What are your Covid safety precautions? With all Open Yards activities taking place out-of-doors and with so many people vaccinated, we believe the risk of infection is low. Still, St. Louis Open Yards takes the safety of our landscape hosts and their visitors seriously, and we suggest all visitors wear face masks. More importantly, you are visiting gardens on private property and must be respectful of the requirements of each landowner. Any specific host requirements will be included in the landscape registration correspondence.

What if it rains the day of our registration? This is an outdoor activity, and you should dress for the weather, including rain. Should the weather turn severe, please seek safety, and we will follow-up with you and the hosts regarding a possible re-scheduling.

Are the landscapes safe for the elderly and those with balance issues? Our hosts have worked very hard to minimize the risk of slip and fall due to uneven or slippery surfaces or trip hazards. Known issues that could not be addressed may be labeled. Landscapes that include especially challenging slopes will be noted in their listing. Do remain vigilant during your visit and recognize there is still a minor, though real, risk.

Do you have landscapes that are ADA accessible? Our search engine includes a tag for “wheelchair accessible.” Landscapes that are only partially accessible will be noted in their listing. If neither is indicated, please assume the landscape is not suitable for a wheelchair.

Can I bring my children, and if so, is there a fee? Generally, children are welcome and those 17 and under are free, but registration is required. Should a listing’s booking not include a place to account for children, the owner does not believe their yard appropriate for young people. During your visit, please be respectful of the host and other visitors and insure the children are under your supervision at all times.

Will bathrooms be available on-site? While some hosts might allow access, they are not encouraged to do so, and you should assume the bathroom is not accessible. Please plan accordingly.

Native bee on Silky Aster by Mitch Leachman

Will there be stinging insects present in these landscapes? Should we be concerned? In short, yes and no. There are hundreds of species of native bees in our region and plenty more species of wasps. They are beautiful and very interesting, and these native plant landscapes provide them essential food for their survival. Yet, their presence should not be cause for alarm. Generally, such insects only sting when they are swatted or feel threatened. Native landscapers routinely work in their gardens right alongside bees and wasps without incident. In fact, most all hospital visits for insect stings are due to people getting too close to non-native honeybee hives or yellow-jacket wasp nests. Any landscape with honeybee hives will be noted in the listing. The Bee Basics Booklet by the US Forest Service and Pollinator Partnership is highly informative.

What about dogs? Will leashed dogs be allowed? Out of respect for the host and other visitors, please leave your dog or other pet at home. Similarly, the hosts have been asked to keep any pets indoors or within enclosures separated from visitors.

We saw non-native plants during our visit. We thought this program was all about native plants. The Open Yards mission is to inspire people to garden with native plants. We believe a key to doing so is to show how native plants can be used alongside typical non-native plants. There is no “requirement” to discard all existing ornamental plants to get started with native landscaping. Some call this “conservation by addition.”

I would like to open my landscape through the program. How do I get started? Just send us a note through our contact form and indicate your interest in hosting. We will get back to you promptly to discuss your landscape, review the program and answer your questions, and consider how best to proceed.

Why is there a fee and where does the money go? Registration revenue and sponsorships cover program costs such as website development and maintenance, program coordination, insurance and host support (e.g. yard signs). After expenses are paid, the remaining revenue is returned to the community through our network of charities. We believe material support to non-profits serving our region is just as important in building community as the healthy environment these native landscapes help create.

How were the benefiting charities selected? The Open Yards committee solicited favorite charities from our initial round of yard hosts; they were encouraged to think broadly and not limit their choices to the environmental arena. We are proud of the diversity of the initial selections, covering food security, health access, animal welfare, legal services and more. We anticipate reviewing the list each winter, seek input from new hosts and gather feedback from visitors.