Grow Tomatoes, Lettuce, Pumpkins And More Without Planting Seeds! How To Make Vegetables Reseed Themselves.

Lettuce, Third Year Self Seeded

Lettuce And Arugula Naturally Seeded
Lettuce And Arugula Naturally Seeded | Source

A Low Work Garden

Gardening does not have to be hard work. This spring I did not dig, plow or till my garden, and as you can see from the pictures, it is full of vegetables. I also did not buy seeds. All of these plants grew from seeds shed naturally by last year's adult plants, or from seeds I just scattered on top of the soil. I did use a hoe to scratch dirt on top of the pumpkin seeds.

Baby Lettuce Sprouting From Bare Dirt

As you can see, I am not a great photographer.
As you can see, I am not a great photographer. | Source

Lettuce

Lettuce is about the easiest plant to get to grow year after year. In the fall allow the plant to grow, it may reach two or three feet tall. It will develop many small puffball-like seed heads, and the seeds will drift away in the wind, to sprout who knows where.

When the seeds are dry and light and fall easily from the heads, take the plant and shake it roughly over the area you want lettuce to grow. Bare dirt, or soil covered with a light cover of mulch works best, but lettuce will even grow up through your lawn grass if allowed to. Some baby lettuce plants may sprout in the late fall. A few frosts will not kill them, and often they will survive through to spring even under a heavy cover of snow. Those plants will begin producing fresh lettuce long before anything you plant in the spring.

Mature Lettuce Plants

These plants will flower soon, by mid-June, and should go to seed by mid-summer. I will scatter the seeds and get a second crop of fresh lettuce in the Fall.
These plants will flower soon, by mid-June, and should go to seed by mid-summer. I will scatter the seeds and get a second crop of fresh lettuce in the Fall. | Source

Pumpkins

Pumpkins are beyond easy. You have to work to get then NOT to grow! They do need just a bit of help though. Any time you have a pumpkin, at Halloween, say, save the seeds and fling them violently over the face of your garden. That is all. In the spring some of them will come up.

Some will sprout too soon, if you have an early warm spell. They may then be killed by a late frost, as pumpkins cannot take frost at all. But there are always some seeds that sprout later, for whatever reason. These will come up on schedule. If you do want to save those early sprouts, just put a bucket or any large container over them to stop the frost from touching them. This will save them from anything but a hard freeze. You do have to take the bucket off and let the sun get to them on warmer days!

If this seems to chancy, maybe you have a variety of pumpkin you especially like, just dry the seeds and store them in a cool, dry place, and plant them as normal in the late spring. I always have so many pumpkins that just splitting a few open and scattering the seeds works fine. Each pumpkin had hundreds of seeds, and it only takes a few to fill a garden.

I learned this trick from Central American peasant farmers, when I was in the Peace Corps. They mainly grow corn and beans. Pumpkins are never planted. But a few always come up in the corn fields, and they take care not to weed out the young plants. When the fruits are ripe the farmers crack them open and throw the seeds around the field, knowing that that is all they need to do to get a crop the following year. I figured if it worked for them for thousands of years...

Pumpkin Growing From Last Year's Seed

Dozens came up this year. I will eliminate the weaker ones once they start to spread out.
Dozens came up this year. I will eliminate the weaker ones once they start to spread out. | Source

Radishes, all too easy.

Leave a radish plant in your garden until fall, and you will have three or four foot tall monster. It will produce hundreds of beautiful white, yellow or purple flowers, depending on the variety. These will develop into slim, pointed seed pods. While young and green, these pods make a nice, sharp garnish in salads. Leave them a few weeks longer and they dry, and spill their little round seeds on the ground around the parent plant. Treat these just as you did the lettuce above, and you will have hundreds of radish plants coming up in the fall and spring. Free vegetables!

Giant Japanese White Radishes In Flower

These were planted from store bought seeds, which is why they are in a neat row. Next year, not so neat!
These were planted from store bought seeds, which is why they are in a neat row. Next year, not so neat! | Source

Mature Onion surrounded by other self seeded veggies.

Left over from last year and regrew, this year it will go to seed.
Left over from last year and regrew, this year it will go to seed. | Source

A bunch of onions, three or your years old.

This bunch grew from a single onion that was kept indoors over winter in a pot, for use as greens. The onion divided and spread to fill the pot, and I transplanted it into the garden this spring.
This bunch grew from a single onion that was kept indoors over winter in a pot, for use as greens. The onion divided and spread to fill the pot, and I transplanted it into the garden this spring. | Source

Japanese 'Nira' or garlic chives, and shallot onions.

This planter box gets moved into the house every winter. It contains a mix of 'nira', shallots and parsley, all grown from seeds scattered atop the dirt last fall.
This planter box gets moved into the house every winter. It contains a mix of 'nira', shallots and parsley, all grown from seeds scattered atop the dirt last fall. | Source

Arugula, or in English, Rocket.

