WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH ALL YOUR ‘VOLUNTEERS,’ the self-sown plants that sprout from seedheads of last year’s adults? I have to confess I let most of them get big enough to be useful (like this dill, above, now uprooted and on my windowsill, about to spice up some dish or other), and here’s how:
I’ll admit it freely; I am messy here and there. Yes, I clean up and edge and mulch…most places. But not all. There’s no better way to get good germination, I’ve found over many years, than to simply let certain plants sow themselves where they wish to grow, and then be very careful during spring cleanup to leave their chosen playpens alone.
There’s a spot beside my patio where Nicotiana and annual poppies like to propagate–don’t ask me why–and I’ve learned to let them do so, above, until they’re just big enough to move around where I want them. (This means we each get our way half the time, I guess you could say.) In the driveway gravel, wonderful sedums like ‘Matrona’ sow all the time, and I’m happy to have the freebies to add to the garden.
If the colony of volunteers is in the right place but just too thickly sown, I edit (with repeated pinches of my fingers, removing enough to allow the survivors good spacing). If the colony isn’t where I want it at all, I scoop up trowelfuls (above, with Nicotiana) and move them, above, or sometimes even individual young plants.
This is my system with not just the poppies and flowering tobacco, but with tall verbena (Verbena bonariensis), and would be with Nigella and larkspur and other things I no longer grow (though who knows why?).
I know, I should neaten up my act–how messy to let the dill grow 6 inches high before weeding it out? But what a good salad tonight’s will be, and truth be told, there’s a few more young stashes out there in very wrong spots that will be on the kitchen windowsill a day or two or three hence.
P.S.–I am ruthless on tomato volunteers, as I have mentioned.