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Embracing the Chaos of Self-Seeding Vegetables

 
steward
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Location: FL
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I've got walking onions all over the place.  They come up every year, looks like a green lawn.  In the spring, I can fill a shopping bag with the bulbils.

Mint will take off.  It will take over and area and consume all the nitrogen in the soil.  I won't plant mint ever again unless it is in a container.  Also in the yard is Florida Betony, aka rattlesnake weed.  Its in the mint family, is edible raw or as a potherb.  I let it grow because it thrives in the cold months.  When the grass is brown, I have plenty of greens to offer the chickens.

This year I have arugula jumping up in a few spots.  I've not planted any in a couple years.  I'm not a big fan of it, but the chickens are.  I'll let it go for now.

 
                          
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Zone 8 AL I have arugula volunteering in only two spots, mustard all over the place, and my mint is as planned filling a spot between concrete and not outside its bounds yet.  I actually think it's looking a little peaked after 3 years but it gets lots of nitrogen from my dogs peeing there (don't worry I'm not selling mint for tea, just pick the tallest ones for myself).  Loofah does some self seeding but usually not in the best place for growing (more selfseeds where I process the gourds than where they grow), and my volunteer sweet peas were miles ahead of my planted ones.  Garlic chives thrive and spread, regular chives don't like our heat.  Trying to get dill here but no luck yet.
 
                          
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i haven't gone through the entire thread yet, but i thought i would mention these two fabulous resources.  i call forest gardening permaculture on steroids.  organic steroids of course! LOL!:

"edible forest gardening" (two volumes)


http://www.amazon.com/Edible-Forest-Gardens-2-set/dp/1890132608/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262237514&sr=1-2

forest gardening is spectacular stuff.  ecologically centered design focusing on self-fertile and maintaining gardens.  emphasizes controlling 
and

"Perennial Vegetables"

http://www.amazon.com/Perennial-Vegetables-Artichokes-Gardeners-Delicious/dp/1931498407

not self seeding annuals...edible perennials!!  many uncommon plants

i hope i'm not being redundant. -nick
 
                          
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oops, didn't finish my thought...ADD, what can i say?

emphasizes directing ecosystem succesion with minimal maintainence and external inputs.  and if i can put my two cents in...Fukuoka is way too theoretical and impractical for serious food production...ok, maybe it works with rice, but tossing handfulls of carrot seeds to the wind just ain't gonna cut it.  no offense mr. fukuoka!  your still the bomb diddley. we need wild men like u to shake things up a bit!
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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Well, if you are gonna toss carrot seeds in the wind, make sure you toss them from about an inch above the dirt you want them to grow in!!! 

This fall, I took to maddly sprinkling seeds in my garden beds.  I just couldn't make myself make rows and crouch over to plant seeds and then cover them up in neat little lines.  So I sprinkled lots of seeds in the beds.  Beware if you do this, you might get lots and lots of certain things which might shade out other things.  Turnips are fast to germinate and grow fast enough to shade out many slower plants.

As to carrots I tend to sprinkle seeds all over the place where ever they might stay moist enough to germinate.  I never seem to get enough carrots from the garden since they take so long.

I don't have many plants self seeding or propagating yet.  Only a few but I'm interested in more.
Challenge is the other half gets on weeding binges where he will clear entire areas and I can rarely save even the plants I paid for when he gets like that.  How do I train him that he doesn't need to break his back weeding?
 
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I want lots of carrots as they are horse treats.  I plan lots of fruit trees too but they take longer...It is so cold here
 
gardener
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Location: ZONE 5a Lindsay Ontario Canada
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I've had success with the following... (I'll try to keep out the plants that have already been mentioned)

Dill
Kale (in B.C. province)
Swiss Chard (In B.C. province)
Lambs Quarters AKA Wild Spinach
Parsnip
Calendula
Endive
Radish (though the offspring don't tend to have sizeable roots in my experience)
peas (though the germination was minimal in my one time experiment)
Spinach
Mustard
Cilantro
Catnip
Sunflowers
Huckleberry (the one in the solanaceae family)



I've also heard that purple orach, arugula, and beets can self seed

 
pollinator
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Location: Oakland, CA
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wolfmtn wrote:Fukuoka is way too theoretical and impractical for serious food production...ok, maybe it works with rice, but tossing handfulls of carrot seeds to the wind just ain't gonna cut it.   no offense mr. fukuoka!  your still the bomb diddley.



