Garden Photo of the Day

Passion in the Prairie

By Kim Charles

Benjamin Vogt from Nebraska, has made the bold transformation of going from lawn to designed prairie beds, resulting in high beauty with low maintenance.

"In the fall of 2014 I converted unused front lawn to designed prairie beds using 100% native plants to eastern Nebraska. Then, in the fall of 2015 I scalped and dethatched my back lawn. I overseeded with prairie grasses and flowers and used about 150 plugs.

This year both gardens are flourishing in unwatered, unfertilized, unamended clay soil. On my 1/4 acre lot I have 5,000 square feet of gardens! Almost all of it gets a March cut down and that's it for maintenance."

For more pics check out my blog, The Deep Middle, at

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  1. user-7007498 07/14/2017

    Good morning, Benjamin. I thoroughly enjoyed your photos and read through a portion of your blog. I am impressed with efforts to return your entire yard into a native prairie garden. I can see from one of your photos, that you live in a typical suburban neighborhood, so I am sure you have taken some heat for this.

    I couldn't agree more that we have to learn to live with nature, and support the wildlife around us. The first way is to encourage people to significantly reduce turfgrass. Next is to stop the use of pesticides and herbicides. I took this approach about 10 years ago, and my garden looks great. The predator/prey relationship keeps things in check.

    I have incorporated many native plants, but also have found that many of our pollinators also flourish on non-native cultivars as well . I appreciate and respect your efforts.

    Well done, and thanks for sharing your beautiful garden. I would have loved to see a photo of the garden and your home from the street.

    1. BVogt 07/14/2017

      No heat yet. Ironically, it was a neighbor reporting us to county weed control for tall front lawn and some dandelion seed heads that led to my desire for the front garden. I was careful though: nothing taller than 4', nothing taller than 2' within 6' of the sidewalk, masses and drifts, no more than 2-3 species blooming at one time, a lawn path up the middle, leaving the hellstrip in lawn to tie in with neighborhood as you round the corner, etc.

      1. grannieannie1 07/15/2017

        Why can you only have "no more than 2-3 species blooming at one time"? Why not "the more the merrier" when it comes to flowers?

        1. BVogt 07/16/2017

          The goal is not to visually overwhelm people who don't care for gardening, gardens, or the "wilder" look in lawn-kept suburbia. If you have 10 species blooming at once it may easily look wild, messy, and chaotic -- especially in a smaller front yard. That's the strategy.

          1. grannieannie1 07/17/2017

            Oh dear! That makes it very tricky trying to do something creative. I hope the neighbors can be won over from their rigid monoculture to a more interesting landscape.

  2. DarliBarli 07/14/2017

    Benjamin, You are being too modest; I know how much work it is to establish this gorgeous prairie look and keep the grass from taking over the first few years. It is truly beautiful...and inspiring!

    1. BVogt 07/14/2017

      In the front beds the biggest issue was we didn't cut the sod deep enough when we removed it, so clumps kept coming back. But that was just the first year. Out back, it was foxtail last year, but I kept it deadheaded so it wouldn't seed. Otherwise, not too, bad, really. My neighbor has tons of eastern red cedars and I do get lots of seedlings in the back meadow.

  3. Chris_N 07/14/2017

    Keep up the good work, Benjamin. Even if we don't convince people to go full prairie, encouraging them to use more natives can only help. Love the bee on the purple prairie clover.

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 07/14/2017

    After reading some of your blog, the lightbulb went off for me that you are the Benjamin Vogt who writes many interesting articles for Houzz... correct? You are obviously a thoughtful and thought filled person who feels passionately about the benefits of creating and maintaining a prairie garden. I admire your commitment and desire to spread the word. Ironically, for as much as I may moan and groan about weeding and mulching, I enjoy that kind of active participation in nurturing my garden areas. Thank you for sharing your photos and giving me food for thought.

    1. BVogt 07/14/2017

      Yes, that's me on Houzz! 180 articles and 4 years of writing. :)

  5. wanitaleonard 07/14/2017

    A true visionary and an inspiration to us all. We all need to do more to live in harmony with nature and not try to conquer it and make it conform to our unrealistic standards. Our ecosystem, our planet, depends on it. Take care of it, it'll take care of us.

  6. grannieannie1 07/14/2017

    I vote for turning huge lawns into wildflowers or any kind of flower/mixed greenery for that matter. Thank you for posting these photos which may encourage others in that direction.

  7. thevioletfern 07/14/2017

    You are my hero! I wish there was so so so much more of this in our neighborhoods. Love that Purple Prairie Clover. Keep up the good fight. I know your garden is truly alive and that is the payback. Are your neighbors on board, at least curious?

  8. dianeturnerforristall 07/14/2017

    I just posted questions on your blog page. I recognized you from Houzz articles too! I'm trying to start some prairie sections in our rural landscape. I'll be following you!

    1. user-7007140 07/14/2017

      I also am interested. Please can you give the blog address?

