Good Gardening: Self-Seeding

Sep 14, 2020

KLCC's Master Gardener John Fischer says if you let some things go to seed, you will get sprouts when conditions are right next spring.
Credit John Fischer

If you have trouble getting seeds to sprout in the spring, this might be a good time to let nature help plant next year's garden.

If you let some things go to seed, you will get sprouts when conditions are right next spring.  Lettuce, arugula, kale and many flowers will come back year after year if you allow a few plants to complete their life cycle rather than pull them out when they are past their best eaten by prime.

If you learn to recognize the seedlings- lettuce is a pale yellowish green, kale and poppies are more of a gray green, you can use your own yard as a nursery.

The seedlings will often be a little too close together. You will have to thin them, move them to other parts of your garden, or give some to friends. And you should leave parts of your garden alone for the winter rather than mulch or cover crop the entire plot.

Credit John Fischer

Many of my best natural spouting areas are around winter vegetables like favas, broccoli, and winter greens. This is also a great time to put in winter vegetables and cover crops- once the smoke clears.

Not all plants produce true sprouts. Many squash, almost all corn, and hybrid tomatoes won't give you copies of their parents. And many warm season crops like beans and peppers produce seed that rots in the ground during our wet winters.

Of course, weeds will also grow in the fallow areas- usually faster than anything you want, so many of my naturally sprouted lettuce plants have to be moved in the spring.  But the poppy crop is so prolific that it chokes out the weeds, and leaves you with a nice place to plant late season corn after the seeds mature around the first of July.

Once you learn to recognize the plants you want from the weeds, and it will happen faster than you think, you will get earlier produce, free plants, and big-time savings, by letting parts of your garden grow on its own. 

I'm John Fischer with KLCC's Good easy Gardening.

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