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Native Landscape Design | Prairie Nursery | Interview 288 with Neil Diboll | Westfield WI
3rd November 2019 • GREEN Organic Garden Podcast • Jackie Marie Beyer
00:00:00 01:21:09

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The Golden Seeds aren’t perfect but it’s a start. I like to read them in PDF format better what about you?

Neil Diboll, President of Prairie Nursery, Inc.

On the Web:

1-800-476-9453 (1-800-GRO-WILD)

We would love to help you with anything and even help you find some seeds or plants that would grow!

Gardens are  focused on needs desires of humans only life gardening for all farms plants


  • animals
  • critters
  • bugs

sustainable ecosystem on people’s properties native plants. The real importance of native plants is that they

have co-evolved with other linked to one

brought to another

long periods f coevolution support very few of other invertebrates adaptation foundation of the food change limited value ecology

what resource was important


bringing nature home

more valuable

the other thing to get the chemicals out of the environment

native plants are great because 1 you don’t have to fertilize

and you don’t have all the maintenance associated with it and opposed to a lawn you don’t have all the petrol chemicals and

gasoline building it or running  the equipment.

steal plastic

most important

if I don’t see holes in the leaves of my plants. I’m a failure as a gardener

encourage my plants to be eaten

insects are eating them and insects are eating the birds so I have an ecosystem in my yard.

I mean birds eating the insects.

You are creating a food chain, creating a food web, in your garden. So we are no longer just gardening for human interests and human returns gardening for all forms of life sharing

revolutionary concept for gardening.

Tell us about your very first gardening experience?

I started out  in first grade with my first garden. Our class was raising money for some endeavor by selling garden seeds for ten cents a packet, door to door to neighbors.  I decided that if I was going to sell people a product, I should at least try it myself.  The garden was a miserable failure due to terrible soil conditions, and I suspended my gardening efforts for ten years.

I learned to garden organically at age 16 when I decided to try vegetable gardening again in the same backyard.  This time I double dug the future garden two spade lengths deep in the fall, and filled the hole with the leaves we raked up in our yard.  The hole consumed all the leaves without hardly denting the chasm.  I then collected leaves from the gutters on my block, and filled the hole with one foot of leaves, covered by an inch or two of clay, until I had a three foot tall “mass grave,” as my extremely skeptical parents referred to it. A giant mound in the backyard. By spring, it had settled down to about 18 inches in height, and I planted my garden. 

It was a spectacular success, producing an abundance of vegetables and greens, and I was suddenly a genius gardener!

Used that garden for years ~ even after I went to college my parents used it for years.

I love that! It’s like you built your own deep beds right there. Like what people talk about today building deep beds no till style. Tell us about your amazing CV that talks about all these things.

I went into business in 1982! Why did I go into business? Well, for a number of different reasons.

I worked for the US. Forest Service  in Colorado and the University of Wi where I live now. But there was limited employment for 6 months. and I just wasn’t a public sector person, there was a lot of bureaucracy. Then when the recession of 1981-82 hit.

When you can’t find a job, what do you do? You create your own

I created a backyard garden

retiring at age 68

old farmhouse

outside of greenery

ok if we use that land if we rent the house

can I buy your plants and move your nursery

why don’t you just come down and run it

where the hell is Westfield

bought a cheap  old trailer.

2  neighbors building  garden in their backyard.

We were the talk of the town

little did they know we had girlfriends

but we let them talk. It was a barebones existence because in 1982 native plants were still weeds. We couldn’t give it away! My friends said hey, plant

day lilies


I was like this is the future! I’m not giving this up! The problem was the future hadn’t caught up. We kept at it.

I was like I went to college for this?

first color catalog

sales doubled

interesting journey

tough rows to hoe

ahead of the curb

things came

There’s very good reasons why native plants make sense. It’s the four Es I call them.


first trees and shrubs

flowers grasses and shrubs

use the environment

don’t need all these chemicals

don’t have to use all these pesticides fungicides or gasoline for growing lawns!

You have deep rooted plants that increase water infiltration into the ground. Instead of that running off you have amuch more closed loop system

also have strips if you do have areas where fertilizers are  applied native grasses with deep roots you have fertilized water running into them it can filter out that chemicals

3 energy

use a lot less energy then a lawn

nice beautiful prairie

burn it every other year

not spending a lot of time and energy

4th e is economics

It can save you a lot of money on time and maintenance.

