Managed Natural Landscapes
Natural Plantings in the Residential, Commercial, and Industrial Landscape
The City Council has approved a new ordinance permitting Managed Natural Landscapes in residential areas provided these landscapes are planned, intentional, and maintained. The ordinance defines a Managed Natural Landscape as a planting of native: grasses, wildflowers, forbs, ferns, sedges, rushes, shrubs and trees.
- rain gardens
- meadow vegetation including wet meadows, wetlands, and prairie plant communities
- ornamental plantings
Managed Natural Landscapes do not include traditional turf lawns which have been left unattended or areas containing noxious or aggressive non-native plants, such as reed canary grass, European buckthorn, or Japanese knotweed.
To learn more about noxious and aggressive plants, please refer to the Minnesota Noxious Weed List.
Introducing native plants to residential areas can provide critical habitat for pollinators, hibernating animals, and birds feeding on insects and seeds throughout the winter months. They can also help to create wildlife-friendly corridors that help animals travel from one natural area to the next.
Native plantings benefit water quality, too. Native plants typically have deeper root systems which help to retain soil much more effectively than turf grasses. They also require less fertilizer which can runoff lawns into water bodies causing algal blooms and harming wildlife.
Human Community Benefits
The economic benefits of a Managed Natural Landscape are multiple: native plants require much less irrigation, fertilizer, and chemical intervention as they are adapted to the local environment - unlike most turf grasses. They also require less maintenance than a typical turf lawn: managed natural landscapes require removal of undesired plants, such as invasive and woody species with little maintenance in between. Preparing your natural area for winter is even simpler: dormant vegetation can be left in place to provide high quality habitat to wintering animals including native bees and butterflies.
Image courtesy of The Nature Conservancy.
Set Back Requirements
Managed Natural Landscapes can be planted in most areas with a few exceptions. A set back of two feet along the side and rear lot lines of your property is required. This requirement can be waived if:
- A fence at least five feet tall is installed on the border of your landscaped area – this fence must include at least 25% open space from bottom to top to be compliant with existing fencing requirements
- The Managed Natural Landscape directly abuts a natural landscape area such as a wetland, pond, lake, stream, or an officially designated wildlife or natural area
- Your neighbor agrees the set back requirement can be waived along your shared property line
- The installation includes a raingarden or other stormwater best management practice – these are exempt from set back rules
The set back between your managed natural landscape and your property boundary can be composed of mowed turf grass, bee lawn, low-mow fescue, mulch, or another pervious ground cover.
Right-of-Way and Easement Requirements
Managed Natural Areas also cannot be placed in any drainage or utility easement, road right-of-way, or immediately adjacent to a driveway or road intersection if the Managed Natural Landscape interferes with motorist’s views or use of the easement for its intended use.
Right-of-way areas vary from property to property. To get an idea of where the right-of-way may be located on your property, use the Ramsey County Interactive Property Map.
Drainage and utility easements may also vary property to property. Most properties have at least a 5 foot side and ten foot rear easement, however some may have more easement area. To find more information on drainage and utility easements, use the Ramsey County Survey Map. Once you’ve found your property on the map, check the box next to “Plats” to turn on the Plat information layer. Click on the Plat surrounding your property and click the “More Info” link. A new tab will open – this page shows where drainage and utility easements were marked at development planning.
Although a Managed Natural Landscape featuring trees, shrubs, or tall vegetation is not permitted, it is still possible to plant non-woody native vegetation in drainage and utility easements and rights-of-way – just beware that these plants could be disturbed during regular snow clearing, street sweeping, utility improvement, or street construction operations. The City of Vadnais Heights and private utilities are not responsible for, nor will replace any plants or landscaping placed within the right-of-way.
If you’re thinking of installing a managed natural landscape close to the road, make sure it won’t interfere with drivers’ lines of sight. Any area of your property within intersection sight triangles (the areas of your property drivers and pedestrians need to see over to spot oncoming traffic) must not contain plants or structures taller than 30 inches.
If you’re thinking of converting your right-of-way to native plants our Right-of-Way Planting Guide below is a great place to start. The Guide features a list of non-woody plants that grow to a maximum height of lesser than or equal to 30 inches to jump start your planning.
Before you plant, it’s a good idea to confirm that your plan follows the rules. The City of Vadnais Heights requests you contact a city official for a Plan Review before installing a Managed Natural Landscape. Submit your plan below and a city official will review your document and determine if you are in compliance with all rules and requirements before you plant, preventing costly mix-ups.
- The Minnesota DNR native landscaping page features lists of native plant suppliers and landscapers, a Native Plant Encyclopedia, and more.
- Vadnais Lake Area Watershed Management Organization Practical Plantings Guide (PDF): native groundcovers, trees, shrubs, bunch grasses and perennial flowers for low-maintenance yards.
- Vadnais Lake Area Watershed Management Organization Wet Soil Planting Guide (PDF): native and non-invasive naturalized plants that can tolerate low areas, ditches, and floodplains.
- The U of M Extension Resources page features tips for gardening in challenging landscapes like slopes and in dry shady areas. Recommendations for pollinator gardens and trees and shrubs are also available on this page.
- The Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District provides resources on drought tolerant native plants and turf grass alternatives.
Opportunities for Funding
- Lawns to Legumes provides workshops, coaching, planting guides and cost-share funding for installing pollinator-friendly native plantings in residential lawns.
- Ramsey-Washington Metro Watershed District Stewardship Grants help to fund improvements benefitting water quality and natural resources for those within the Ramsey Washington Metro Watershed District.
- Vadnais Lake Area Watershed Management Organization Landscape Grants are available for projects that reduce stormwater runoff and flooding, prevent erosion, and reduce pollutants entering waterways for those within the Vadnais Lake Area Watershed Management Area.