If you’re one of those gardeners who loves the annual aches and pains of planting (and replanting) your beloved annuals every year, self-seeding plants and crops aren’t for you. If, however, you’re a bit of a lazy gardener (like myself), who loves to have a lush, lively garden that replenishes itself every year without necessarily needing to do all of the hard-work yourself, well, self-seeding annuals are one way to go.
I admit it: I’m a lazy gardener. I really don’t like having to replant all of my flower beds every year, and I certainly don’t get a thrill out of weeding. That’s probably why I have a thing for self-sowing flowers and herbs. Sure, I’ve still got to spend my time weeding, but at least some of last year’s work carries forward.
But, being a bit lazy isn’t the only reason to keep a few self-seeding garden beds. In fact, it’s merely just the most convenient. Here are a few other reasons to use self-sowing annuals in your garden:
A Self-Seeding Garden Can Be Easier to Care For
Okay, yes, technically this probably does fall in the “gardens for lazy gardeners” category, but, honestly, the less time you spend planting crops that resow themselves without your help, the more time you can spend tending to those flowers and vegetables that actually need the extra attention.
Why spend hours every year planting your favorite herbs when you can create a self-sowing herb garden that will do the job just as well? Your time is better spent working with whatever high-maintenance crops you’re trying to grow anyway (like coaxing high-maintenance cauliflower or corn into submission).
Self-Sowing Plants Make Gardening More Affordable
If you love to garden, you know it ain’t cheap. Even putting together a self-sustaining perennial garden takes its toll in start-up plants, planning, and consistent care to encourage your year-round denizens to naturalize. So, what you don’t spend in cash you certainly spend in time.
Like perennials, however, self-seeding annuals can help take some of the expense out of your yearly gardening bill. You just need to make sure that you choose annual self-seeders that are appropriate for your climate and soil conditions.
So, unless you’re an adventurous gardener who likes to experiment with fancy new cultivars and strains (which definitely has its charm!) or you’re an orderly gardener who likes the look of neat, carefully controlled rows, there’s really no reason to buy the same seeds year after year when you already own your own little seed factory anyway — just save your seeds, pocket the savings, and save up for some fantastic new gardening tools instead.
You’ll Learn to Identify More Seedlings
Once you’re actively trying to encourage your self-seeders to propagate and grow, you’ll take more time to identify those fantastic free-range seedlings in the spring. When you grow in a carefully calculated bed, it’s easier to see and pluck out the oddball seedling that doesn’t fit in. Once you’re working with a self-sown garden, however, you’ve got to put your seedling skills to the test. The last thing you want to do is pull up your self-sown plants because you mistake them for weeds!
Tips for Growing Self-seeding Crops and Plants
Just because a plant produces seeds doesn’t necessarily mean that its seeds will be viable or will grow without a little help. If you’re hoping to grow a garden that sows itself, here are a few tips to help you along the way:
- Remember that some GMO (genetically modified) plants may produce sterile seeds. (Yet another reason to opt for organic and/or heirloom varieties.)
- Hybrid crops produce seeds that contain the genetic material of both plants used to create them, which means that they will not grow “true” to the parent plant. (You can, however, save hybrid seeds and grow them—you just may end up getting a lot of plants and hybrid combinations that you weren’t really expecting.)
- To promote germination, you’ll need to keep the portion of your garden dedicated to self-seeders watered well. And once those seedlings sprout, be generous with your mulch to prevent weeds and moisture loss.
Whether you grow herbs, flowers or food, there are self-seeding garden plants that you can grow. In fact, some of the most popular garden plants can sow themselves, including marigolds, radishes, dill, tomatoes, chives, carrots, pole beans, peppers, cucumbers and more. (Although, be warned, cucumbers tend to cross pollinate, so you may want to stick to growing one variety at a time.)
For more information on keeping a natural, sustainable garden, check out the rest of my site. Or, if you have any questions or suggestions, please let me know — I’d love to hear what sustainable gardening tricks you’re using this year.