Grow Tomatoes, Lettuce, Pumpkins And More Without Planting Seeds! How To Make Vegetables Reseed Themselves.
Lettuce, Third Year Self Seeded
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
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
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
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
Mature Onion surrounded by other self seeded veggies.
A bunch of onions, three or your years old.
Japanese 'Nira' or garlic chives, and shallot onions.
Arugula, or in English, Rocket.
Tomato From Seed
A Peach Sprouted This Year
3-Year Old Peach Tree
Asparagus, from seeds scattered about.
Sunflower, Third Year Reseeded.
Wild Black Raspberries! Starting to ripen.
Rhubarb, grown from seeds.
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.