Effortless gardening success:  Self-sowing annuals!

Effortless gardening success: Self-sowing annuals!

Pictured above are pansies and pansy babies coming up all around them in the mess of spring, seeds which I did not have to buy, plant, or water!

As every green thumb knows, growing a successful garden is relentless business.  Especially this busy time of year, I am always looking for clever ways to get myself more free time.  Though springtime in the garden is amazing, I want to break away and catch it in the mountains too! 

One way I am finding myself more time is by growing self-sowing annuals.  These are crops whose life-cycles are one year long but who will readily replant themselves if allowed to go to seed.    

Planning for self-sowing annuals:

1.  Plant self-sowing annuals in areas they can freely return the following year.  For example, if you till your garden in spring, you won't want to plant these guys right in the middle.  Edge planting, flower beds, or fall-tilling can work well.  

2.  Awareness:  Simply be able to recognize self-sowing annuals as they are seedlings and know that they might be coming up in the mess of spring.

3.  Thinning:  Seedlings will likely be crowded and extensive thinning may be necessary.  I usually do a quick thinning with a hoe, getting clusters of plants at the spacing I'm looking for, then I do the close-up thinning by hand.  

4.  Germination temperature:  Remember that germination is usually highly dependent on temperature, so be patient if you are expecting some reseeding and haven't seen it yet.  Though most crops will self-sow with abandon if allowed, some crops like tomatoes need a heat and won't germinate in time to give an abundant crop before the fall frost if left to their own devices so gardening this way only works with a few things.

The following are some crops I offer that I allow to self-sow in a timely manner.  Remember, in order to garden this way you need to let some of the plants go to seed! 

Vegetables:  Lettuce, Kale, Radishes, Arugula

Flowers:  Bachelors Button, Alyssum, Gilia, Marigold, Zinnia, Breadseed poppy

Herbs:  Dill, Cilantro, Parsley