Free Plants!

One of the things I like best about gardening is the annual discovery of “volunteers,” useful plants that have unexpectedly reseeded themselves. I find them everywhere, from gourds atop the compost pile to a dill plant among the nasturtiums.

Part of the fun is trying to recognize a useful volunteer versus a weed. Sometimes I let a mystery plant grow until I have an idea of what it is. Once, for example, I noticed a plant with large squash-like leaves growing
out of the compost. What could it be? I had no idea at the time, but it eventually produced a large spaghetti squash that we ate that fall.

This morning I took a tour of the vegetable garden to count all of the varieties of volunteers I’ve found this year. The tally to date: eight different types of plants that I’ll keep where they are or move to better locations. The picture that leads this post shows some sort of a squash or gourd that came up between a Brussels sprout (left) and tomato.

Other volunteers this year:

  • Potatoes (yep! It’s impossible not to miss a few when harvesting because they’re…underground),
These potatoes (lower left and left) came up between my onions.
  • Sunflowers,
  • Dill (this was a surprise! It must have come from my next-door neighbor's garden. I thanked her for it.),
  • Lettuce,

    lettuce, volunteer
    This red lettuce came up between a garden path and my gladioli!

  • Gourds (these are almost like weeds, as you can see from the pic of my compost pile. I’ll only transplant a few to grow up our six-foot deer fence),
gourds, compost, volunteers
Gourds (I think!) in the compost.
  • Asparagus (I transplant these babies, which are only an inch or so tall, to the asparagus bed. It will take years before the plants are old enough to harvest from, but they’re free!),
  • Cilantro (one of my all-time favorite greens, which I describe in an earlier post), and
  • Red Russian Kale (I never have to seed this myself; I always get at least two volunteers every year, and I don't need more than two of this type of kale).

kale, bean, volunteers
A Red Russian Kale seedling (lower right) that came up next to a bean. I'll transplant it somewhere else.

What are your favorite volunteers?

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