Tuesday’s Top Five – Best Self-seeding Plants

Part of my gardening philosophy is to let nature takes its course and not intervene too much when nature does its thing.  Part of that concept is allowing plants to spread their own seeds and come up where they will.  In most cases I let them remain where they come up until the forest starts to encroach on some other useful part of the garden – like paths or the clothes line.  Obviously some plants are better at self seeding than others, some get a little help from me, from the dog or from the compost pile to spread the seeds.  These are my top five self-seeders.

1. Cos Lettuce (and I suspect some other lettuces are just as good)
I was given a pot of herbs and salad greens from Mr Good’s aunt when we first moved into our house four or five years ago.  In it was a variety of lettuces including cos lettuce.  After a while it went to seed and the seeds scattered in the stones next to one of the garden paths.  A couple of months later I noticed little lettuces coming up all over the place and voila instant salad greens for months.  Then the cycle continued on and on to this day.  I have never had to sow lettuce seeds since – though I did try a different variety this year and now have that self seeding on the other side of the path, quite convenient really.  My only concern is that I pulled up all the cos lettuce that had bolted to flower, but not yet ready for seeds to scatter when I was cleaning up the garden before Miss Three’s birthday party.  I’m pretty sure there will be enough seeds still in the ground for more to come up again soon and if not five years of supply is pretty good.

2. Parsley
About a year after we moved into this house Mr Good built me the first of my raised garden beds, a herb garden.  Into went rosemary, basil, parsley, oregano, and chives.  Most of them have come to the end of their life since then.  The basil obviously only has a limited life span – though it did come up again of it’s own accord for a year or two afterwards.  The oregano died and I actually didn’t use it that much anyway.  The chives lasted quite a while and then got too dry and neglected.  The rosemary is now huge and wonderful looking, think I will take cuttings and plant some out the front.  And the parsley turned into a triffid and started taking over my entire garden until it was almost all pulled out.  Then my remaining plant went to seed, died off and nothing came up.  So for a couple of months recently I had no parsley, unheard of in this house.  Thankfully I now have lots of little parsley plants coming up again and my favourite herb is back on the menu.

3. Tomatoes
These appear in all sorts of odd places around the garden, thanks to a dog that likes to eat tomatoes!  Notably this year I had five plants growing in the pebbly area at the back and side of my pergola, which receives almost no sun and only a dribble of water that drips down from my hanging baskets and pots.  They grew and grew and grew, sprawling all over the cement and winding their way under the outdoor setting.  Whenever we sat outside we had that gorgeous smell of tomato leaves as we would inevitably stand on some of the leaves, crushing them and bringing out that classic aroma.  My rule with self seeded plants is that they have to look after them selves, no water, no fertiliser, no staking up, no attention except if there is something to pick.  The rogue tomatoes tend to come up late in the season so I never get lots of ripe fruit and you never quite know what type of plant it’s going to be or how they’re going to taste.  But cooking with them, making pickles – green tomato pickles especially with those piles of late fruit – is perfect.

4. Silverbeet
I planted silverbeet in the one raised bed that didn’t get enough sun for much else about a year ago.  It’s still going strong, actually it’s bursting out of the garden bed on all sides and seriously needs some pruning back.  We just can’t possibly eat it all though.  Some of the plants went to seed a few months ago and as is my way I ignored them and let the seeds dry and fall about of the ground and in the rest of the bed.  Now I have a sea of baby silverbeet plants coming up, which is great because the baby leaves are just delicious.  And the big ones I will start donating to some family members who keep pigeons – that apparently love silverbeet.

5.  Spider plant
A non-edible I know, but it is doing a very important job in my garden.  This is an interesting variegated plant with a strappy flower stalk and small, subtle white flowers.  It’s perfect for hanging baskets that get a bit neglected because they don’t easily curl up their toes and die like most of the other plants I tried in the baskets.  The spider plant just thrived and before I knew it little spider plant offspring started popping up underneath the basket and around the area under the pergola.  This tends to be a haven for weeds so now instead of pulling up the spider plants when I do the weeding, I’ve been spreading them out the whole way along the fence line, aiming for them to be quite densely planted by the time I’m finished and therefore keep the weeds out and give me an extra few minutes to tend to the vegies instead of weeding.  What’s not to love about that, plus they look quite good down there.

Self seeders form a very important role in my garden, they are my faithful garden fillers, they might come up in some inconvenient places, but they are completely independent and fill my basket when there is little else ready for harvesting around.  As well as the five I’ve discussed, I’ve also had self seeded basil, as I mentioned, some stray spring onions and just the other day I found three very impressive looking turnip plants coming up where I planted them last year (and where I planned to plant the broad beans).  I’m also hoping some pak choy might come up on it’s own too, as it went to seed pretty quickly and was left in the ground until the pods dried out.  Hopefully some of them split open and spilled their contents in the garden somewhere.  Are there any other brilliant self seeders I should know about?

Liz has done her top five of the pantry, head here to check it out.

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6 Responses to Tuesday’s Top Five – Best Self-seeding Plants

  1. Liz says:

    Isn’t that interesting, aside from parsley I would have had a completely different list as I haven’t let lettuce, silverbeet go to seed, I don’t have spider plants and I pull out volunteer tomatoes. What I do get lots of is baby celery plants, watercress, chervil, garlic chives and on the flower front cosmos. I have also had dill and coriander self seed. An avocado has started growing in my compost but is going to have to go which is a shame as i would lvoe a tree but its in entirely the wrong place. I also get potatoes coming up everywhere but that is poor harvesting rather than self seeding at work.

    • Barbara Good says:

      I’m hoping I get lots of celery too now that I’ve finally planted some. I also have some cosmos seeds to put in later in the year so maybe they will work for me too.

  2. I never plant Italian parsley, dill, or pumpkins. Regular silverbeet doesn’t go to seed this far north, but the Italian silver beet (Lucullus) self seeds all the time. A fair percentage of my tomatoes are volunteer.and most of my pak choi. If I get a good lettuce go to seed, I save some seed then just pull the plant up and sweep it round the garden bed, so I usually have self seeded lettuces coming up. A garden with stamina with some self seeding plants is a real morale booster, because it survives the periods of total neglect that sometimes happen.

    • Barbara Good says:

      You’re so right Linda, self seeders are a moral booster when everything else is failing to germinate (parsnips I’m talking to you!) or being attack by some beast or another. And I too do a sort or sweeping or shaking of the plant over the garden once the seed had has dried out. I really should start saving seed specifically as well – though I did save loads of sunflower seeds. I just read that link to your blog, gave me a new way of looking at waste, gifts for my garden friends.

  3. Andrea says:

    love those self seeding veggies………………..best thing they are always so strong and healthy.
    At present i have lots of silver beet, green oak leaf lettuce, potatoes and parsley.

  4. Barbara Good says:

    I figure anything that can survive with total neglect must be strong and healthy and gets a big tick in my book.

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