Heidi Heiland's newest garden isn't underneath the rain chain by her garage, alongside the walking path at the side of her house or beside the bee boxes in the back. It's floating out on Gleason Lake.
"I have a mix of natives and other cultivars on this island," says Heiland. "All of these plants are typical of what you might see in a rain garden."
A 100-square-foot island serves many functions. The plants appeal to most creatures: They look good to humans; they also attract birds and bugs above and fish below. But there is another creature the plants work to deter: algae.
"The plants that are on the BioHaven eat the nutrients in the water, and therefore those nutrients don’t turn into algealblooms," says Heiland. "So it helps combat that problem."
The island hasn't been here for years. In fact, it pretty much showed up overnight. That's because it's man-made.
It's called a "BioHaven Floating Island" and the base of it is made of recycled water and soda bottles. Heiland bought it from a St. Paul-based company called Midwest Floating Island, which is licensed to make and sell BioHaven Floating Islands.
The material comes in a giant roll. The company sizes and shapes the material based on what the customer wants it to accomplish.
Arlys Freeman, president of Midwest Floating Island, says there are a variety of benefits to a floating island, including, "nutrient or pollution removal. They’re used for habitat creation, beautification, beautification, wave attenuation or shoreline erosion."
Holes are punched in the material where plants will be inserted. Finally, marine grade foam is injected into the material to make the island float.
Heiland isn't just a customer. Her company, Heidi's Lifestyle Gardens, has partnered with Midwest Floating Island.
"We hand select horticulturally appropriate plant materials," says Heiland. "We install them onsite next to the shore and we walk them out with waders or a canoe. And you tether them down with anchors to keep them in place."
Freeman says you should check with your Sheriff's Department, watershed district or with the state Department of Natural Resources for permission before installing a floating island. The DNR says any floating structure larger than eight feet wide would need a permit.
The island structure costs $32 a square foot, not including the plants. The island stays out all year long and sprouts in the spring like any other garden.
Unlike most gardens, however, this one doesn't require watering.
August 17, 2012