Gardening with Self-Seeding Vegetables – Embracing the Chaos

in gardening •  21 days ago


Embracing a bit of chaos in your garden with self-seeding vegetables can save you time, money and boost your harvest.

Self-seeding vegetables are just regular vegetables that if left alone will eventually flower and produce seeds. If you let the plants drop their seeds you will get volunteer vegetables coming up in your garden.

That might seem awesome (and it is) but there is a downside.

These volunteer vegetables will come up not in rows but here and there and potentially way to dense or too sparse. Just a bit of gardening chaos.

So how do you garden with self-seeding vegetables?

This week’s blog post—11 Self-Seeding Vegetables to Save You Time and Money covers 11 different self-seeding vegetables and 4 techniques to successfully garden with these vegetables.

Gardening with Self-Seeding Vegetables

I love getting volunteer vegetables coming up early spring and sometimes even in late summer / early fall. But these volunteers are almost never where I would have planted them. They are just hear and there and perhaps in less than ideal spots.

It is a bit of chaos and depending on how you manage your garden this can be unnerving. Personally, I think it is awesome but then I tend to plant my gardens to be a bit chaotic!

But there are techniques to manage self-seeding vegetables.

4 Techniques to Garden with Self-Seeding Vegetables

  1. Create a garden bed just for self-seeding vegetables.
  2. Harvest the volunteers when they’re little.
  3. Treat the volunteers as weeds.
  4. Plant perennial vegetables and let the self-seeding vegetables come up around them.

Now that 3rd one might be making a few of you scratch your head. What I mean with that one is that say a volunteer tomato pops up in a really bad location. Just pull/cut it like you would with a weed and drop it as mulch. But if the volunteer has edible greens then just harvest it for your salad!

The 1st technique is one that I'm considering for a few veggies that just love to volunteer and can overwhelm a garden bed. Orach is one that can go a bit crazy, arugula is another. But if I make a garden bed just for these high producing self-seeding vegetables then I can get great harvests without worrying about my other veggies getting overwhelmed.

My favorite option is to add some perennial vegetables to the self-seeding vegetable bed that can hold their own against the volunteers. Just imagine a vegetable bed that you never have to plant after the first year! Just harvest and call it good. Sounds great to me!

But in most cases a combination of the 2nd and 3rd techniques is going to be your best bet. Harvest the volunteer greens as needed and chop-and-drop the other volunteers until you get a good spacing. But I recommend being okay with the volunteers growing outside of any formal plantings such as rows.

Embrace that chaos and nature will reward you with less pests and a greater harvest all for less work.

Do You Garden with Self-Seeding Vegetables?


So what about you? Do you let volunteer veggies grow in your garden? Please reply and share your answers below. Also, don't forget to check out my blog post.

I would also love to hear about any techniques you have for working with self-seeding vegetables. Please leave a reply below.

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This sounds like the sort of gardening I can get into! I'm terrible at starting veggies from seed and collecting the seeds when they're ready, so volunteers are starting to be commonplace as it is. I should try going with the flow more.

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They can really be great :) My goal is for all my "weeds" to one day be edible! Good luck with your garden!


Now that sounds like a goal!

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Thanks for the heads up!

Yes, yes, yes. I love self seeding vegetables - fennel, tomato, coriander and calendula in particular - they all jsut pop up when they are good and ready, and I'll transplant them if needed and let some go wild. My chooks have a good say in this too.


Great to hear :)

You've been visited by @thistle-rock from Homesteaders Co-op.

I love this, I love the idea of a self-sowing garden of fresh greens and the thought of minimal work is definitely a bonus... I will have to give this a try and see if our cold northern climate will be a detriment or not. It is definitely a process I have never given much thought to and have always tilled my garden each spring, so this is something I will be giving a try to this coming year! Thanks for sharing.

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Thanks for the comment! There should be some veggies that will self-seed even in cold climates. I would just experiment and let some go to seed and see what happens :) Good luck!

Thanks to birds, and neighbors who garden, not to mention the previous owners of our place, I get regular volunteers here, which I either nurture, move, chop and drop and/or feed to the bunnies and chickens, depending upon what it is and where it pops up.

My favorite volunteers so far have been the massive bird-planted elderberry that we left behind in Florida, and the native black raspberry that started out underneath our covered front porch a few years back, and continues to bear well every year.

I've now propagated it to the point where I have a dozen or more plants, which I'm getting ready to plant across the front of our place between our road and our orchard, the better to incorporate them into our deer fencing. Take that, Bambi. ;-)

I'm hoping that, given full sun and well mulched, they will grow and bear even better than the mother plant, and I can continue directing the new canes into the ground, to ultimately create a formidable living fence. Wish me well.

I had a gardening friend years ago who started a self-seeding bed every spring, which ways included miner's lettuce, peach, mache, radishes, carrots and lettuces, which he would start picking in early spring and still be harvesting by late fall.

There are at least a couple of other veggies I'm leaving out, but he made a high percentage of his salads just from that one bed, and they were always very diverse. Broccoli and/or broccoli raab maybe? Other brassicas? I wish I could recall.

He got a lot of food out of that one bed, and they came back every year. No must, no fuss, he simply put a couple of inches of compost on the bed each fall, and his only other "work" once the bed was set up was to harvest.


Thanks for sharing! I have one growing area that I keep having to dig up and transplant trees and shrubs that the birds help plant :) Not a bad problem to have! Your friends garden sounds great!

Also, good luck with the deer! I'm planting up the area around my deer fence too with the same hope that it will keep the deer out.

Thanks again! :)


You're welcome, always nice to connect with a fellow grower. Looking forward to reading more about what you're doing on your place.

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Wow, this is so inspiring! I am about to set up my garden, the first in my life that I think will be mine, hopefully for the rest of my life on land I own myself! So I am more excited than ever to start a new garden!
I will definitely make a bed devoted to self sowing annuals, that is so genius!!
Thank you so much for this great post, you got both a new follower, a vote and a resteem :)


Awesome and thank you so much! I wish you luck with your new garden. As long as you keep at it your garden will turn out great. Just don't give up if the first year is a struggle. It can take time to figure everything out :)

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Man I never knew you could do that with radishes and tomatoes and I used to grow both. Some of those greens sounds yummy too. Of all the leafy crops you talked about which is your favorite and why?


Hmm... out of the ones on that list orach is my favorite. They are really easy to grow, slugs leave them alone (which is great in western WA!), and they self-seed really easily. Plus I like that they can provide greens starting in spring and continue through the summer heat even when they have flowered. They also look really nice--they can be red, purple, green, or a yellow green color and get nice and tall but don't fall over easily. Growing them along the back of a garden just looks really nice. Or you can grow them scattered throughout since they don't get very wide for some nice variation. Just a fun and easy vegetable to grow.

I like to plant tomatillo(the little wild variety) just as a snack when I'm in the garden. There always seems to be volunteers.


Nice! I have not tried tomatillo yet. So much to grow! Thanks for sharing!

Very interesting, I do have some come up by themselves, but I usually move them to make the garden neat.


That is one way to work with them and if that works for you I say keep doing it. But if you can leave a few to do there own thing you might just find it worthwhile :)