Landscaper Benjamin Vogt would love to see homeowners try a new approach in their yards.
One that will be better suited for the climate of the future, with its warmer days and nights and longer stretches without rain.
Ditch the high-maintenance features of many of today’s yards, he says, and opt instead for a landscape of a different kind.
“We all seek refuge and beauty in forests and mountains and prairies — why not bring that home, if even in a more cultivated and manicured way?” he says.
Instead of wood-mulched beds with widely spaced plants, Vogt suggests using more native plants and in layers, just as you would see in nature. By using low and well-behaved varieties, he said, the landscape can look intentional and inviting.
Carpets of grass will require more and more water as the climate of the future includes more prolonged drought periods, and Vogt says the prairie landscape he advocates won’t need that precious resource. And it will help the environment.
A bonus is that the prairie grasses and forbs are more deeply rooted than traditional lawns, making them more resilient to severe weather changes.
Properly placed native prairie plants don’t require fertilizer, and once established require no supplemental water.
“A prairie landscape is far more beneficial for pollinators as well as songbirds,” Vogt says. “All those plants also do a better job sequestering carbon, cleaning the air, absorbing heavy rains.”
Vogt and permaculture expert Gus von Roenn visited two homeowners — one in midtown with a smaller yard and another in west Omaha with a vast carpet of green — and designed plans for a yard better suited for the future.
They didn’t suggest pulling out all their grass — just parts of it. Vogt landscaped those areas with plants that can take climate change head-on.
Vogt says that although it’s critical to keep up with the weeding for the first few years, it’s then much less work than a traditional landscape. One annual mow in the spring usually suffices for a flowering prairie/meadow garden that replaces a lawn.
Many people considering a prairie landscape worry that it will look messy. Vogt said that can be taken care of by planting in masses of odd numbers — three, five and seven — and by having something in bloom at all times.
Even one plant makes a difference, so he suggested experimenting and finding what you like and what plants work well together.
“Put a sign out that says what your landscape is doing and why,” he says. “This is a low-maintenance, native plant garden that helps pollinators and birds.”
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