Encouraging Volunteer Plants in the Herb Garden

Reader Contribution by Camille Van Sant
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Camille has spent most of her adult life at other, more lucrative occupations, but now at 55 years, she has decided to follow her dream of growing an organic sustainable kitchen garden for her family. She started Green Garden Chef in 2008 to share her experiences, research and passion for organic kitchen gardening and cooking. 

Many annual herbs will reseed next season. When this happens, these herbs are called “volunteers.” I’ve had dill, cilantro and parsley come up year after year. To encourage volunteers, let at least one healthy plant go to seed and just leave it. Do not deadhead it (cut the flower head with seeds off the plant). The following season, don’t till your soil deeply or turn it over. To add amendments, apply a layer before the seeds have fallen or just dig in the shovel, lift up and just twist to gently mix only the surface. It’s less work anyways.

A parsley volunteer sprouted from a wood log.
Photo by Camille Van Sant

As an extra bonus, when these volunteers come up, they signal when it’s a right time to plant more seeds of that type, environmental conditions being optimum. Also, only the seeds that find your environment favorable will sprout, from which you can create a lineage from year to year that has adapted to your garden.

And don’t be too quick to weed in other parts of the garden, as those seeds will pop up where you least expect them as in my photo above! 

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