This series is made possible by the support of Friends of the Big Sioux River. They're celebrating Earth Day with the Big Sioux Brew and a river clean-up event. Details here.

Simplified: An Augustana student has created easy-to-use kits to help people create plots of native prairie – including native grasses and flowers – in their backyards throughout the city. Meet Mia Werger.

Why it matters

  • The prairie is an important part of our ecosystem, and even small plots of native grasses and flowers can help get nutrients to the soil, sequester carbon and prevent flooding, Werger said.
  • Compared to the typical short lawn grass, longer prairie grasses and flowers require less maintenance, less watering and have deeper roots to help the soil soak up more water and nutrients.
  • Werger knows she's far from the only person thinking about prairie restoration, but she wanted to find a way to make it really easy for people to play a role in that process.  She said she gets asked by people how they can do more with their lawns to help prevent climate change.
"I just wanted to see how easy I could make it for people to take even a tiny section of their lawn and make it into something that would be beneficial for the environment," Werger said.

Tell me more about Mia

Werger grew up in Minneapolis, and when she was a young teen, she created a small plot of prairie in her parents' backyard.

As a student at Augustana, she became involved with the university's sustainability club as well as the City of Sioux Falls' sustainability steering committee.

So, when it came time to decide on her senior honors project, she knew she wanted to do something related to the environment and sustainability. That's when she decided to create the prairie kits.

Tell me more about the kits

Werger's DIY prairie kits include:

  • Enough seeds to furnish a 100-square-foot plot (10x10) with native grasses,
  • An instructional booklet for how to start and care for the plot,
  • A lawn sign to help explain to neighbors and passers-by why a section of lawn looks different than the typical short, green turf,
  • And a sticker.

The kit all comes in a bag made out of recycled banners donated by Augustana's theater department.

What are the benefits of native prairie in your lawn?

Ecoson Prairie Farms Chairperson Carter Johnson said he's had a buffalo grass backyard for about a decade.

  • He said native plants (including both grasses and flowers) have several benefits.
"I mow maybe two or three times per year," Johnson said. "And you save money because you don't need to water and you don't need to mow as much."

The prairie flowers and grasses can also create habitats for native insects and bees, Werger said.

What happens next?

Werger is graduating in May, but she still has a few kits left.

Her hope is that she's created a model for making environmental lawns easy, and she's looking for a person or organization to take over her project after she's done with the semester.

"It's simple, not that expensive, and it works," Werger said. "It should be really easy to replicate."