mid-fall should be avoided because this creates the risk of seeds germinating and growing into small seedlings that have a lower chance of surviving through the winter. Seeding right before the first option is a great option because it prevents birds and rodents from eating the seeds.

Project Reimbursement

What needs to be filled out in order to be reimbursed?

After your project is completed, you will need to fill out this form.

You will need your before and after pictures and your receipts. If your receipt does not list the scientific name, please take photos of your plant tags so we can identify the plants.

Why did I not get the full amount I requested?

Our team carefully goes through each receipt and image to determine the reimbursement amount. It is your responsibility to make sure your items are eligible for reimbursement. If your full request was not approved, staff will include an explanation in your email notification.

Why hasn’t my check arrived yet?

We ask for your patience when waiting for reimbursement. Our team personally goes through each entry and reviews it for approval. As the timeline gets closer to the deadline, there will be a longer delay in getting requests approved. After requests are approved, checks are written and sent out.

Miscellaneous Questions

What do I do if I receive a grant, but no longer can complete a project?

You can email us at L2Lhelp@bluethumb.org to request an extension or ask us to remove you from the list. 

Where can I sign up for email updates on L2L?

If you are a current Lawns to Legumes grantee, you should be receiving regular email newsletters from Blue Thumb. If you are not receiving emails or would like to update your email address with us, let us know at l2lhelp@bluethumb.org.

If you want to be informed of application windows for future Lawns to Legumes cohorts, you can sign up for email notifications from the Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources.

If you’d like to receive general updates from Blue Thumb and Metro Blooms, you can sign up for the monthly Metro Blooms email newsletter.

Once a habitat is established at a residence, is it protected by law?

As of July 2023, a new state law requires cities to allow managed natural and native landscaping. The law enables landowners to maintain managed natural landscapes in excess of 8 inches in height. Managed natural landscapes do not include turf-grass lawns left unattended for the purpose of returning to a natural state. More information here.

We ask all project participants to agree to maintain their plantings for at least three years to the extent possible. In the event that a resident sells their If you sell your residence, we ask that you communicate the intent of the landscape with the new resident and let us know you are moving so we can also share information about its importance and how to manage it with the new owner.

Can I apply again for another grant?

At this time, we are not awarding second grants until everyone who applied has received one. Thank you for your interest! We hope you will still continue adding pollinator habitat to your space.

Where can I learn more about the Minnesota state bee, the rusty patched bumble bee?

The Minnesota Board of Water and Soil Resources has a RPBB fact sheet.