Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Annual, Perennial

Tall and fragrant, white flowers are reaching out to the sky filled with promise of more rain. Shaped like little umbrellas, these are carrot flowers, beautiful and stately enough to celebrate a wedding or birth. A cloud of tiny beneficial wasps is working the blossoms, pollinating them into future carrot seeds. Come September, the flowers will turn dark brown, with thousands of seeds spilling over onto the ground, ready for next year’s sunlight and moisture, repeating the cycle of procreation.

Carrots are one of many annual or bi-annual garden plants that can be engaged in the cycle of re-seeding themselves and becoming perennial elements in a garden. This reduces the work of planting and cultivating, as seeds know best when to sprout and require no further handling (of course watering is still a must). Re-seeders also reduce your dependency on shopping for seeds. Plants, that for many generations occupy a spot in a garden, adapt and adjust to its unique conditions, unlike purchased plants or plants started from seed grown in a different climate, elsewhere.
Not all veggies or herbs will cooperate. Some will cross-pollinate, which means that sweet peppers will cross with hot peppers and the love child of this union will have characteristics of both parents. Other plants are less adventurous and are better suited for perennializing. Among top re-seeders are dill, carrots, parsley, cilantro, mustard, arugula, tomatillo, calendula, amaranth, lamb’s quarters, beans and peas.
For this year, if you have any open pollinated plants in your garden, allow them to go to seed now. For carrots, chard, broccoli or kale – leave a plant in the soil instead of harvesting it. Some plants only blossom in the second year of life. A garden that is full of re-seeders looks very different. It begins to depart a linear row-and-furrow design where plants march like little soldiers in perfect order, making it easier for the simple-minded pests to follow. Now, your plants will start to scatter, get in groups, take off and move around, making your garden more of a wild patch, and confusing pests in the process. Plants are allowed to bloom, to get tall and to send their energy to the flowers. Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, mustard and others will become tall and lanky. Flowers will turn into seed pods, and you can let them drop the seed, or cut the plant and relocate it to another area of the garden. Simply lay the seeded part it on the ground, mix with your mulch, where it all will join the magical cycle of decomposition, birth and growth.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The mustard seed as well as any seed. It was always there but we still sometimes wonder where. Looking forward to a new past time, hunting for seeds. I just heard Story Musgrave tell another story. Referring to himself as a farmer, he said his time at age 3 in the woods near Thoreau's thoughts was "farther out" that his space walks. Now he grows thousands of palms in Florida...picking up the seeds wherever he goes. Saying: Ask permission never, but forgiveness is his, he knows.