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Replanting every year?

 
Pascal Paoli
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Location: North East Ohio
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Hi,

I am new to permaculture and I have a question: Do you have to replant any of the plants?
My guess would be that all plants that I put in my garden, that go to seed, would come back the next year.
But I have read about basil, that it has to be replanted.
That seems weird to me. I don't have enough practical experience to give the answer to myself.
So please let me know if there are any plants that you have to replant or what kinds you use, so you dont have to.
I kind of want to plant and let grow by itself. Planting stuff that has to be renewed every year does not fit that concept.
Well. This is my first post and I am excited to hear your opinions from you.
 
Dougan Nash
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A lot of permaculture centers around perennial plants. These are things like fruit and nut trees, other trees, herbs, some root crops, and flowers. Most of what we are eating, however, is an annual and yes - they have to be planted every year. Tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, most onions, squash, peas, lettuces, etc. all fall in the annual category. As do most grains.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Some people plant onion sets every year, and I used to try to grow them, but now I grow a few kinds of perennial onions that don't need to be replanted; these are my most successful permaculture plants so far:  Canada Onion (native wild onion), Perennial Leeks (also known as Elephant Garlic), Walking Onions (also known as Egyptian Onions), and Garlic Chives.  These all grow here in my garden with little care beyond some irrigation and dividing them when they become too crowded.  The Garlic Chives do especially well.  The Walking Onions are the second most successful and we use them the most.  Perennial Leeks are very tough plants and will survive here without irrigation but are completely dormant during the hot season, disappearing into the ground.  Same with Canada Onion which won the onion relatives taste test in our household.  They are only above ground during the cool months.

 
Peter Ellis
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There's a huge world of plants to choose from.  Some are annuals that will need to grow again from seed each year (most familiar vegetables are this kind).  Some of these plants are better about re-seeding themselves than others.  For example, I don't think I've ever heard of corn re-seeding itself, but the herb dill re-seeds itself freely.  Carrots, not big on re-seeding themselves. Most of the annual vegetables were familiar with really are not very good at re-seeding themselves.

There are biennials, plants that take two years to produce seeds.  Again, some of these re-seed well, some not so much, and you have to let some of them go to seed, which doesn't always match up with harvesting for food.

Among true perennials, you have bunches of fruiting plants, nuts and berries, the stuff that makes the upper and under stories of a food forest, but not so much in the way of "Vegetables" that most of us are used to.

There are enormous numbers of edible plants, adapted to all sorts of environments.  So there's the thing - you need to look for plants that meet your needs, that will grow in your environment - your soil, your water, sun, temperatures, winds.

Even Martin Crawford, one of the top people in food forest design and care, does planting even now, with his well established forest. Now, today he's got only a few things he needs to plant, the vast majority of his plants are established and will keep growing for decades.
 
Pascal Paoli
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Location: North East Ohio
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Tyler, thanks for these tips.

So why won't they come back the next year if I leave whole fruits with seeds in them?

How would those plants have stayed alive by themselves, without human intervention?

Or are all annuals true cultured plants, that only exist because people made them and took care of their seeds?

 
Pascal Paoli
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Location: North East Ohio
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Peter,

thanks. I will check out Martin Crawford, thanks for pointing it out.

I have heard sepp holzer talk about how he goes after the pigs to just sow in the seeds easily. I guess that are the annuals he is sowing.


Does anybody have a biological explanation as to why we have to collect the seeds and start over? Why can't they just be left alone and come back?
 
Tyler Ludens
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I think the main reason is that in nature, annuals typically produce a huge number of seeds, only a few of which survive and only under the right conditions.  Many gardeners don't have enough space to grow out the large numbers of plants needed for a sustainable population.  Some domestic plants, such as corn, are so specialized that they can no longer reproduce naturally - corn seeds do not naturally separate from the cob to spread themselves like other grass plants, they've been developed not to do so. 

I think it's worthwhile to experiment to see which plants will reseed by themselves.  So far I've not had much luck with volunteers, but I may simply not have found the right varieties for my locale. 
 
Peter Ellis
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Pascal Paoli wrote:Peter,

thanks. I will check out Martin Crawford, thanks for pointing it out.

I have heard Sepp Holzer talk about how he goes after the pigs to just sow in the seeds easily. I guess that are the annuals he is sowing.


