The dust of numerous residential and commercial construction sites around town may put a haze in the air, but that same dirt-filled dust points to a crystal clear future for landscapers one of prosperity.
"Things are great. The economy is strong here in Minot and we've been able to start earlier this year, so it looks like this could be one of our best years yet and we've been around for a really long time like 50 years," said Tom Aasen, who owns Aasens Landscaping with his brother Don.
A strong agricultural base, a recent increase in Air Force personnel at Minot Air Force Base and the ever-growing presence of the oil industry in Minot in recent years has translated into a construction boom on both the residential and commercial fronts.
Since 2006, the evaluation of all permits issued by the city inspection department has fluctuated between $60 million and $80 million per year, nearly double the historical average. In 2008 and 2009 alone, 302 single-family homes, 118 townhouses and condos and 346 apartment units were built within the city limits.
What does each of these properties need? Grass.
That's where the landscapers come in.
"For the last three years a majority of our work, probably 90 percent, has been doing retaining walls or sodding at new homes and putting in yards at condos and apartments," said Travis Nelson, son of Randy Nelson, who started Nelson and Sons Landscaping 18 years ago.
"Last year with the economy being bad and a new president in office, people were a little anxious about things, but this year you can see the relief in all aspects of life," Don Aasen said. "We're seeing a lot more people putting down sod, it's really taking off. Hydroseeding is still very popular because it is so cheap, but more people are willing to put down the extra cash for sod because of all the benefits."
While the new construction in town has provided landscapers steady work, the strong local economy has also enabled existing homeowners to put in long-awaited landscaping projects.
"We've seen a shift recently from people having strictly a patio to people putting in outdoor kitchens and putting in outdoor seating and firepits in pavement," Nelson said. "With the green (movement) people have been getting away from woods and moving toward brick because of its longevity."
"Because of the weather here a lot of people like to keep it simple, but even those people are putting in more trees and shrubs," Tom Aasen added.
With the recent string of unseasonably warm weather, the do-it-yourself landscapers have come out alongside the professional landscaper in the search of a prettier yard.
But do-it-yourselfers be warned.
"If you are going to do it yourself, do the research and know what you're doing, otherwise it's going to heave in the winter or be on unlevel ground and that's not going to be stable," said Diann Beckman, horticulture instructor at Dakota College at Bottineau.
Before starting a landscaping project, she advises gardeners to follow these tips: Have a general plan before you start, then start small, research the needs of your favorite plants and choose their placement in the garden accordingly and to always use mulch available in both the organic and traditional form which alleviates problems with weeds, helps retain moisture and keeps the soil temperature cool.
Those planting trees also need to take special consideration.
Ash trees, a popular fix to the Dutch elm disease of the 1980s, are now at risk as the emerald ash borer, an emerald green Asian beetle that feeds on parts of the tree, which are making their way across the United States. Since the beetle's introduction in Michigan in 2002 it has destroyed tens of millions of trees from Pennsylvania and New York to Minnesota, where it was discovered in a St. Paul neighborhood last year.
"There are new elms that are resistant to Dutch elm disease and they are bringing in new oak tree varieties in the next couple of years, but people still need to be careful about what they plant. Diversity and knowledge is key," Beckman said. "When putting in trees, make sure you know if they are hardy not only to weather but the pH conditions in the soil. Red maple will not grow here, but will grow in Minnesota because they have a totally different pH level in their soils."