Volunteer Plants

My garden has lots of herbs and vegetables that I never planted. Neither did anyone else.

One of the advantages of having living organic soil is that you get a lot of “volunteers.”  By volunteers I mean desirable plants that sprout entirely on their own from old seed lying in the soil.  The seeds wait for mild weather before they germinate.

I discover some of my most productive volunteers in the herb garden.  I regularly see seedlings of basil, Thai basil, dill and cilantro coming up where I least expect them.  If I like where they are, I leave them in place.  If they’re in a bad spot, then I just transplant them.

I also get blessed with a whole group of vegetable volunteers:  green onions, pak choi, red leaf amaranth, New Zealand spinach and tomatoes.  I deliberately spread around the seeds from all these volunteers (except the tomatoes) so I don’t know if they’re volunteers in the truest sense of the term.

Whenever I see a tomato volunteer I uproot it.  You never know what kind of tomato you are going to get with volunteers.  I think tomatoes are too labor intensive to waste time and resources on a volunteer that could turn out to be a dud.

I also have to thin out a lot of the red leaf amaranth.  I just don’t have enough room to accommodate the dozens of amaranth volunteers.

Another vegetable volunteer that I see frequently are boniato sprouts (slips).  A boniato is a Cuban sweet potato which is less sweet than our sweet potato and which has a cream-colored flesh.  Boniato is ideally suited for our climate.  It grows well with very little care from spring all the way to the first hard freeze.

In the spring I take the boniato slips that sprout up from old pieces of tuber and I replant them (initially) into one gallon containers.  They take root very quickly and provide me with a boniato crop for the new season.

Every day in the garden is a little bit like Christmas morning.  You never know what new presents you’re going to receive.

What volunteers do you have growing in your garden?  Please let us know by adding a comment.

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Dave Klasyk December 10, 2011 at 09:47 PM
Do you use milorganite Fertilizer in your garden?
Steven McBride December 11, 2011 at 01:18 AM
I don't use any Milargonite fertilizer in my garden because it is just a treated form of sewage sludge. The majority of my plants are fruits and vegetables so I'm not interested in using sewage sludge in any form. Also Milargonite doesn't contain any potassium (a very essential component for a balanced fertilizer). I'd rather see sewage sludge converted into oil, methane, propane and butane via thermal depolymerization. That would seem to be the best way to dispose of the waste. Lately I make my own organic fertilizer by combining Mexican bat guano with Spanish moss tea brewed in a 5 gallon bucket in my back yard. Those are cheap, renewable and highly effective resources. It just doesn't smell too good (like most organic fertilizers).


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