Nature Takes Over


I did not plant that!  Months ago I put 3 Nasturtium seeds in the crow’s pot and a Salvia came up, the Nasturtiums never appeared.  I would have to guess that birds were feasting on the Salvias and dropped a seed into the pot.  It certainly is fascinating how plants get around.

Flashback Friday

Today’s flashback is to “Dirt Balls”.  Dirt Balls are made by mixing seeds with clay and compost and then rolling the mixture into balls.  This is an ancient technique used to plant without tilling.  It has also been used to seed bomb empty lots in cities.

Dirt  Balls are a great way to share your seeds.  Take a look at Dirt Balls.



The Power of Seeds


I was really surprised to find seeds still sticking to my socks after they were washed and put through the dryer.  Just another example on how seeds can hitch a ride and travel far.  Ingenious.

I was also surprised to see my socks still looked dirty.

Autumn Yellows


Autumn seems to bring out the yellows in the Automatic Garden.  The native Swamp Sunflower keeps its blooms for weeks.  This started out as one plant, but has reseeded and multiplied over a few years to the point that some had to be removed.


The Esperanza or Yellow Bells (tecoma stans, Texas native) took a very hard hit during last winter’s freeze.  It struggled all summer and was finally able to put out some flowers before next winter arrives.


Mexican or Tropical Milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) is a favorite of the Monarch Butterfly.  This is a yellow variety.  The Monarchs fly over the Gulf Coast on their migrations to and from Mexico.  This Tropical Milkweed should be cut back in the fall as it harbors a parasite that is fatal to the Monarchs.


And of course, a favorite of the autumn garden is the yellow Oenothera grandiflora or Evening Primrose.  It seeded itself all over the garden naturally creating succession germination and has had a plant blooming since August.   It is a native of Alabama where William Bartram first collected it.


Fall Bloomers in the Automatic Garden

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Salvias are reliable plants in the Automatic Garden.  Some are hardy and most will reseed.  They rest for the hot months of summer and start to rebloom when the earth begins to tilt away from the sun.


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The Gingers are putting out their last flowers of the season.

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Pentas are in full bloom, providing nectar for bees,hummingbirds and butterflies, although the past several years have seen few butterflies in this area. The white Pentas reseeded this year on their own.

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The Ageratum, Rudbeckia, and Torenia are blooming nicely.  The Ageratum is wild and planted itself in the garden.  The Rudbeckia was a pass-along and willingly reseeds.  Torenia spreads its seeds all over the garden, especially in cracks and rocks.  They can be bought in the nursery in the spring, but the reseeding ones will not bloom until the fall.



A Cottage Garden


Cottage Garden is the best way to describe this bed.  It is densely planted with perennials and reseeding annuals.  A few of the annuals that came up outside the bed, were transplanted to better locations. The only new plants added were the Nasturtium from purchased seed.


The white Bishop Flowers’ seeds were collected last summer after they ripened and were scattered in early winter.  Not being satisfied with their germination, more seeds were added…maybe too many!  But, this bed required very little work or money to fill in the space.





In the Automatic Garden the plants are allowed to reseed for the next season.  William Bartram’s Evening Primrose (Oenothera grandiflora) prolifically reseeded this year and the plants need to be thinned, transplanted and shared.  It is important not to disturb the soil once plants have dropped their seeds.


The Swamp Sunflower has reseeded outside the wire fencing, but enough are in the bed so these can be removed.


Rocks are a favorite germination site for seeds.  These Salvias will be returned to their bed.


Some plants seem to be able to reseed in just the right places as these Johnny- Jump-Ups did.   Allowing plants to reseed on their own is an easy way to have a continuous supple of annuals for the garden.  A few are pictured here, but the Automatic Garden reseeds zinnias, mealy blue sage, black-eyed Susans, wishbone plants, blanket flowers, ornamental peppers, dancing lady gingers, columbine, and cleome just to name a few.

Dirt Balls


It is that time of year when many plants are going to seed.  What to do with all of those seeds?  Even the Automatic Garden has only so much room.  A great solution is to make Dirt Balls and give them away.  This is a great project for kids as well as adults.  Dirt Balls are even sold in some mail order catalogs.  Think Christmas!


Here is what you will need:

3 parts fine-grained compost – if children are making them, use fine potting soil

1 part seed – a single kind or mix seeds that have the same growing conditions

5 parts powdered clay – it can be purchased at art or pottery supply stores   (see photo above)

1-2 parts water


Combine compost (or soil) and seeds mixing well.

Add powdered clay continuing to mix

Slowly add water until a dough is formed

Roll balls about the size of a quarter and let them dry

This is very open-ended as to the amount you may want to make.  Use a recycled plastic container as a mixing bowl.

We made these at Lady Bird Johnson’s Wildflower Center.  It was a way to share and plant wildflowers.  The balls are left or thrown into an area and the ball “melts” away with the rains and the seeds grow.  The compost provides some nutrients. It is not a precise way to plant a garden.   Dirt balls not something that you would fill a bed with. The balls need to dry first and could be put in a baggie or container until used.  There are always hazards working with compost (bacteria) or dry clay (inhaling) and you will have to judge that.

Auto-Fill for Next Year



Black-Eyed Susan

Balsam Impatiens

Texas Star Hibiscus


Blanket Flower

Purple Cone Flower


It is that time of year when many of the summer plants are making their seeds.  In the Automatic Garden, most seeds are left to nature to drop into the soil for next year’s plants.  A few seeds are saved in the event that not enough had germinated on their own.  In the spring the seedlings can be relocated to fill in any bare spots.