The first year they sleep…

Hello fellow dirt lovers,

One of my favorite gardening sayings is one of the simplest. “The first year they sleep, the second year they creep, the third year they leap.” I’m not sure who to attribute it to…even with a google search I came up with nothing. Does anyone know who coined this phrase?

Essentially what this means is that you shouldn’t expect to see a whole lot from your plants the very first year you plant them. If you’re buying flowering annuals to add punches of color, those plants will typically get large and showy for you in one season, but once they give you that show, they are done. An annual plant packs in the entirety of its life cycle into one season, expending a LOT of energy to grow, bloom, and reproduce, and then they die. Perennials, however, take a bit more time to grow up and put on their show. I recommend having a garden with a solid backdrop of perennials (including shrubs and trees), and adding splashes of interest with annuals. Don’t plant a tremendous number of perennials with the expectation of them being stellar the first or even the second year.

Another mistake that people make is they plant their perennials too close together, to give the illusion of fullness early on. This is a mistake! We KNOW it is a mistake in our minds, but when we are planting, our hearts tell us that we want instant gratification…we want our garden to look awesome for that party we are throwing the following month…we want to provide instant habitat to those coveted hummingbirds and butterflies. Don’t do it, folks. You may have a great looking garden the first year, but once those perennials start to “creep” and eventually “leap”, you’re going to have a mess on your hands. Plants packed too close together compete for water and resources (ultimately ending up with NOBODY getting what they need), and they also spread diseases to one another more easily. Not to mention your garden is going to LOOK like an urban jungle, and you’re going to have to get in there and divide up some nasty tangled root systems if you want to salvage the situation.

So, the moral of the story is…patience. A garden is a process, not a product. Plan your perennial selections carefully, and fill in the gaps with annuals while you wait for them to leap.

2 thoughts on “The first year they sleep…

  1. Kasey, try planting some tomatoes and a few easy-to-grow herbs in some large containers! I'd recommend a cherry tomato variety, and maybe some parsley, thyme and oregano. If you guys like banana peppers and jalapenos, those also do well in containers. Mine went absolutely crazy last year!

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