      1. BVogt 07/15/2017

        It is linked above with the pics. ;)

  9. sheila_schultz 07/14/2017

    Aside from the natural beauty of a prairie garden, I can only imagine the amazing sounds greeting you every morning as you open your doors or windows. What a wonderful gift for nature and neighbors both! Like Kevin, I'm pretty amazed you didn't get loads of grief from surrounding homeowners! Lucky them for being your neighbor!

  10. User avater
    treasuresmom 07/14/2017

    I read your blog when you first started with this. It is amazing. Do you call it "finished"?

    1. BVogt 07/14/2017

      Nature is never finished. The gardens are meant to evolve. Some plants will vanish, others will slowly establish. Each year will be subtly new and exciting for me and wildlife.

  11. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 07/14/2017

    I've watched you develop your natural preserve over the past few years. I bet the pollinators and local wildlife have a field day.

  12. cynthiamccain 07/14/2017

    It's beautiful, Benjamin, and what I originally planned for our garden before I lost my nerve (it would have been the only one of its kind in our very "lawn centric" neighborhood). So I became the poster child for DLS (disappearing lawn syndrome) and continue to turn turf into island beds. I would love to see more photos of your personal prairie!

  13. user-7008755 07/14/2017

    We are also going full native in landscaping. All house beds are or will soon be natives, out back acre is a native Prairie Grass and forb planting and on out farm we have converted 12 acres to Native Grasses, forbs and pollinators.

  14. greengenes 07/14/2017

    Good morning Been jammin! Love what you did to your yards! How freeing from mowing and edging and watering and weeding! Simply beautiful! youve been jammin!

  15. user-7007140 07/14/2017

    I see there is a web address on some of your photographs, Benjamin. Your decision to "go native" is wonderful. I have grown large patches of wildflowers for several years and love them. The biggest expense that we found was preparation of the soil plus the huge quantity of seed. The plan was to collect our own seed and expand the flower areas but in fact we just leave the flowers to self seed with whatever the birds and small creatures do not consume over the autumn/winter.
    We have lots of coneflowers, black eyed Susan, some dianthus and gaillarda plus ( a problem) enormous quantities of golden rod. Beloved by bees, we even had a nest in the basement! So I guess the experiment served its purpose.
    Good luck with spreading the word.

  16. NCYarden 07/14/2017

    Yes, less lawn. Right on with the natural preservation and development. The wildlife surely is wildly ecstatic. Cool approach to the garden.

  17. hontell 07/14/2017

    I love it, i have too much shade, but someday i will have my NJ prairie. Keep up the good work.

    1. BVogt 07/14/2017

      You can have a fantastic shade meadow, too! Tons of native plants for shade, even dry shade.

  18. user-7008735 07/14/2017

    Lovely photos of your prairie full of pollinators, Benjamin! There's so much joy to be found in providing a feast and drawing creatures, big and small, to a safe habitat. In the coastal rainforest of BC, Canada, I get a thrill every spring when the buds of Ribes sanguineum (Red flowering currant) start to swell and I know the Rufus hummingbirds are making their way up the coast to arrive when it flowers in mid-March.

  19. Cenepk10 07/14/2017

    Just watched Gardeners World @50 - Gentleman showing how important these prairies are Insect wise- must be natives to draw the right mix. Even the aphids were welcomed. Very interesting to see your lovely garden.

  20. user-6536305 07/15/2017

    Supper pretty for such a low maintenance garden. Thanks for sharing.

  21. susan749 07/16/2017

    Beautiful! My friend and neighbor here in SE Michigan has a prairie in her front yard in our rural area and the contrast between her yard and the ugly huge lawns of her neighbors is just amazing. Me, I live in the woods so my native plant gardens are different than prairie but equally lovely. I do in some have a mix of natives and non-natives.

  22. User avater
    gringopeligroso 07/20/2017

    Mr. Vogt!
    A bit late to respond....hard drive is asking to retire....
    So, just a quick note to first off to say how much I LOVE the native bee on the Purple Prairie Clover bloom (?) above!! Nice capture and wish I had taken that one! (And, need to re-introduce some of those back onto these pastures.)
    But mostly, just wanted to say thank you! I checked out your blog as did others and spent some serious time there exploring various topics! Learned a few things and also reminisced some feelings which tend to become buried in our modern schedules. While there poking around, i noticed a badge, or whatever they call it, for Plantsmap. Curious, I clicked on it and was surprised. After exploring That place for a bit, I signed up and have been trying it out. I believe this is the solution I've been looking for for some time and after a couple of false starts elsewhere. The folks who designed and offer that think and organize along the same lines as my olde brain!! So, whether you use it yourself, or perhaps you allow a bit of billboard space on your fine vehicle, you've provided me with lead for a product I've been needing for some time! (Perhaps with this endorsement, you can charge a bit more pocket change for sporting their logo? Just a thought!)
    Again, thanx and nice work..both above and on your personal pages!!

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