For certain definitions of "serious food production," he may well have been opposed to the very idea.

Have you read 1491? It makes a good case that a managed ecosystem can produce food enough for a fairly dense population, with predominantly hands-off methods.

http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/200203/mann
 
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wolfmtn wrote:
i haven't gone through the entire thread yet, but i thought i would mention these two fabulous resources.  i call forest gardening permaculture on steroids.  organic steroids of course! LOL!:

"edible forest gardening" (two volumes)


http://www.amazon.com/Edible-Forest-Gardens-2-set/dp/1890132608/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1262237514&sr=1-2

forest gardening is spectacular stuff.  ecologically centered design focusing on self-fertile and maintaining gardens.  emphasizes controlling 
and

"Perennial Vegetables"

http://www.amazon.com/Perennial-Vegetables-Artichokes-Gardeners-Delicious/dp/1931498407

not self seeding annuals...edible perennials!!  many uncommon plants

i hope i'm not being redundant. -nick



Not at all.  Thanks for these great links man.  Especially the forest ecology.  I live in upstate NY so this fits perfect.  We have 14 acres of woods, ash, white oak, and others that I'm not knowledgeable enough to know what they are.  I just bought the 2 volumes and the perennials books..thanks they look great!
 
gardener
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Location: South Puget Sound, Salish Sea, Cascadia, North America
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basjoos wrote:
One of the hallmarks of a Fukuoka style vegetable garden is that many (most) of the vegetables self-seed themselves and eventually evolve into half-wild landraces adapted to the local growing conditions and pests.



How are you managing beds?  Permanent mulch, imported mulch, or tillage/clean cultivation?  What are your predominant weeds, and did you spend time controlling weeds before you switched to more naturalized recruitment?

I just haven't seen many good examples like this and I am thinking through how to start.

prc
 
pollinator
Posts: 433
Location: Upstate SC
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I use a sort of "managing the weeds" method where I keep cutting or pulling the most vigorous/invasive weeds and sheet composting them either on the bed or on the paths depending on the size/vigor of the vegetables growing there.  The less vigorous/invasive weeds I will leave in place, only cutting them back later in the season to keep them from seeding.  Meanwhile I am allowing selected vigorous vegetables to flower and scatter their seeds in the beds (those with nonshattering seed heads I break up and scatter seeds by hand).  I am working to build up the population of dormant vegetable seeds in my soil so hopefully over time most of the seedlings popping up on their own in the beds will be locally adapted semi-wild vegetables rather than weeds. 

I keep a living mulch of weeds growing on my beds whenever the veggies aren't growing and mulch around the veggies with cut/pulled weeds.  I only clean cultivate the tiny areas right around where I am planting seeds.  I don't import mulch onto my beds, but do add a thin layer of compost from time to time onto the beds (composted hay/sheep manure from off-site or sheet composted weeds/vegetables from the paths).  Most common summer weeds are bermuda, bahia, dallis, and Johnson grass and pokeweed.  Mock strawberry and rumex are the worst year around weeds.  Some of the weeds I haven't identified yet.  Although some consider them weeds, I consider wild garlic and chickweed to be useful edible plants that I grow in the winter along with the vegetables in my garden and although they aren't yet present, want to add lamb's quarters and purslane to that list.
 
Travis Philp
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A note on lambs quarters, purslane, and mustard greens...

They receive good response from Chefs who I've given samples to, especially the lambs quarters (Calling it by its other common name 'wild spinach' makes a big difference)

I'm able to get $8-10/lb for purslane and lambs quarters, and $6-8 per lb for wild mustard greens, and also the mustard flowers.