Rocket is a member of the radish family, but you eat the greens not the root. A sharp, spicy taste. Reseed just as with radishes. Very easy.
Rocket is a member of the radish family, but you eat the greens not the root. A sharp, spicy taste. Reseed just as with radishes. Very easy. | Source

Tomato From Seed

Quality may vary with tomatoes. This is probably a cherry tomato, but no way to know until it sets fruit. I just squash a few tomatoes into the ground and kick them around. Lots sprout. Save the healthy ones and weed out the extras.
Quality may vary with tomatoes. This is probably a cherry tomato, but no way to know until it sets fruit. I just squash a few tomatoes into the ground and kick them around. Lots sprout. Save the healthy ones and weed out the extras. | Source

A Peach Sprouted This Year

There are seven or eight young peach trees growing up from seed. Soon I'll have a grove, if the rabbits don't eat them this winter.
There are seven or eight young peach trees growing up from seed. Soon I'll have a grove, if the rabbits don't eat them this winter.

3-Year Old Peach Tree

This grew from a seed I threw out into the garden after eating a store-bought peach. It is three years old and stands some seven feet tall. It flowered a bit this spring, and I expect it to set fruit next year.
This grew from a seed I threw out into the garden after eating a store-bought peach. It is three years old and stands some seven feet tall. It flowered a bit this spring, and I expect it to set fruit next year. | Source

Asparagus, from seeds scattered about.

Tossed the dead dried asparagus plants onto the garden last fall. Their little red berries fell to the dirt and this year I have dozens of little plants coming up here and there.
Tossed the dead dried asparagus plants onto the garden last fall. Their little red berries fell to the dirt and this year I have dozens of little plants coming up here and there. | Source

Potatoes

I must have missed a few potatoes last fall when I dug them up. They grew back this spring and look very healthy.
I must have missed a few potatoes last fall when I dug them up. They grew back this spring and look very healthy. | Source

Parsley

Parsley, reseeded for five years. Treat as lettuce above.
Parsley, reseeded for five years. Treat as lettuce above. | Source
Cilantro. A type of parsley and very easy to reseed.
Cilantro. A type of parsley and very easy to reseed. | Source

Sunflower, Third Year Reseeded.

To reseed sunflowers, just knock the seed-heads around the garden with your foot in the fall after they dry. Squirrels will eat most of them, but a few escape and grow back in the spring. These grow very large and can shade out other plants.
To reseed sunflowers, just knock the seed-heads around the garden with your foot in the fall after they dry. Squirrels will eat most of them, but a few escape and grow back in the spring. These grow very large and can shade out other plants. | Source

Wild Black Raspberries! Starting to ripen.

These are from seeds dropped by birds. I allowed them to grow, and in the second year they set fruit. Very aggressive growth so have to be cut back every year or will take over the garden.
These are from seeds dropped by birds. I allowed them to grow, and in the second year they set fruit. Very aggressive growth so have to be cut back every year or will take over the garden. | Source

Rhubarb, grown from seeds.

Allowed two adult rhubarb plants to set seed last year. The seeds were thrown into pots of dirt and sprouted. I transplanted this spring. A perennial, they should be producing stalks in two years.
Allowed two adult rhubarb plants to set seed last year. The seeds were thrown into pots of dirt and sprouted. I transplanted this spring. A perennial, they should be producing stalks in two years. | Source

Not The Garden Of Eden!

This is a low work garden, not a no work garden.

First, you have to weed it just like any other garden. Weeding can be a little tricky with this system. Since you don't know where your plants will be growing, they are not in neat rows or beds, you have to guess if that little sprout you see is a vegetable or a weed. Experienced gardeners usually know what their sprouts look like, but if you are new, or trying something different, this can be a trick.

Also, though you do not have to till the garden, or spade it, you do end up going over it every few days in the spring with the hoe. Sorry, no way out of that. By mid-summer most weeds are done sprouting and you can relax your attention a bit.

What are the advantages to this way of gardening?

One, it is a lot less work. The plants pretty much seed themselves. You can help them out some by scratching up the dirt with your hoe, in the fall or spring, but it isn't really necessary.You do need to scatter the seeds around more or less where you want them, or you may get patches here and nothing there.

Two, the plants are far more hardy. It seems that since they sprout and grow more naturally, at their own time and schedule, with the soil undisturbed, they resist bugs and drouth much better. Since they are growing scattered rather than in beds or rows, they are less susceptible to diseases and insects.

Three, your growing season starts a soon as the ground thaws. Lettuce and other cold-tolerant veggies will sprout right up, some even survive under the snow, and you will have fresh greens and radishes far earlier in the spring.

Four, it is exciting (for me anyway...) You never know what will come up, or where or even if. Some plants cross pollinate so you will get varieties never seen before. Pumpkins and squash do this all the time. Sometimes this doesn't work out. I occasionally get poor tomatoes or squash, but usually no problem. I just rogue out the poor producers so they don't contribute to the next generation.

