A few weeks ago I went to a friend’s daughter’s birthday party and got talking to a woman who was pleased to be able to put a name to her style of gardening. She called it ecological gardening which she described as gardening where the gardener doesn’t do much. As she described it you let the plants do the work – planting themselves by self seeding. I like the idea very much (although the closest control freak in me likes the order created by nicely presented rows of plants) and when I look around my garden I can see that it has already happened without my really thinking about it.
Self seeding has a number of advantages over regular seed sowing:
- You don’t have to worry if you are planting something at the wrong time – the plant sorts that out for themselves.
- The seedlings do seem more vigorous.
- Seeds fill gaps in your bed that might otherswise be vacant or filled by a weed.
- Its FREE.
Of course it is only fair to mention that it does have its disadvantages as well:
- You have no (or little) control over where the seeds germinate.
- Self seeded plants will compete with you planned plantings for water and nutrients.
- It only works really well for plants that go to seed relatively quickly and easily due to space and time considerations.
- You can get too many of one type of plant.
- Difficult to succession plant.
- You have to be know what the seedlings look like as its easy to confuse them with weeds.
In my garden at the moment I have self seeded plants of:
- Rocket – this is possibly the easiest plant of all to leave to self seed. It produces many seeds which germinate fairly quickly. Rocket seems to self seed fairly close to where it was originally grown.
- Watercress – Watercress seeds are tiny and numerous and I find little watercress plants popping up all over my garden beds. Contrary to what you often read watercress is really easy to grow without lots of water – you do need to water it but I dont give it much more than my other crops and it grows brilliantly for me throughout winter and spring.
- Dill – Dill seeds seem to take awhile to germinate when self seeding. I don’t know if they need a period of cold before germinating but mine finished flowering in about December and the seedlings didn’t appear again until about May. Most of the seeds germinate quite close to the parent but I have had dill popping up in quite odd places in the garden as well.
- Chervil – Chervil self seeds quickly and easily. Seedlings come up within about 30cm of the original plant. My current chervil plants are all of the self seeded variety.
- Parsley – Self seeds easily, can swamp other plants if left to grow whereever they fall – I have lost a thyme or two under a forrest of self seeded parsley.
- Celery – Self seeds very easily, you do need to be careful where it emerges as it is quite an aggressive feeder. The garlic bulbs closest to the self seeded celery where about half the size of those furthest away.
- Coriander – Occasional self seeding – I don’t get huge amounts of coriander germinating but when it does the plants seem to be less difficult than those I have intentionally sown.
- Carrots – I left a carrot to go to seed last year so I have a few self sown seedlings emerging at the moment.
Of course there is no real reason why you couldn’t let any plant you grow in the garden seed in and reproduce its just that for me that would mean leaving unproductive plants in the ground when I could be growing other crops.