I decided to let those three self seed and take over areas of my garden, which ended up paying off quite well. I highly recommend trying to market them if thats something you may be inclined to do.
 
Posts: 202
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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What a great thread, still reading through it.  My potatoes and beans aren't doing well at all and I really counted on those for food this year.  So I'm going through trying to figure out what perennial things to plant and other things that will self seed. 

I need to focus on the basic and "meat" veggies.  Hardy things.  We have Jerusalem artichoke that is doing well and in a good spot.  The lettuce and arugula are going to seed now and I"ll let them re-seed themselves.  The lettuce is in a cold frame already. 

I like the idea of the winter squash too.  Thanks for all the links.
 
pollinator
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well i was going to post a big list of veggies that i let self propagate. but you all covered them pretty well.

one that i didnt see that i love is strawberries in the forest garden. dont cut the runners and let them be.  every year they establish a new "patch" which over time gives you patches that are of various ages. imo this increases yield tremendously. i eat strawberries from the end of may until november.

tomatillos which are related to ground cherries also self propagate. they are EXTREMELY drought hardy.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1455
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basjoos,

I am interested in the self seeding carrots.  My carrots only do well in deep loose earth.  That means that I have to either pile high some compost or dig deep in an area I want to plant them in.  I am doing both.

Are your self seeders making a good carrot?  Is all of the area that they are growing in deep loose earth?
 
Jordan Lowery
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my carrots self seed and i get better carrots than if i tried to plant them. funny thing is i get my best carrots from hard compacted soil, mostly in my pathways. when i have always been told to plant them in the loosest soil possible.

my advice, toss some veggie seed out and let them naturalize! use seedballs if its something birds like to eat.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
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Well, it seems that everything else that I have learned on this forum has worked so I will let them seed at will.
 
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speedyweedy wrote:
I heart mache (corn salad) and dandelions and good king henry to eat.
All self seed.



Mache self-seeds very readily and if I didn't water my garden here in Oregon it would still grow fine.  I find my patches of mache die down after flowering and leave a carpet of seeds in their wake.

Borage is a tenacious self-seeder and I've had quite a few leeks seed themselves this past year as well.
 
Jordan Lowery
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Well, it seems that everything else that I have learned on this forum has worked so I will let them seed at will.



i prefer to collect the seed and scatter them myself. when falling naturally from the seed head they grow real close. which is fine when you have dozens of them self seeding. but for getting carrots into new areas its best to collect the seed and toss it out there.
 
pollinator
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having much better success with the selfseeding this year..but also having to fight hubby who wants to pull up the going to seed plants..(head injury)

I do have a bunch of plants producing seed right now though, and he has left them alone..woo hoo

hopefully they will self seed..a lot of greens and lettuces in the process.

I sure wish that a lot of the plants many of you mentioned would self seed here in our colder area..it would be so nice..I have occasionally had tomatoes self seed and squashes but not cucumbers, yet.

I would so love to not have to plant all the annuals every year !! right now my greenhouse is full of very tall lettuces and my fingers are crossed for some seeds !!, my chicory went to seed and i have been getting chard, radishes and arugula for a few years now..so nice.
 
Jamie Jackson
Posts: 202
Location: Zone 5b - 6a, Missouri Ozarks
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Our arugula and lettuce are going to seed.  They are in good beds, so I'll just let them be.

This is something I don't understand about the self-seeding thing...  If you are supposed to rotate crops, how do you do that with self-seeding?
 
Jordan Lowery
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This is something I don't understand about the self-seeding thing...  If you are supposed to rotate crops, how do you do that with self-seeding?



there is no need to rotate in polyculture farming. the more diversity you have as far as species go. the less chance of disease rolling in and taking over.
 
Jamie Jackson
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But what about nutrient drain?  Do you have to know that for tomatoes, for example, they'll need more X this year because they've been in this spot for X years?  I thought that was more the reason for rotating.  This plant will deplete the Calcium, Nitrogen or whatever from this spot. 
 
