self seeding garden?

elizh(z5/6 MA)June 4, 2011

do you have a garden bed in which a substantial fraction of the plants are self seeding from year to year? If so, how do you maintain it?

For several years I've had a 40x4' bed with foxglove as the major self seeder, and various minor ones, with roses and perennials mostly. More recently I added a bed (wraps around a wellhouse, maybe 70 sq feet) that has a few herbaceous perennials but mostly self seeders. For the long bed my habit is to prune and tidy in early spring, rearranging perennials as needed, then wait till around now, when the seedlings are up & identifiable & large enough to handle. Then rearrange them some, weed, and mulch. Time consuming but hey we love gardening don't we?

This year I am having a much harder time with the maintenance. Large sheets of tiny seedlings - foxgloves in the long garden and snaps in the other - and it's now clear that there are plenty of weeds amid the snaps. (there are also a few foxglove, and rose campions, and bleeding hearts all seeding.) I keep thinking that the easiest thing to do is just dig a tray of the strongest seedlings, then hoe and mulch the bed, and replant. Doesn't that seem silly???? Should I just let them fight it out, and pull the weeds as I may? I really wonder what the traditional approach was, if indeed it wasn't highly personalized.

What do you do?? In the big garden, the seedlings like to come up under the skirts of the perennials, so the tray method seems more necessary. However in a bed that is really dominated by the self seeders... what should be my goal? to encourage a balance of varieties? to hoe down to the number and locations that I would have transpanted, if doing them from transplants??


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spartangardener(z4 MN)

i have had for about four-five years now, but over the last two springs have been in the process of ripping out the stuff that self-sows prolifically. In my case, that is rudbeckia triloba, agastache, rose campion and lemon balm. It is a large garden and I got to the point that these things were choking out other things that I really wanted that had more attractive blooms. I am still leaving some of the rose campion, because that's more well-behaved and I love the look, but the rest did not give me enough satisfaction.

Snaps and foxglove are less bulky plants, though, so if you like the crowded look, I think you could just let them fight it out and it would look lovely. If you have more formal tastes, your idea of digging out a slab of seedlings, hoeing and then distributing seedlings would be a more labor-intensive version of having started the seeds outside the garden. I think as long as you feel you are getting a pleasing result for the labor you put in, you'll be happy.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2011 at 9:51PM
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mbravebird(VA zone 7)

What a good question! I don't have an answer. I love having my red poppies every year, and they reseed very well, but unpredictably, and I was just out there today trying to tuck in zinnia seedlings amongst them, hoping I was getting them all balanced right. We'll see...

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 5:26PM
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jennypat Zone 3b NW MN(Zone 3b NW MN)

I usually hoe them out of the places I don't want them, then let the rest duke it out in the places I DO want them. I thin them as I weed, there are usually so many that I don't worry about it. My self seeders are poppies, foxgloves, cosmos, and forget me nots. There are a few more, but those are the most prolific.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 5:54PM
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elizh(z5/6 MA)

so many that you don't worry about pulling them up with the weeds? Yeah there are so many. I guess I should figure out where I do want them.. would help if I could visualize the color of the snap. I think it's a red but I've also had a pink. Maybe some weirdos. I do get some weirdo foxgloves sometimes, because I have both yellow grandifloras and white purpureas. They have teeny blossoms, but you don't know till you see them.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2011 at 8:00PM
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mytime(3/4 Alaska)

As I plant my other annuals, I pull out any of the reseeders that will obscure them (3 ft. tall poppies always want to grow in the very front of the bed!), and remove the reseeders from around my perennials. Then I let them fight it out amongst themselves whereever there aren't other plants in the way. I love the riot of colors, so I'm not concerned about color planning. I have 50 dahlias, of most every shade of red, yellow, orange, and purple, so it would be difficult to find an annual that didn't fit in (color-wise).

    Bookmark   June 6, 2011 at 10:40AM
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For many years I've had an area that I call my wild bird garden because it's near the bird feeder and birdbath. Unfortunately it's become more and more difficult to manage and I must make some changes to it this year. I've considered saving a few plants then weedwhacking and laying down cardboard and mulch to get rid of the quackgrass, thistle, and other weeds. The birds bring in a lot of weeds that otherwise wouldn't be there. It was very pretty and for years only needing a quick weeding to keep it so.

The main plants in this area are lilacs, yarrow, shastas, feverfew, lamb's ears, 4 big rhubarb, and some flowering perennials that survive from a wild flower mix planted years ago.

I think a self-seeding garden works for me only if I tolerate weeds and this bed is too close to my house and tended beds to do that. I'm planning a wild self-seeding bed further out.

Wild garden looking out early in the season - those 5 compost bins are no longer there as that area is being landscaped.

Looking toward my tended garden, again early in the season...

Shastas, feverfew, yarrow, and lamb's ears in full bloom...


Swath of old irises...

Hesperis Matronalis... weedy but rather pretty, I deadhead this so it doesn't take over.

Every year in my main garden beds many of the perennials need to be dug up, the weeds removed from the roots, and replanted. I'm using more cardboard and mulch so hope that will reduce the frequency of having to do this.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 11:57AM
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elizh(z5/6 MA)

Oh wow! I just loved the idea, even before I saw the pix. Rhubarb..(-:

I like.... solution to bird feeder area. Also, Mytime's approach of deciding what will obscure when planting annuals, very helpful.

Right at the moment, giving the area a few min daily seems to be working well (pull a couple, deadhead a couple.. cottagey lifestyle (-:) As opposed to the heavier work in the vegetable garden or even the seeder/perennial bed. I actually failed to start many annuals for the most self-seeding bed... except for the poppies where I really did scratch a small area for each packet, then moved many of them when big enough to handle.

Trying to imagine an Alaska seeder bed. If it's like an alpine meadow, then it must be intense!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 12:10PM
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luckygal - your gardens are lovely. the rocks were they there and you planted around them. or did you bring them in from somewhere else?

    Bookmark   June 7, 2011 at 7:47PM
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Elizh, rhubarb actually makes a good foliage plant. The downside is that it dies back in late summer and looks less than decorative and goes to the compost.

Thanks journalbee. The rocks were on our property (dug up by a huge backhoe when the water lines were put in). Bedrock is not very far down in places here so many large rocks were obtained that way. DH moved them in place with the tractor so what you see in these pics is the edge of the rockery he made to hold back a slope.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2011 at 7:46PM
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luckygal, although i can only imagine the time it took to move these rocks. it has given you a wonderful look in your garden. i look forward to seeing more pics of your garden/s.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2011 at 3:28PM
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