I do suggest adding a thin layer of mulch. I use leaves gathered in the fall. I pile the leaves up near the garden and run over them with the lawn mower to chop them up fine. Too heavy a layer will prevent smaller seeds from sprouting, so go easy with the mulch in the fall. Better to mulch heavy in the summer, when everything is up and growing. Spread it around the bases of the plants, and everywhere bare earth shows. This also helps keep weeds down.

The soil here is very poor, a heavy clay with few nutrients. I dig pits about two feet deep and use them to compost kitchen garbage, weeds, leaves and lawn clippings. Just add a deep layer of garbage or whatever, then top it over with a layer of dirt an inch or so deep. Keep this up until the pit is full, cap it with several inches of dirt and plant something on top. Then dig a new pit. Over the last five years the soil has gradually improved, with some organic matter in the deeper layers.

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Self Seeded Gardens? 20 comments

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 4 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

How cool is that? An all volunteer garden!


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Pretty much so. I didn't mention it here, but I also throw handfuls of indian corn and beans out, and they grow up here and there, whatever doesn't get eaten by birds or squirrels. Corn won't reseed without help, but some beans will.


cheapsk8chick profile image

cheapsk8chick 4 years ago

What an amazing garden! I love this hub. Very inspirational. I was very surprised this year when I had lettuce growing in my garden (especially since last year the rabbits didn't leave me a single bit!). Thanks for the great article!


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Hi cheapsk8chick, love that handle! I sort of gradually fell into this. I go out to dig up my garden, and there is something good growing. So I leave it and dig around it. It sort of expanded from there.


Angela Brummer profile image

Angela Brummer 4 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

Great information and really pretty hub!


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Pretty? Thanks! I am not a great photographer. I will probably try again on some of these pics, see if I can't do better. But thanks!


pagesvoice profile image

pagesvoice 4 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

Voted up, useful and interesting. To think, I have rotor tilled my garden three times and meticulously bend down and plant neat little rows of lettuce, cucumbers, onions, garlic, etc. I do have parsley that pops up every year and it is all over the place. Additionally the chives do the same. I absolutely love the idea of your miniature compost holes. That is a great idea. Of course, when it snows in the winter months it might pose a problem digging through the snow to find the hole. This was a great hub and one I really enjoyed.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Pagesvoice, you are right about winter. I dig three or four of the pits, and they all get filled up by spring. But I have stepped into one that got filled with snow and disappeared.


starstream profile image

starstream 4 years ago from Northern California

We have some "volunteer" plants coming up in our compost. I cannot tell if they are pumpkin or watermelon since many seeds were placed in that area. Guess if they finally produce fruit we will find out. I am watering them but they are in a partial sun area.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Pumpkins do well enough in partial sun, as long as they get a few hours every day of full sun. Watermelons I don't know much about. You can tell the difference in the shape and color pattern of the leaves. Watermelons are a darker green, and they have light blotches. Also watermelon leaves are heavily indented, but pumpkins are usually more rounded.


ignugent17 profile image

ignugent17 4 years ago

I planted tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes and onions and I was inspired to plant pumpkins next year. Thanks for your great hub tmbridgeland.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Thanks Ignugent17. Good luck with the pumpkins.


Farmer Rachel profile image

Farmer Rachel 4 years ago from Minnesota

Cool article! I've had similar luck with potatoes and Jerusalem artichokes (obvious why).


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Thanks Farmer Rachel. I just 'followed' you a few minutes ago. Keep up Hubs like your first few and I predict you will do well here.


rbm profile image

rbm 4 years ago

I have a huge parsley bush in my veggie garden that went to seed, and I've decided to "let it do its thing". :) I'm also a big fan of permaculture and companion and beneficial planting, so I'm really excited about your article. I definitely want to try growing a few more veggies this way now, radishes being on the top of my list. Great hub, thanks!


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

For parsley, just wait until the seed heads dry, then vigorously shake them over the area you want them to grow next year. Usually some come up. I will also scatter the seeds onto a pot filled with soil. If they sprout early enough in the fall, you can take them indoors and have greens in the winter.


Lilleyth profile image

Lilleyth 4 years ago from Mid-Atlantic

Yes! If we allow Mother Nature alone she will pretty much take care of things. Thumbs up!


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 4 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Mother Nature will do a lot, I agree, but she does need a bit of help to get her to grow the things we want, and not just weeds!


BrightMeadow profile image

BrightMeadow 3 years ago from a room of one's own

I am just getting the hang of this gardening thing but I have noticed some potatoes that I missed happily doing their thing. Also, there is almost no way to get rid of sunflower once you've had some growing-- not that I mind. Anyway, thanks for the info. Great hub.


tmbridgeland profile image

tmbridgeland 3 years ago from Small Town, Illinois Author

Thanks BrightMeadow, potatoes are almost to easy, aren't they? Sunflowers too. Other stuff, like tomatoes and lettuce needs only a bit of help.

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