Edible Plants that Self-Seed (Perfect for the Lazy Gardener!)

We all know that perennial flowers will self-seed, keep growing, and come back again and again, making them great staples for the flower garden. But did you know that the same is true of many crops, as well? After all, plants are on a mission to perpetuate themselves, and while some have saavily taken advantage of the fact that humans like to eat them so we do the work for them, others like to have a little insurance policy…so they produce their own seeds.

This can sometimes actually be a huge problem in the garden: both melons and tomatoes love self-seeding, but unfortunately, they’re also highly promiscuous, so you never know what you’re going to get from so called “volunteer” melons and tomatoes. Maybe a self-seeded plant will be the next great cultivar you’ve been waiting for, one with optimum sweetness, texture, and quality…or maybe the fruit will be ho-hum.

But fortunately, other plants are much more well behaved, and they can be great choices for a produce garden that will do part of the maintenance work for you. (Sorry, you’re still going to have to water, fertilize, weed, watch out for pests, keep your Phoenix fencing in order, and harvest.) These self-seeding crops will get themselves set up perfectly happily, and they’ll relieve you of a lot of the spring stress of figuring out what to plant, when to plant it, and where to plant it.

Crops that self-seed include: lettuce, dark leafy greens like kale and chard, broccoli, carrots, runner beans, celery, beets, arugula, parsnips, and radishes. You can also take advantage of self-seeding herbs like cilantro, dill, parsley, oregano, chives, chamomile, and basil (you’ll need to bring basil plants in to overwinter because they don’t like cold).

How do you take advantage of self-seeding? There are two options. The truly lazy gardener just lets plants go to seed, developing a stalk that develops flowers and later seeds, which will drop naturally into the area around the plant — some of those seeds will also scatter from the wind, so your self-seeding pals may end up in places you didn’t expect. (The self-seeding strategy is not for the gardener who craves rigid order.)

As a side bonus, letting crops flower creates an attractant for beneficial insects and birds. Making your garden more welcoming to wildlife makes it more sustainable and creates a more diverse habitat, which is good news!

Your other option is to let plants go to seed and then carefully cut the seed head and strategically scatter the seeds where you want them to go. (This strategy can also be used for seed saving, where you collect and save the seeds for next year instead of sowing them right away.) This allows for a little more control over where things end up and how they grow.

In both cases, be prepared: self-seeding crops can get a little out of control in your landscaping! You can help keep them in check by harvesting them and only letting a few go to seed (remember, even one plant can go a long way — and keep in mind that you want to let your best plants go to seed to perpetuate the genes you like best). You’re also going to need to thin seedlings as they come up in the following year, and you may want to consider potting them up to give away to friends.

Katie Marks writes for Networx.com. This article originally appeared here.

Photo: rebecca f/Flickr

118 comments

Bea W.
Bea Wilson2 years ago

Gee, I learn something new from articles like this one. I wouldn't mind if I could self seed body parts, especially the ones that aren't working well. That ain't happening in this life cycle so I'll give these plants a shot and feed this unself-seeding body.

jessica r.
jessica r.2 years ago

Now that's a good idea for part of our garden.

Bea Pujatti
Bea P.2 years ago

Wish I'd still have my little garden... alas, in pots I will try to get some of these plants going again.

Debbie Miller
Debbie Miller2 years ago

Thanks for the information... I have already shared it with others :)

Olivia D.
Olivia Dawson2 years ago

I'm looking forward to my extremely expensive, native chives self seeding. fingers crossed.

Holly Lewis
Past Member 2 years ago

Dill grows like a weed when it self-seeds!

Melinda K.
Past Member 2 years ago

Remember that GMO or F1 seeds are genetically modified and wont regrow from their own seeds, they modify them like that so you have to continually rebuy from them. Go for organic seeds and Heirloom seeds, as these are non-hybrid & non GMO and will regrow from their own seeds.

Denise Morley
Denise Morley2 years ago

Thank you :)

Shailja Mukhtyar
Shailja Mukhtyar2 years ago

love the easy breezy beautiful ideas..

Elena T.
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you :)