Garden in the News

The Fond du Lac Reporter 06/16/2014, Page A01



By Sharon Roznik |
 Action Reporter Media The sounds of shovels digging deep into hard-packed earth could be heard Saturday along the shores of the Fond du Lac River at Lakeside Park West. Bridget Oelke knelt down and tucked the soil around a young black-eyed Susan plant, while behind her a mother duck and her ducklings floated by. 

“I’ve lived on Lake Winnebago since 1973,” Oelke said. “For me, it’s a source of comfort from life’s stress and problems. That’s why I care about its health.” 

Environmentalists gathered at the park May 14 to plant a demonstration prairie garden that will educate people about how they can help improve water quality in the lake and surrounding watershed. 

A 120-foot strip of land was prepared and mulched by the City of Fond du Lac to welcome a variety of prairie shrubs and flowers. Native plants send down deep roots — as deep as 10-feet — that filter water running into aquifers, streams and other waterways. 

Native plants will also provide valu 

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Bridget Oelke of the Lake Winnebago Quality Improvement Association and a Lake Winnebago shore resident, plants black-eyed Susan at Lakeside Park West on Saturday. SHARON ROZNIK/ACTION REPORTER MEDIA 

Patrick Miller, Fond du Lac County invasive species coordinator, and Nicole Aasby of Fond du Lac place prairie plants along the Fond du Lac River at Lakeside Park West on Saturday. The project will help deter invasive species and soil erosion. SHARON ROZNIK/ACTION REPORTER MEDIA 

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able habitat for birds and butterflies and are easy to maintain once they are established. To prepare for planting the prairie, volunteers cut invasive Japanese knotweed in an effort to eliminate it from that area of the river. 

Working together 

The project is a collaboration of the Lake Winnebago Quality Improvement Association of Fond du Lac County, Lake Winnebago Clean Waters Project, Master Gardeners and Gottfried Arboretum and Prairie. 

The garden features shrubs, grasses and 17 varieties of flowers. Volunteers rolled up their sleeves to plant more than 350 items such as prairie dropseed, chokeberry and St. John’s wort — a plant Native Americans used for its healing properties, said Tracy McDermott, executive director of the Gottfried Arboretum at the University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac. 

“The hope is that people will visit the prairie and get ideas for their own yards,” McDermott said. Patrick Miller, Fond du Lac County aquatic invasive species coordinator, described the garden as “very much a start-to-finish invasive species controller.” 

“It’s great to see a collaboration like this; people working together to restore shoreline by keeping soil intact,” Miller said. “It’s through education we can stop erosion from happening, even reverse years of damage.” 

Ellen Balthazor, president of the Lake Association and a member of the Clean Waters team, said the groups are trying to raise countywide awareness of problems such as algae bloom, pesticides, fertilizer run-off and fish lines in the lake. The group was awarded a grant to work on water quality issues that make lakes less attractive, affect fish and other aquatic life, and destroy habitat. 

The group has established fish line recycling depositories at 10 locations in the county and hosted a variety of educational events. There are plans to put a rain garden at the Fond du Lac Public Library and host a program on the pros of rain barrels. Something as simple as planting a tree will help Fond du Lac’s watershed, Balthazor said. “We want to present a positive campaign to citizens and farmers and businesses that will lead people into action,” she said. “Definitely people are not doing enough and we want to teach them to use less fertilizer, put buffers between lawns and the lake, leave the grass a little longer — all these things will help the future of our water.” 

Bright future 

With a blueprint of the garden laid out before her, Connie Ramthun, owner of Kettle Moraine Natural Landscaping in Campbellsport, strategically placed plants along the river’s edge. She chose native prairie plants that would take well to a clay/loam soil. 

“With any runoff along the shoreline all these types of plants will absorb the pesticides and wick the water deep down, avoiding the river and the lake,” Ramthun said. In a couple of years visitors will be able to enjoy a full prairie in bloom. Information will be posted to identify species and explain the garden’s impact. 

Environmental interest is growing, Balthazor said, and people are stepping forward to contribute to cleaner water, to make a difference. “If everyone did something small it would add up,” she said. “Everyone would benefit a lot.” Donations are being accepted to support more native gardens in Fond du Lac. 

Contact Sharon Roznik at or(920) 907-7936; on Twitter:@sharonroznik. 


Matthew Klein of Fond du Lac digs into hard soil at Lakeside Park West Saturday as he plants native prairie species along the Fond du Lac River. SHARON RONZIK/ACTION REPORTER MEDIA 

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