The easiest and cheapest way to plant crops is to let the plants do it themselves!
The best example from my garden is claytonia.
Claytonia, also known as miner's lettuce, is a green vegetable with long stems and many small round leaves. It grows extremely well in cool to cold weather, and dies off when it warms up. The plants are covered in tiny white edible flowers every spring, and if just leave enough of those flowers be, they will drop seed for next year. The seeds are so tiny they would be difficult to collect by hand and store.
I pull and compost my claytonia at the end of spring, turn the soil over, and plant quick growing summer crops there. When fall comes, I harvest the summer crops and turn the soil over again, and once temperatures drop the self-sown seeds sprout, looking like tiny grass or spinach plants, growing as a thick mat that covers the soil.
I plant lettuce, spinach, and mustard in the bed, and let the claytonia fill the gaps. These will grow slowly under a cold frame all winter, then shoot upward in early spring. We'll be eating loads of salad and sandwiches with fresh greens when neighbors haven't even planted a garden yet.
What useful crops self-seed effectively in your garden?
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