Skip to content


One of my special garden delights are the volunteers, the plants you don’t plant but that you find growing there anyway. I’m not sure that volunteers are something that everyone loves, but I do nonetheless. Because we use a lot of homemade compost, perhaps we get more than the average amount of volunteer plants in our garden.

Cherry tomatoes have been one of our traditional volunteer plants. We haven’t planted a cherry tomato plant in probably 5 years, but we’ve enjoyed a small harvest of cherry tomatoes each summer. These come up later in the season and usually in the same back area of our garden, although given the construction of the last year, I’ll be really surprised if they return.

For me, one of the coolest volunteers was stinging nettles. They grew up on their own accord behind our old barn where they thrived in several small clumps for the last 10 years. Nettles can be used in homemade remedies that I’ve pondered making, although I haven’t made them yet. They also make an good stir-fried dish when they are young and tender in the spring; when they are cooked, they completely loose their sting. Jim is a happy tester for the weird things I come up with.

Volunteers provide mystery. Why do they decide to grow where they do? And, occasionally, what are they? Several years ago, when our garden reached the late-summer unruly stage, I moved some huge yellow squash leaf to discover something already quite big and round and green. My heart leapt and I decided on the spot that we were going to have a watermelon– a volunteer watermelon! I couldn’t wait! The plant got bigger and rounder as late summer came. Then the ribs sunk in more and the plant obtained its true form: a pumpkin, still green, but slowly becoming orange. I was admittedly disappointed when it wasn’t the watermelon I so desired, but we did get a jolly jack o’ lantern out of it at Halloween.

This year we have a massive patch of volunteer sunflowers emerging next to the new asparagus bed. I’m trying to decide if I can leave them there or how many; I don’t want the asparagus bed disturbed. Sunflowers have rather shallow but good-sized roots. I’ll need to decide in the next couple of weeks how much I want to thin out this sunflower volunteer army.

Posted in • Growing.

Tagged with , .