Brenda Groth
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if you are sheet mulching/composting you are replenishing the nutrients needed with your top dressing..the only things I rotate are anuals that don't self seed..obviously self seeding will not be where you intend it to be unless you are gathering the seeds and putting them where you choose.
 
Jamie Jackson
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I am top composting in the veggie gardens and starting beds that will be sheet mulched as soon as I shut down the current compost pile. 
 
Jordan Lowery
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But what about nutrient drain?  Do you have to know that for tomatoes, for example, they'll need more X this year because they've been in this spot for X years?  I thought that was more the reason for rotating.  This plant will deplete the Calcium, Nitrogen or whatever from this spot. 



once again, in a monoculture system. yes this would be a big problem.

yet in a poly culture system. some plants collect certain minerals and when they decompose the minerals are released. now some plants collect these minerals from the sub soil. where most of the "washed out" nutrients go. they bring them in there leaves, which decompose and replenish the topsoil. the more diversity you have the more nutrients and minerals you have cycling through your soil. the less of a problem you have on build up of one, and the loss of another.

that being said if somethings just not there, its not going to appear out of no where. outside sources could be needed at first to get the cycle going.
 
Jamie Jackson
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Well I sure appreciate all the input.  I"m trying hard to build the right kind of system.
 
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Mike Turner wrote:One of the hallmarks of a Fukuoka style vegetable garden is that many (most) of the vegetables self-seed themselves and eventually evolve into half-wild landraces adapted to the local growing conditions and pests.

That's the direction I have been taking my South Carolina zone 7 garden, allowing strong, healthy specimens of non-hybrid vegetable plants to scatter seed for the next generation of veggies.  I'm trying to build up the population of dormant veggie seeds in the soil so an increasing proportion of the "weed" seedlings that pop up in the beds will be half-wild vegetables. 

So far, I have had great success with carrots, seed matured and scattered in late spring remains dormant all through the heat of the summer and germinates when the temps cool off in late summer.

Lemon cucumber is also self seedling well, this summer's lemon cuc production was all produced by self sown seedlings that came up at the proper time in the spring for cucs to start growing and beat all of my seeded cucs to maturity.

Matt's Wild Cherry tomato has completely naturalized in my garden, coming up everywhere.  I just weed them out from whichever parts of the garden that I don't want cherry tomatoes to grow.  They have even spread into the local pasture where they provide quick snacks when I pass by.  They also come up in the cold frames and grow slowly all winter long producing by far my earliest spring tomatoes, weeks ahead of the transplanted tomatoes.

Leaf amaranth is another that I haven't had to seed for the last few years, coming up every spring on its own and corn salad, its winter counterpart, does the same in the fall for winter greens.

Lettuce is starting to become a self-sown half-wild winter annual in the garden, producing some interesting variants as it adapts to local conditions.  Last winter one lettuce plant went through 8F lows unprotected with no damage and turned into a monster in the spring, producing seven 5 to 8 feet high flowering stalks in late spring/early summer.  Its progeny are starting to pop up now around the garden.

Seminole winter squash/pumpkin self seeds and it is just a matter of thinning the many seedlings down to those plants I allow to grow to maturity.

I have started domesticating wild garlic in my garden for use in the fall and winter, taking advantage of a hardy edible weed.

Other then that, I had some self-seeding success with pole beans, cowpeas, adzuki beans, and various types of onions (green ,bulbing, anual, and perennial).

It'll be interesting to see where this experiment goes, but its getting to the point where many of the seedlings that appear in a bed when I harvest or remove a crop are self sown vegetables whose seeds are released from dormancy along with the weeds once the root competition of the extablished crop is removed.



Mike, I'd be interested to know how your ongoing self-seeding experiments are progressing...
 
