Mowing to Monarchs

Mowing to Monarchs (JPG)

Mowing to Monarchs (M2M) is a program established by the Dubuque County Conservation Board and the Dubuque County Master Gardeners. The M2M program provides accessible training & information and an experience base to guide urban and suburban homeowners in successfully adding high-value native plants into their yards. The program offers a combination of workshops, private coaching, planting guides, and funding for native pollinator planting in lawns. 

It's spreading across neighborhoods!

In just three years, 180 Dubuque County Land owners have converted almost 120,000 square feet of turf grass to prairie.  There may be participants right in YOUR neighborhood!

Check out this participant map

Interested in Joining Us?

Participant requirements

  • Must be a Dubuque County Landowner
  • Map of Property - Plan for how the property will be used
  • 3 Year Commitment - Sleep..Creep...Leap
  • Adequate Site Condition -Well drained.
  • Communicate - Learning process.  Must be willing to let the coaching team study your planting.

The Process

  • Site prep is key
  • Plant delivery
  • Garden Layout - Your Shape, Your Design
  • Monitor your Plot
  • Education
  • Ask questions and share your success

Get Inspired

Once established, prairie plantings are very hardy, resistant to the invasion of most weeds, and drought resistant. However, the sleep, creep, leap philosophy is one that holds true for the plants provided in the Mowing to Monarchs program. In the first year the plants are sleeping and establishing some root systems, in the second year they creep stretching further into the soil and in the third year, they leap with root systems in excess of 6 feet down into the earth.  Picture3

See What Dubuque Conservation is Doing

Along with restored prairies in wildlife management areas we manage, Dubuque County Conservation has implemented a plan to decrease the amount of turf grass in our parks and convert it to prairie. The goal is for 5 acres of prairie for the next 3 years. Although these areas may be small compared to other natural or restored prairies we manage, every little pocket of increased habitat for wildlife, pollinators specifically, is important. During this conversion of grass to prairie, the process isn't always a perfect transition. 


Prairies usually establish in a 3-step growth system of sleep, creep, and leap. In the 1st year of planting prairie, it "sleeps" and it looks as though nothing is happening and nothing is growing. However, plants are putting all their energy into establishing their root system underground. In the 2nd year, the prairie "creeps", this is when we start noticing more leaves and flowers popping up. The root system has become big enough that energy can be transferred to above-ground growth. The 3rd year, the prairie "leaps", and comes to life. The plants have become acclimated to the environment and are in full bloom and beautiful. While this 3-step process seems direct, some plant species may take 3-5 years to reach their full potential growth. Being patient is the key with prairie plantings. In 2022 we converted areas located in Mud Lake, Little Maquoketa River Mounds, Graf Park, and Bankston Park.  Stay on the lookout for our new plantings!


Ready to Get Started?

Dubuque County residents can apply to be awarded a predefined mix of prairie plant plugs or seeds (the equivalent of up to $250/household).for establishing a pollinator habitat in their yard. 

There are two forms of individual landowner grants:

  • Native Pockets: 

    A native pocket is roughly between 100-130 square feet of turf converted to native species. There are three native pocket options.
    • Full Sun Pocket: 130 sq ft. Plants up to ~36" tall. 81 plants in total. A mix of 16 flowers. This pocket requires 6 hours or more of direct sunlight. 
    • Hellstrip Full Sun Pocket: 100 sq ft, Plants up to ~24'' tall. 78 plants in total. A mix of 16 flowers. This low-growing pocket is suitable for smaller yards in urban settings between the sidewalk and the curb. 
    • Hellstrip Partial Shade Pocket" 100 sq ft. Plants up to ~24" tall. A mix of flowers. Site requirements are 1 hour of unfiltered sunlight and 3-4 of filtered sunlight. 
  • Prairie Meadow:

    A prairie meadow is a turf conversion using prairie seeds. Meadows are best suited for larger areas up to 2 acres in size. The process takes longer to establish than the pocket prairies but can cover more diverse slopes and large areas.

Funding for M2M Round 4 has closed. Apply to be notified as soon as the next funding cycle begins.

For further information on Mowing to Monarchs resources developed by Dubuque County Master Gardeners click here