Caring for a new native garden

Red Stem Staff | 20 April, 2022

            Caring for a new native garden

For advice on watering, see our Watering Guide

As all owners of successfully established native plant gardens know, native plants surprise us with something new at every turn. And while it takes about three years for a newly planted garden to mature, even the first year brings lots of change to observe as the new garden puts down roots and begins to serve our butterflies, bees, and birds. This unfolding process—which continues beyond maturity as the plants themselves (and we gardeners) rearrange things, and as new natives magically find their way in—can bring you and your loved ones, and even passersby, much joy.

Like any garden, a native garden requires different types of maintenance over the course of its life. In its first year or two it will require regular weeding, especially in the early summer. Once your plants have matured, weeds become less of an issue as the seed bank is reduced and the native plants, as they reach their mature size, are able to out-compete them.

However, your garden will require some measure of ongoing care to stay looking its best. Every site is unique, and even our experienced designers can’t fully predict how plants will grow from site to site or year to year. This unpredictability is true of cultivated plants, but even more so of the wild plants we place in our gardens; unlike plants that are cloned from human-modified specimens, wild perennial flowers are grown from seed, and are individuals with their full genetic complement.

Some of our most beloved native flowers, if they are very happy, can become aggressive. Echinacea, bee balm, black eyed Susan, queen of the prairie, Joe Pye weed and many milkweed species might each have years when half of that plant might need to be removed, lest next year it becomes the only flower in your garden. Sometimes volunteers can appear where you don’t want them. Trees and shrubs may need pruning every year or three, to ensure they have healthy and aesthetic architecture. A gardener may decide to move a species to the back or bring it to the front; wild plants can have a wide height range because they are individuals and because they have the ability to adapt to a range of circumstances.Getting to know your garden will allow you to have fun with these changes as they occur, and to play in your garden as your experience grows.

Of course, not everyone has the time or inclination to work in their gardens. Red Stem provides a monthly stewardship service, which we highly recommend—even for experienced gardeners until they become familiar with natives—to help you keep your garden looking its best. Our expert Stewardship crew works fast and efficiently to keep your native garden in optimum condition for your enjoyment and that of the wildlife your garden will support.

Stewardship service costs $65 per hour per trained crew member. They will weed, edge, move or remove plants, cut as needed, and do spring and fall cleanup, and can provide mulch or plant replacements for an additional fee. When replacements are needed, a designer can visit your garden to design an enhancement, or you may request the plants you wish to add.

Request Stewardship Service

We hope you enjoy your native plant garden now and for years to come!