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Well then, just toss the tomatoes you are going to let self-seed where you want them next year. Also, seeds tend to wash around, finding their way across the garden [I have NO idea where the volunteer squash came from, the dirt was under cement last year until well after planting]. Another thing you can do is interplant species that provide each other with the nutrients they need. Beans (nitrogen fixer) with corn (heavy feeder) for instance. And interplant things like marigolds with tomatoes, marigolds help ward off pests and disease from the tomatoes. Plants are more likely to get disease after growing in one spot for too long for two reasons: Diseased plant material carelessly left/dropped. Lack of nutrition. Heavy feeders do well with occasional applications of manure or other fertilizer. In poor soils, or disease-ridden areas, rotating crops is a very smart thing to do. On the other hand, well-mulched soil is much happier soil than bare soil, and chop and drop methods are basically mulch. Self-seeding things work best if you have a plan OR if you are a laid-back sort who just goes around whatever with cheerful complaisance. Most gardeners have a goal of the garden feeding them, and will harvest most of what grows. That leaves only a few self-seeding fruits/seed heads and those can be plucked off and tossed where wanted for the next year, when ripe.
 
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I had not heard of Fukuoka until I came to this forum but this self-seeding is something we've used for decades. We're in zone 3, maybe 4ish in some spots, here in Vermont. We get lots of self-seeding, even tomatoes. What I don't need I let bolt (go to seed). They produce seed that then grows in the next cycle (next year for us here in Vermont). We seeded about 70 acres with rape, kale, turnips, beets, radishes, pumpkins, sunflowers, sunchokes. Now many of those are reseeding themselves year after year. This saves me work and money while making our pastures richer. The livestock tend to nibble on the leaves of the plants during the summer leaving the tubers. They also don't tend to bother squash and pumpkin plants. Sunflowers and sunchokes they'll go for. Then in the fall they eat the squashes, pumpkins and tubers they can get in their winter paddock areas. Tubers that are under deep snow survive and grow again the next year as perennials. To some degree we control their eating of the crops by moving them through fields but there are also a lot of these plants that are simply doing well out in the pastures. The seeds the animals eat mostly pass through them and start new plants the next year in rich piles of dung.

Cheers,

-Walter Jeffries
Sugar Mountain Farm
Pastured Pigs, Sheep & Kids
in the mountains of Vermont
Read about our on-farm butcher shop project:
http://SugarMtnFarm.com/butchershop
 
Brenda Groth
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every spring I am fascinated by what self seeded, either plants or by the birds and animals that brought them in. I go around and look for baby plants that I might want to keep, move, etc..This year I moved a whole lot of self seeded maple trees and white pines..to a place where I wanted those to grow. I am allowing my 4 year old swiss chard to go to seed this year, it is in my greenhouse. Also severl lettuces bolted early this year, so they are going to reseed my gardens (still wondering i some of my wierd plants in the garden aren't ancestors of lettuces and cole crops, need to identfy them)
 
Walter Jeffries
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One of the things I figure is that those varieties that go to seed or otherwise survive our winters and thrive in our short summers are the ones I want to grow. Thus with each seed saving, whether I gather seeds and sow them or they reseed themselves I'm improving the variety for my local climate to get better and better plants. Same goes for our breeding of livestock.
 
steward
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Lambsquarters is my go-to cooking green, and it grows completely independently from my management. I go out and cut a few plants every morning for my omelet. I got a little snipping tool from Lee Valley that speeds up the removal of the leaves from the stems.

You don't have to cook it--it tastes remarkably like spinach raw. I've had it in a salad, just tossed with other salad greens and also julienned along with kale in a "massaged" salad.

Lambsquarters also makes great "chips," a la kale chips. You just stack them in a small bowl, add some oil and use your hands to get a think coating of oil on each leaf. Then you spread them out (ideally on a rack on a pan) and sprinkle with salt. Bake them in the oven at 250 to 350 (your choice--I like the lower temp, but my oven has a fan to speed things up) and they are delicious.