Does anybody have a biological explanation as to why we have to collect the seeds and start over? Why can't they just be left alone and come back?


There are multiple answers here -some plants hybridize very easily, like the squash family, so if you plant three or four kinds of squash this year, and let your squash patch re-seed itself for a few years, you will have an unpredictable variety of squash that is naturalized to your area, but may or may not taste so good, or keep well....  If you want to keep your long green zucchini, you need to manage those plants so they don't cross with other squashes and keep those seeds to replant.

Some plants, like most comfrey you can buy, don't produce viable seeds at all. The Bocking 14 variety of comfrey is a sterile clone that makes no seed, but can be spread by root cuttings easily.

Some plants (like the dill I mentioned before) are really good at re-seeding on their own.  Some plants don't produce all that many seeds and we really want all of them to be successful, so collecting and planting them carefully improves germination over just letting nature take its course.  For some plants, nature produces thousands of seeds because thousands of them will be eaten, or fall someplace where they can't grow, and only a few seeds from each plant will actually grow the next year.

Some of the plants we are growing outside their natural environment and they won't germinate well left to their own devices, or maybe the growing season is too short for them so if we're going to get production we need to do something special, like start them inside and transplant them out.

There are choices to be made to minimize how much replanting we have to do, but these choices involve finding plants suited to your environment and conditions that will re-seed, or grow perennially and provide harvests for your needs.
Chances are that wherever we live, whatever our growing conditions, there are going to be some plants we want to grow that are not well adapted to where we are, or where the part we eat is the seed.  For those plants we need to help them along.
 
William Bronson
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Many of the vegetables that are annual xfor us are perennials in warmer climates and/or their seeds can survive and germinate.
Tomatoes are actually pretty damned good at self seeding. Some greens and root vegetables will self seed.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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In addition to the excellent suggestions about why seeds need to be replanted, I'll add a couple more.

When plants were domesticated, and became part of the human guild, they struck a grand bargain with humanity that goes something like this: We'll make fewer/larger leaves, fruits, and seeds in exchange for some of the seeds we make being replanted. We'll give up the germination inhibitors that make growing us slow and unpredictable in exchange for being planted at the right time of year in good soil. We'll give up our thorns, and bad tasting chemicals in exchange for being protected from bugs and animals. Etc... There are many facets to the grand bargain, but they pretty much revolve around the plant becoming less fit to survive outside the guild. And thus dependent on humanity for ongoing survival. So far it's been a great bargain for the plants that made it. There are still populations of corn growing in the old way, that can take care of themselves, but the corn that spread across the world is that which made the grand bargain -- so wholeheartedly -- that it is incapable of surviving in the wild.

A play on a suggestion already made, is that many of our annual vegetables are from the tropics. In my northern garden, damp seeds and/or tubers are killed by freezing weather. Because beans gave up their germination inhibitors as part of the grand bargain, seeds that fall to the ground in the fall germinate immediately, and are then killed by the fall frosts. I have grown varieties of beans in which a small percentage of the seeds still have germination inhibitors. They grow erratically. Might take weeks, months, or years for the seeds to germinate. When cooked, some of the seeds do not absorb water, they remain hard in a pot of fully cooked beans. Try not to break a tooth!

In my short-season garden, some plants that are eaten as greens, might not make seeds or rhizomes in my climate, so need to be replanted.

Perhaps a bug, animal, disease, or weather pattern wipes an entire species out of my garden. In that case, I may want to replant. If I want sunroots to reproduce by seeds, I pretty much have to bag the seed heads, because goldfinches are voracious eaters of sunroot seeds.

Or maybe I don't like the species that are currently growing in my garden, and want to plant something different, or to change the ratios of what's currently growing.
 
Ben Stallings
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Location: Emporia, KS
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Hi, Pascal. I think other people have addressed the various reasons for why some annuals won't reseed themselves in all the climates where they grow. However, you can work with them and meet them halfway. For example, I grow cherry tomatoes, leaf greens, and green pole beans every year in my no-till annual garden. The tomatoes and greens reliably reseed themselves without my needing to do anything, but the beans do not. Each year I forget to harvest a few beans, though, and they turn dry and brown on the vine. I take these inside, store them, and replant them the following year. It's a small price to pay for the next year's crop!

If you're not opposed to having a greenhouse or cold frame, consider putting your basil under glass or plastic before frost. That will give it a little extra time for the seeds to ripen and fall.
 