The 5th E is an emotional connection to the

planting prairie


So Neil do you want to give us some tips if you want to go this. I find the biggest barrier is where to start, find information, like that day lillie and irises are not native plants.

The first thing to do if you are just getting started with native plants is to avail yourself of all this resources on the internet

Most states have a native plant societies you will meet people who are into native plants but if you don’t want to be involve

Illinois wildflowers also have trees and shrubs

Another called the prairie ecologist which is an individual who puts out phenomenal information on prairies

You can get your own wildflower book

nature preserves

learn the plants on your own way! I took a botany in college where you get the basics but the best is to spend the time out in nature where you see them in action. With pollinators and  butterflies on them.

On our website there is tons of info. We have lots of woodland parts that are midwestern but people who live in different part of the country they have completely different plants from us

you wouldn’t want to use our stuff in AZ


grow in the high mountains

so the rest

find what the best plants are start with the university

I was gonna say your website because you share tons of information.

Do you want to talk about pollinators?

Of course, pollinators are extremely important!

33% of the food we eat as human beings require pollination so we have a vested interest in supporting habitat for pollinoators.

largest producer of cranberries

drain marshes

plant cranberries in them

good pollinator populations

weeks of

strips of prairies that will be available

vested intersted

The whole food chain is dependent upon insects!

We have had a long standing relationships co-evolution

native flora and native fauna


most plants use chemical warfare to ward off insects that would eat their leaves. So pants have adapted to


overcome toxins we use

classic example the monarch butterfly that eats the toxic weeds of the milkweed family


native insects

native plants

nonnative plants

Very rarely do you have the depths of the relationships of the other critters that utilize

It’s not there.

Nonnative plants do not supply food or sustenance

do not support

native plants are so important!

relationship and native plants and between native plants and pollinators.

The best books you can read is called:

bringing nature home


university of nature

close relationships between native plants and

really explaining why native plants is so important!

I always tell listeners always leave a 5star review for that book so everyone can read it and I just read from AJ that he planted a pollinator border and when I went to the Brooklyn Grange one of the best parts was the pollinator border. IT’s so pretty it goes around their farm and full of snap dragons, and zinnias and cosmos and tons of herbs and lavender etc!

You know it’s interesting the organic gardener can take this to the next level!



pollination vegetables

you also have bio control mechanisms

supported by native plants

There’s a plant called the rattlesnake master

yuca-folium but it’s actually a carrot humble and this plant is pollinated primarily by wasps. A lot of people would say don’t plant, but theses are a very high percentage are parasitic wasps

what do they do? very small


There is a parasitic wasp that attacks just about every other:

  • insect
  • spider
  • tic
  • mite

creator that flies around in the air

parasitic wasp


I think the people are one of the few plants around here that grow outside our deer fence that I think attract a wasp.

But here’s what’s so cool, I had a customer who 

tomato horn worms every year on his

1/4 pound

had rattlesnake master and it takes 3 years for the perennial seeds to mature and begin blooming. He called me and said I have no tomato horn worms what’s going on.

I said do you have rattlesnake master? Is it blooming? He said, yeah’ it’s doing great!

Well rattle snake master attacks the tomato horn worm from the inside out. It burrows in and eat it from the inside out and kill.

He say’s my prairie is my insecticide

maintaining the balance

That’s what they are doing with the rooftop garden For years people have  known all about this but it’s a new concept for people that you can use non chemical.

Well lots of people ask about this on my show or in my Facebook group. I have had people talk about this, but not in such specific detail about attacking tomato hornworms, I do think people will say where do I get Rattlesnake master?

you don’t want to focus on one plant

core on our landscaping is biodiversity What we are trying to do is spread the diversity of our native plants

diverse area of different flowers




you are now setting stage t make space to support all these different creatures that make life

native shrubs

more native grasses

more beneficial

you will have a wide away of critters nature that allows you to maintain a balance naturally

Everyone knows when you spray you are killing good guys and bad guys

I tell customers get rid of that stuff right away, take them to a disposable site. We know they kill the good guys!

Here’s the revolutionary part.

in my native garden

if I don’t see holes in the leaves of my plants


people only

our own benefit and enjoyment



creating habitat

creating sanctuary for all sorts of life

if I am not feeding the insects in the

complete failure as an ecological gardener. I want to see the holes

plants because I know then if I am feeding  my neighborhood.

That’s interesting because last year I...