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Vermont Garden Journal: Thinking Spring In The Middle Of Summer

When seeds drop from spinach, lettuce and other greens, collect and sprinkle them so they self-sow for next season.
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When seeds drop from spinach, lettuce and other greens, collect and sprinkle them so they self-sow for next season.

I've been enjoying full heads of lettuce from my garden. The best part is that I never planted them. Many vegetables and herbs will self-sow seeds in summer and fall, and pop up next spring. With a little editing, you can save some of them for eating.

The first step is to let some of your vegetables go to seed. In the case of lettuce and greens, it's as simple as leaving a few bolting plants in the garden. You can also do this with arugula, dill, fennel, cilantro, radishes and spinach. Let the seeds form and drop or collect and sprinkle them around.

Fruiting plants, however, are less reliable. You may have noticed tomatoes, ground cherries, squash and cucumbers germinating in beds where they grew last year. You'll have to be careful with these fruiting plants. Squash, pumpkins and cucumbers probably cross-pollinated, so the plant growing may not give you the same type and quality of vegetable you grew last year. Unless you like a science project, it's best to weed these out.

For tomatoes, if it was an open-pollinated variety, it may be worth saving just to see what kind of fruit you get. Tomato flowers are self-fertile, but they can cross with other tomato varieties. Of course, any diseased plants should be removed. Ground cherries are the easiest fruit to let self sow. I planted a few years ago and have never had to plant again.

A nice thing about self-sown vegetables and herbs is they germinate when the soil has the perfect warmth and moisture. There's no guessing when to plant. This time of year, weed out overcrowded seedlings or those growing in the wrong place and transplant some to a new location. Every summer,  let a few plants self-sow and you'll have plenty of seedlings come spring.

Now for this week's tip: cut back early blooming perennials, such as nepeta, after they are finished flowering. This will stimulate new growth and a second flowering later in summer.

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