Thinking about starting a new garden using native plants is one thing, but putting in the time to get it established is another thing altogether. I was reminded today of the rewards you receive after working hard that first year to get your garden properly established. A design I had put together for a local couple last spring is now exploding in blooms and growth this year. They shared with me how amazed they are at the transformation those small plants have made in just one full year.
The second year
This couple had put in the necessary time and effort last year by watering and weeding their small garden. There will still be a need for some maintenance this season, but it will be greatly reduced because of their efforts last year.
Establishment is such an important step in the development of a new garden. You will still need to water during prolonged droughts and weed out invasive species. You will need to be vigilant until these natives are fully rooted and completely filling the space, crowding out weeds. Then you can let them fend for themselves, especially if you have done proper planning and chosen the right plants for the space.
Beyond the second year
Keep in mind, your first garden doesn’t need to be perfect. More often than not, it won’t be perfect. However, remember that you are creating a habitat that blooms, attracts wildlife and pollinators and brings you enjoyment. It takes time to get the results we want.
Often we get discouraged by the amount of time and effort needed to keep our garden going that first year. Prolonged dry spells, wind, heat and weeds can easily take the fun out of it. Think long term and remember why you are doing this. I certainly have experienced that discouragement and burn out, but have been rewarded with beauty and wildlife as these natives take off the next few years.
Remain patient and vigilant when establishing a native plant landscape, especially those first few years. Each season, plants will shift in response to the weather and soil. Follow the plants’ lead, tidy up after them as you need, and fill gaps with new plants. It generally takes 2-5 years before the full benefits of your landscaping efforts pay off and wildlife find and use the native plants. An old adage says, “The first year a garden sleeps, the second year it creeps and the third year it leaps.”