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Sage Garden Blog

Want to grow some free plants? Let them go to seed!

A garden is truly a place of abundance, in more ways than one. For example, as we get into mid-to-later summer, many plants go to seed and offer up the opportunity for natural and 100% free succession plants.

Taking one step back, succession planting is the practice of sowing multiple batches of certain crops in order to extend the season, maximize productivity and enjoy the tastiest of harvests. Typically, succession planting involves edible plants but flowers can work as well. Common succession crops to proactively plant in August include leafy greens, leafy herbs and cool-tolerant flowers like Bee's Friend and Calendula.

Now, back to those self-seeders. There are two categories of self-seeding plants: those that will produce multiple generations within one season, and those that set seed for the following year. In part, this difference is influenced by when any given seed matures and scatters but also by factors such as whether or not the plant is a short-lived annual, slow bolting annual, fruiting veggie or a perennial. Some plants only set seeds in their second year, in which case they are called biennials (parsley is a great example). It helps to determine if your self-seeding plants are likely to produce a new crop within the current season, or not, so you can manage the situation to your best advantage. 

Dill... really, shouldn't it just be one of those seeds you scatter and let grow!

Some exceptional self-seeders likely to produce new plants within the season include dill, cilantro, summer savory, borage, arugula, calendula and some types of violas (especially Johnny Jump-ups). You can encourage a more organized succession process by cutting mature seedheads off and scattering the seeds where you want them to re-grow... but you can also leave everything to nature and enjoy watching surprises pop up where ever they are happiest.

Longer-term re-seeders include ground cherries and even tomatoes, plus many perennials. Lettuce that goes to seed in late summer will yield amazing seedlings the following spring. Seed-bearing sunflowers are also amazing for popping up a year later. The main thing to remember for these crops is to watch for volunteer seedlings in spring/early summer next season and not treat them as weeds; after all, it can be hard to remember just what you had planted the year before!Frisee FlowersThe incredible blue-purple flowers of Frisee greens

One of the best things about allowing desirable plants to self-seed is that the resulting plants are often more self-sufficient compared to coddled seedlings - really, they just seem to grow better!Cilantro barrelCilantro goes to seed quickly and can reseed itself more than once in a good season; cilantro also grows happily outdoors well into OctoberLettuce garden going to seedSelf-seeded lettuce producing mid-summer flowers, setting up for another generation that will germinate in early spring 2023 

I encourage you to let some plants go to seed this August so you can see for yourself how well this pays forward 😄

← Planting Hardy Berries in Zone 3 Sowing a fall garden... is really, really easy! →

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  • Really interesting and informative images. You’ve certainly outlined your subject with a detailed and comprehensive manner. Some of these links are amazing,love it. Easy 5 stars.

    Bella Lawn Maintenance, LLC

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