So, when you are gardening, you can pull up a lettuce—or you can pull leaves off of the lettuce. Same for kale and swiss chard. When you just pull off the leaves, the plant keeps on growing. It’s kind-of a miracle, really. For store bought lettuce, the whole lettuce plant gets yanked up. When eating lettuce from your garden, you can keep that lettuce growing so that you never run out.
There is a point, though, where it gets too hot for some of the cold-weather plants and they bolt. Meaning you can no longer keep up with keeping them from flowering and wanting to set seed.
This year I started saving seed from my plants. I let the arugula go wild instead of pulling them up when they started to flower. An interesting side effect of that decision was that the arugula helped shade some of the lettuce planted near it and extended the life of the lettuce before it bolted.
I harvested the arugula seeds awhile ago but never pulled up the plants, and I just noticed that the arugula was looking pretty good, like I could pick it again. Cool!
That’s the arugula right there, the plant with the flowers.
And see that patch of lighter green behind it? I thought it was weeds at first. But, no, it is baby arugula! The seeds that fell to the ground germinated this year!
Andy and I had salad for lunch.
Here is another picture of the arugula, shading a lettuce that I let go to seed. I haven’t harvested those seeds yet.
But, look! Baby lettuce, too!
I am so happy right now.
So, here are a couple of lessons learned this year, in the garden.
1. Using plants to shade other plants that like cooler weather is a way to extend their growing season.
2. Don’t pull out plants when they bolt. They will do the work of planting a fall crop for you!
Permaculture is about setting up systems that work symbiotically, to make less work for you, the gardener. (Among other things.)
You may not have a picture-perfect, neat-and-tidy garden, but you will have one that produces without you having to do as much work.
And that’s the kind of garden I want!