Here in Wisconsin, it shows up on all disturbed soil on my property. The chickens love it, the rabbits love it and I love it. It will get over 6 feet tall if left alone in a nice spot. Once it is huge and mature, the seeds can also be harvested, although I've only ever given them to my chickens I know they are good people food as well.
 
gardener
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Rose of Sharon, Mimosa and Box Elder.
All have edible bits, one is a nitrogen fixer, so I let them live and become living lattice. If they get out of control, I strip the leaves.
I expiramented this year with the "whole foods garden" , was which is handfuls of seeds crom the bulk isle at whole foods. Mostly the black eyed peas have won the most square feet, gets along well with the tomatoes, which coincidently came from a friends compost vollenteers.
In other beds, buckwheat , radishes, turnips, and chickpeas are going to seed.
I hope they sprout next spring!
 
Mike Turner
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Jamie Jackson wrote:But what about nutrient drain?  Do you have to know that for tomatoes, for example, they'll need more X this year because they've been in this spot for X years?  I thought that was more the reason for rotating.  This plant will deplete the Calcium, Nitrogen or whatever from this spot. 



Nutrient drain isn't a problem since many to most of the self-seedlings pop up in different locations of the garden from where their parents grew.

Plants currently self-seeding in my garden to the point where I haven't had to plant any seed for years: current tomato, parsnips, chicory, purple sprouting broccoli, collards, okra, Seminole squash. I've also established lamb's quarters as the most common weed appearing in the garden so the pulled weeds can go in salads or soup when they come up in beds where I don't want them to grow. They are easy to pull and outcompete "useless" weeds that might have come up in their place.

Plants self-seeding to some extent, but still require external seedling to maintain populations: miner's lettuce, lettuce, corn salad, yard long beans, pole beans, cucumbers.
I suspect the potatoes have been self-seeding somewhat since small potato plants have appeared in parts of the garden not close to previous year's plantings.
 
gardener
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Every year I get all sorts of volunteer plants coming up all over the food forest:

Cherry tomatoes.

Fennel.

Various leaf lettuces.

Daikon radish (and every other radish).

Sweet potatoes. These are practically invasive—they come up from little runners that don't get dug up.

Regular potatoes.

Pumpkins.

Carrots.

Ginger. OK -- this is because a little chunk of ginger will often be left in the ground when you harvest.

Chaya (if you leave chaya stikes/stalks laying on the soil surface).

Gourds (not a veggie, but a volunteer every year).

Sunflowers.

Arugula.

Part of the reason I get so many of these coming up as volunteers is because I'll let a quarter or more of my crop go to seed. Then you just snap the head off a carrot (for example) and thresh the seed out by rubbing it between your hand. Because everything is so heavily mulched, and that mulch gets kicked around, disturbed, turned by possums and raccoons . . . stuff gets turned into the soil and constantly is sprouting.

One year I got 14 watermelon off of one volunteer watermelon plant.


 
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Mike Turner wrote:Plants self-seeding to some extent, but still require external seedling to maintain populations: miner's lettuce, lettuce, corn salad, yard long beans, pole beans, cucumbers.



What do You mean by this "require external seedling"?
 
pioneer
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homeschooling cattle kids dog duck rabbit chicken composting toilet food preservation wood heat homestead
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This has been on my mind since I recently moved and I am starting over this year. I was growing at my last home for four years, and was so happy with many self-seeding annuals that popped up every year. We ate a lot and just left some in the garden to come up if and where it pleased. Some of my favorites were:

Aunt Molly's Ground Cherry
Matt's Wild Cherry Tomato
Skyscraper Sunflower
Wild Arugula
Sugar Baby Watermelon
Borage
Cilantro
Calendula
 
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Location: The Netherlands
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Jerusalem artichoke is an excellent self seeder, it is so efficient that it is advised to keep it in a separate pot/plot because it might just self-seed a bit too much and spread through the entire garden.
 
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I may have missed it as I skimmed this thread quickly, but I didn't see anyone mention salsify. I don't let it "self seed" as it would dominate our small property being SO resilient. Rather, once it goes to seed I grab the seed heads and throw them where I want the next scattered planting. Works great on patches of "lawn" where I'm not supposed to grow food in the suburbs. Dandelions, plantain, lamb's quarters also work in this fashion.
 
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