But if you deadhead…..

After expounding upon the merits of deadheading in a recent post, it occurs to me that I need to also present another side of the issue.  Deadheading does produce more flowers overall, and does keep the plants and the gardens looking tidier and fresher, but there is one thing deadheading does not produce….SEEDS!  Yes, if you deadhead every flower as it fades, then there will be no seeds.  With many plants this is not a problem, because if they are hybrids, they won’t come true from seed anyway.  If there are more than one variety of peppers, or tomatoes, or squash, or zinnias or daylilies blooming at the same time, they won’t come true to variety either, but will be cross-pollinated and produce seeds that produce mystery varieties.  Often gardeners complain that after growing only one heirloom variety of tomato so they could save the seed, the harvest from those seeds the following year doesn’t resemble the original at all.  If one has neighbors within a bee’s flying distance, who might be growing a different variety of tomato, then very likely the tomatoes will be cross-pollinated and create a mixed result.  It’s not easy to save seed if you have near neighbors who grow similar crops, but not the exact same varieties.

So, I hear you asking….”What’s her point?  Isn’t she still arguing for deadheading?” My response is “Yes, but….!”  Overall, deadheading is the rule in my gardens, but with a few exceptions.  The first plant that is not always deadheaded is the lovely nasturtium.Nast Tip Top Apricot compressed  I grow lots of nasturtiums in various shades of apricot, orange and yellow.  They are just too gorgeous and reliable not to have in abundance in the potager.  I love to stuff their blossoms with a cheese mixture for a colorful appetizer, or make confetti of the petals to sprinkle over canapes.  (For recipes using nasturtiums, go to my website http://www.caroleesherbfarm.com and use the search feature.)  The flowers make a wonderful, flavorful herbal vinegar, and the flowers and leaves can be added to salads.  I do deadhead them periodically so they keep flowering all summer, but I skip a few plants so I can harvest these:  Nasturtium seeds compressed  Beautiful, crunchy, peppery nasturtium seeds that can be added to salads, marinades, stir fry, or pickled as a caper substitute.  One of my favorite recipes is this chicken dish with potatoes and nasturtium seeds, a one-skillet wonder that is quick and easy.  Chicken with potatoes & nasturtium seeds compressed Simply heat a bit of olive oil in a cast iron (or other oven safe) skillet.  Add 6 chicken legs or thighs that you’ve seasoned with salt and pepper, and brown on all sides.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees while chicken browns.  Make a sauce by combining 1/3 c. olive oil, 2 smashed cloves garlic; 2 T. lemon juice; 2 T. coarsely chopped fresh nasturtium seeds; 1/2 tsp. pepper; 1 tsp. salt.  When chicken is browned, add 3-4 medium potatoes, cut into quarters.  Pour the sauce over and place in oven for 30-40 min., until chicken is done.  I wouldn’t want to be without nasturtium seeds, so various plants are rotated in the deadheading schedule.  I also often dry extra seeds to plant next year, and also to use as a pepper substitute.  Another plant that is allowed to produce seeds, and is also sometimes used as a pepper substitute is nigella.  Nigella compressed  Once the flower disappears it is replaced by a striking purple-streaked pod that is filled with black seeds.

Nigella pod compressed  They are welcome to self-seed throughout the potager interior borders, but I always harvest some of the seeds for culinary purposes, and I like the dried pods for winter floral arrangements.  Poppies are also allowed to self-seed in the potager borders, as are dill, calendula, borage, and cilantro because any surplus can easily be removed.   I do deadhead all the violas, which are great self-seeders because I’ve found that the orange ones I want for my edges rarely come back orange, and if I allow them to self-seed then my paths are filled with seedlings that must be removed.  I deadhead chives and garlic chives for the same reason.

In the flower gardens, deadheading is generally the rule until a few weeks before frost.  Then, the last blooms of cleome are allowed to set and drop seed.  I only grow the pristine white “Helen Campbell” variety, so I don’t have to worry about cross-pollinating, and none of my neighbors grow it.  The tall verbena on a stick can also self seed because it seems to always come true.  Because I use a fairly narrow color palette and prefer specific varieties, I’d rather start the other annuals each season with fresh seed, rather than risk ending up with a lot of muddy pinks or magentas.  However, if you want self-seeding annuals like larkspur and bachelor buttons, don’t deadhead all the flowers, but allow some to make seed.  And that, I hope, is the end of that!


About carolee

A former professional herb and lavender grower, now just growing for joy in my new potager. When I'm not in the garden, I'm in the kitchen, writing, or traveling to great gardens.
This entry was posted in Deadheading, edible flowers, gardening, Potager, seeds, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to But if you deadhead…..

  1. bcparkison says:

    Now we know why your garden is so lovely…You know lot about gardening.


  2. dontwait says:

    You are a wealth of information. I pinned this one so I have it at my fingertips. Thanks for sharing!


  3. sher2garden says:

    Informative article. Chicken recipe I have to try. Sounds delicious!


  4. I never knew nasturtium seeds were edible! I have only eaten the leaves previously. I’ll have to try the seeds of the nasturtiums and the self seeded nigellas in my garden too some time, thank you for sharing 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Elle M. says:

    Hi carolee! Thank you for the informative post. I have some nasturtium plants and their leaves starting to go yellow after a while, I wonder, is it because it’s winter time here in Western Australia (though we don’t get snow) just a mild weather which usually up to 10-20 degrees usually? Or is it over watering because it has been raining for a few weeks? Or is it a disease? Thanks!!


    • carolee says:

      Nasturtiums are heavy feeders, so they may just be getting hungry. They do not tolerate frost and can take a lot of water, unless the roots are waterlogged. Or, they may just be getting old and senile. Or, if you didn’t deadhead them, they’ve done their job by reproducing and may just be going into “full retirement.” Check them for seeds, and you can soon plant them again!


      • Elle M. says:

        Thanks a lot carolee.. they might just be needing some boost.. I’ll probably give them some organic fertilizer.. hope it will do the trick.. cheers!


  6. Nasturtiums grow beautifully here along the coastal beach areas here in Southern Ca.
    I never deadhead them, and they come back lush, colorful and large every year:


  7. Somerset 163 says:

    Loved the post. Every time I grow nasturtiums, I get a ton of flies!!


  8. Robin says:

    Interesting post. I didn’t know so many seeds were edible. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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