Casie Becker
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As far as basil that self seeds, there's a lot of different varieties of basil out there. The sweet basil advertised as the best for things like pesto is actually one of the more delicate ones in my experience. Unless you have a very sensitive palate, you would probably be happy with other varieties in the same dishes.

I planted Siam basil a few years ago and every year I have a few small volunteers at the edge of the rose bed where the mulch tends to get thin. They would grow larger if it weren't right next to an asphalt road which bakes the ground right there, but they reliably reappear early in the summer. It smells a little like licorice (actually makes a good cold tea) but when you cook with it the basil flavor dominates. 

A middle ground (which I've done when I wanted more than the volunteers) is to save the dried flower bracts and after the last frost date just drop them where you hope for new basil. It's not guaranteed to succeed, but there's a lot of seed stored in that dried flower and every seed is a chance.

There's an older thread on this forum about people who want to grow an edible lawn. It was filled with suggestions for perennials and semi-reliable self seeding plants. I'll poke around for a bit and add a link if I can find it.

Found it https://permies.com/t/50142/world-weediest-lawn The thread is full of suggestions of perennials, plants that survive cut and come again harvesting, and both common and unusual edibles that self seed well.
 
Anne Miller
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I have really enjoyed this topic and the answers.

This has been the first year we let anything go to seed.  I had a cherry tomato come back in the pot where it was planted last year, I only assume one tomato fell into the pot.  Hubby has several tomatoes waiting for next year.  Saving seed was difficult for lettuce so we now have several volunteers.  Dried pinto beans and green beans for next year.
 
wayne fajkus
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Im at 6 years of not replanting  tomatos. While I had cherries and slicers,  only the cherries are coming back. They are indeterminate heirlooms. They get huge and a good portion ends up on the ground, thus come back from seed next year.

I will say that my tomatos get ripe no later than the die hards that buy seedlings every year to get a jumpstart.




 
wayne fajkus
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We've had two freezes and mine are still going. They cascade down a 5ft wall and that part is not getting freeze damage. The main bed has. Here's a pic. You can make out at least 2 varieties. The ones that are turnip like (top third is different color) are the ones I think we're big slicers and are now cherries.
20161208_132724.jpg
[Thumbnail for 20161208_132724.jpg]
 
William Bronson
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Just recalled something. I grew wonder berries and ground cherries this year. They are notorious self seeding. They are also "an acquired taste".
I also have chicory, still green in this weather. It's so bitter ,tasting it actually made my head hurt!
Fortunately, bunnies love it.
If you want a slicing tomato that will self seed,consider Italian Tree .
The downside for me is how long it takes for them to ripen. So far I find that I have had huge crops tomatoes still green at first frost.
My radishes are of a variety that self seed readily.
They also get huge and too hot to eat anyway but as a pickle. Eat them small,eat the leaves,eat the seed pods, but when they get as big as your head,pickle it or compost it.
So my experience with self seeding plants suggests compromise is part of the deal.
 
James Colbert
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From what I have seen tomatoes, greens, and cucurbits (melons, squash, cucumber, etc) will reseed relatively easily. I have also heard of people growing garlic, potato and sweet potato like perinials as well but have not done it myself.
 
Anna Tennis
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Those of you who are letting your tomatoes, greens, etc. reseed themselves: how do you avoid the soil becoming tired from growing the same crop year after year in the same spot? I'd think it would be fine if you added a lot of compost/leaf mold/manure/etc. annually, but how and when would you do that without smothering next year's vegetable crop seeds and seedlings as if they were weeds?
 
Ben Stallings
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Anna, I think the phenomenon of the soil "becoming tired" is largely limited to tilled monocultures. I've been gardening the same plot for eight years without tilling and with roughly the same 6 crops interplanted each year, plus some weeds that I don't bother to pull, and my soil tests better now than it did when I started. I do top dress with compost at the time of planting (to cover the seeds), and I mulch with green material (grass clippings, weeds) during the growing season when available. The soil started out as heavy clay and is now soft enough for carrots.

I do have more trouble with squash bugs than when I started, so I don't plant squash anymore, though usually some volunteer from the compost and get killed by the squash bugs partway through the season. Similarly, harlequin bugs are well established in the bed and will decimate any crucifers I plant there in the spring -- fall crops are safe from them. But I haven't had any trouble with pests or diseases of tomatoes, beans, carrots, or the beet/spinach family.
 
