by Catherine Haug

I’m just a first-time gardener, but I know that I’m a bit lazy. So the idea of allowing garden plants to reseed themselves, year after year, has it’s appeal for me. And also because as times get tougher, I may not be able to afford new seeds each year.

Reseeding is an interesting concept to which we may not give much consideration, as we eagerly peruse the seed catalogues each year, deciding what to plant for the coming year.  I mean, most plants will naturally proliferate by seed, if we allow them to do that. It is Nature after all.

Perhaps the reason we don’t consider allowing them to reseed, is that we have no control over where the seeds will land and germinate.  All our careful planning for crop rotation, gone to seed (as it were).

But as Gene Logsdon points out in his May 20, 2009 Energy Bulletin post, The gentle art of non-gardening, regarding his favorite bibb lettuce that he allows to re-seed, this practice produces hardier, faster growing vegetables:

I don’t know why, [but] this “wild” lettuce is ready to eat before the lettuce that I plant early in the cold frame, coddled with compost and protected with a plastic cover on cold nights. The “wild” lettuce grows faster. If I had any brains, I would quit the cold-frame lettuce, but so far I just don’t have enough faith in nature to do it….Nor does this “wild” lettuce show any signs of decreasing in quality or taste

He suggests that this also works for radishes, kale and sometimes broccoli. Unharvested potatoes may also sprout in the spring.  If conditions are right, peas sown in early spring will drop seed which will sprout in the fall.  Onions may over-winter and grow new sprouts in the spring.

Jean Helps, a member of our ESP community, allows many of her plants to reseed, including carrots and parsnips (these produce seeds in the second year of growth).

What I want to explore, is the extra-hardiness of the re-seeded veggies.  I mean, one expects plants sown by Mother Nature to be strong and hardy — just think about those pesky weeds that always seem to get the upper hand.  But most garden veggies that we grow from commercial seed have been bred and hybridized, so that they no longer resemble their natural ancestors.

So how is it that the progeny are stronger than the parent?  Is this Mother Nature giving us a lesson?

A Story of a Rose

A good friend of mine planted a beautiful yellow rose in the front yard of her apartment.  During the years she lived there, the rose thrived under her careful parenting.  But after she moved, strings of new renters came and went, and no one really cared for that rose.  It got black spot and was nearly leafless most of the summer.  It continued to bloom, but the flowers were not as large and fragrant as when under my friend’s care.

Then something strange and wonderful happened.  New shoots appeared and grew around that spindly, sickly yellow rose.  These new leaves were strong and green. The blooms small but fragrant, and pink in color.  Pink?  What was happening?

The new tenant started to tend the new growth, and cut out all the sick, spindly growth.  The new growth was strong and hardy, and produced rose hips in the fall, something the yellow rose had never done.  We concluded that the roots must have reverted to their ancestral growth, producing a wild rose!

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