Anna Tennis
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But I haven't had any trouble with pests or diseases of tomatoes, beans, carrots, or the beet/spinach family.


Fascinating. So even your carrots and beet/spinach family crops reseed themselves?
 
wayne fajkus
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I let the plants decompose where they are. So I guess a lot of those nutrients go back in the soil . This is lazy and backwards from typical gardens where the stuff is cleared out, the ground is tilled, etc.

I had a lot of tomato horn worms this year but they are easiest bug to manage. Just pick them off. But honestly, the whole tomato area has grown huge. I can pick a dozen  or more a day and share with the bugs. I literally leave it alone. Let nature do its thing.

 
Anna Tennis
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I let the plants decompose where they are. So I guess a lot of those nutrients go back in the soil .


So if you want a second crop in one growing season do you seed amongst the decomposing plant matter? Or do you do just one crop per year?
 
wayne fajkus
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They produce the entire season until the freezes kill them. It's not a "crop" you harvest and they are done (like corn). As stated, I picked about 12 a day for several montths. I think the indeterminate type is why. They keep growing and growing.

I planted Luffa which grew up past the tomatos. The tomatos cascaded down cause I didn't trellis them. I also planted jalapeƱo peppers in with them.  They did great considering they were shaded in the tomato plants.
 
Pascal Paoli
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I am glad to hear that this is working for you. Very encouraging.
 
Ben Stallings
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Anna Tennis wrote:Fascinating. So even your carrots and beet/spinach family crops reseed themselves?


No, the carrots rarely go to seed (since they don't flower until their second year) and the spinach seeds are so lightweight they are stopped by the layer of mulch that is always on the ground. I replant them, in more or less the same spot every year. I was speaking to the concern about disease buildup which is used as an argument for crop rotation.
 
Hans Quistorff
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So if you want a second crop in one growing season do you seed amongst the decomposing plant matter? Or do you do just one crop per year?

Again there is a difference between permaculture wisdom and typical garden wisdom.  Typical garden wisdom is to alter the normal production, distribution and germination of seed to maximize market production.
Permaculture wisdom is based on first observing the natural production, germination and germination. then determine what intervention will produce sufficient abundance for yourself and the life community.
Many plants seed by decomposition. They may produce long vines with fruit at intervals that protect the seed until wether decomposes the fruit and provides the germination medium.
Another strategy is used by crops which typically planted for a second crop. They stop producing the tender leaf we desire and send up a seed stalk as soon as the weather gets hot in anticipation the plant will die in the coming drought. Lettuce for example will produce seeds with little umbrellas to be dispersed by the wind and settle in the dry soil to wait for the next cool damp period.  If you are out of natural growing zone of lettuce that cool damp weather will be fallowed by the ground freezing and it wont survive.  The permaculture intervention is to tie a paper bag over the seed head when you first see the umbrellas emerging from the closed flowers. Then you can spread some of the seeds where the vines have been killed by frost but there is enough time for some leaves to grow before the ground freezes, then again after danger of the ground freezing, Then you may be able to make an artificial season by scattering some where there is only early morning sun and you can keep it damp and cool.
Then there is the biennials which produce roots or stalks that overwinter and produce seed the next year. Again you need to bag the seed and duplicate the normal sprouting conditions to get a second crop. Many of them are best planted at the end of summer rather than spring where their natural timing is thrown off.

So in conclusion as mentioned above by adding humans to the guild abundance can be created with minimal cultivation by bringing seed and germination conditions together at appropriate times.
 
Rebecca Norman
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I let lettuce go to seed for the first time this past summer, and had self-reseeding. I had planted an assortment packet of lettuce in the greenhouse last autumn, and liked the red buttery leaf type best, so I left four of those to go to seed, and removed the others when they bolted. We remove the greenhouses from May to November. Those four set seed in July (then outdoors), and I collected seed and pulled them out. I planted the seed in another part of the greenhouse in September, and planted something else in that spot. Now there are several self-started lettuces in the area it grew last year.

I have other self-seeded and volunteer plants. One source is my kitchen greywater: the classic "bucket under the sink" method leads to some unexpected volunteer plants. This year it was tomatoes and buckwheat.
 
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