Here on the urban homestead we encourage volunteers – volunteer plants that is.

Scattered throughout the 1/10 acre garden plot are plants that have unexpectedly popped up – not planted by human hands. Even though our garden seems to be tidy, we do encourage nature to do her own thing. If they aren’t shading out or competing with other surrounding plants we let ’em be.

Here’s photo of our volunteer sunflower which, as you can see with the help of Jordanne on the ladder, is over 12 feet high. Every year it’s always a surprise to see what pops up.

What surprise volunteers do you have growing in your garden?

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  1. Meg says:

    Impressive! Our compost bins are always the most likely locations for volunteers, followed by the chicken run. This year we also have a volunteer potato in with our beansโ€”guess we must have missed one!

  2. Lucy says:

    I have one volunteer potato, but I haven’t been in these new garden beds for long enough to have many volunteers.

    Is it really a volunteer if you toss some watermelon seeds in the compost and ponder at their likelihood of germinating, or is that cheating? ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Chicago Mike says:

    We have had a tomato pop up from under a day lily. To our knowlege there have never been vegetables planted there!

    We also have some rabbits who “volunteered” to defoliate our beans. ๐Ÿ™ Gotta get some repellent that won’t harm us, the beloved consumers.

  4. Chicago Mike says:

    @ Lucy – That is funny! I have been killing a lot of lawn and we are building a berm with the sod and I snuck some seeds in there just to see what would grow. I think it counts if they germinate in a harsh environment.

  5. Christine in Santa Fe says:

    Last year I had one lone corn plant in the perennial bed, this year I have 3 sunflower plants that I think will be the big ones they grow for bird seed. I have watched the blue jays, they hide seeds in the winter and then they forget where they are. I plan to save the heads for winter bird seed.

  6. Sundari Elizabeth says:

    Many, many, many tomatoes!! Last year I would just drop any over-ripe tomatoes into the garden soil, never dreaming they would actually sprout! I even have a tomato plant growing in the cracks between the bricks in my walkways. The tomatoes have taken over my herb bed, but I don’t have the heart to pull them out. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Kory says:

    I wanted to plant some oilseed sunflowers, and get birdseed, so I just bought the birdseed, now I have both.

    I found a strawberry plant and not the wild kind either.

    … and of course borage volunteers everywhere.

  8. mary says:

    So many volunteers around —
    watermelon, tomatoes, rye, petunias, lambs ear…
    I don’t pull them out either, unless they are competing with crops we planted. I love the surprises of volunteers!

  9. Andrea says:

    ugh, lamb’s ear everywhere I turn.

  10. KK says:

    Hey, your sunflower volunteer looks like the one I’ve got in my plot! Actually, I’ve got two mammoth sunflowers that volunteered and are reaching for the sky…one roma tomato, and three incredible white pumpkins that are doing really well this year! It’s amazing to see how the volunteers do better a lot of times than the planted kind. I haven’t even watered the white pumpkins and they seem to have found moisture somewhere in my mulchy ground! Oh, I forgot, I also have tomatillos too…once you have those around, you almost always get them sprouting up the next year. Volunteers are always part of the fun in my “finca en la Cuidad”

  11. Angel Funk says:

    I have cherry tomato volunteers, some sort of gourd or winter squash (these are everywhere and I’ve had to pull up quite a few), amaranth, sunflowers and even a potato plant from a chunky part of the compost!

  12. JoyceAnn says:

    We were in a severe drought last year , some of my seeds didn’t sprout. This year I have almost a row of volunteers that came up were I had grown garlic over the winter. There were 3 sunflowers , at least 4 watermelon vines , 1 tomato , 3 cantaloupe vines and there maybe more. Some areas are grassy , haven’t got all the weeding done. We were going to plant that row with more beans , but I didn’t want to destroy the volunteers , so I’ll just fill in the empty spaces.

    ~ Green Blessings ~ JoyceAnn

  13. Ellen says:

    Right now I have a ton of marigolds that have self seeded themselves in my veggie garden. Last year I planted marigolds to deter animals but they should not have made it through our winter. I also have some kind of cucumber/squash coming up in the garden where I did not plant it. No idea what it is yet though.

  14. shannon says:

    this year we have bronze fennel popping everywhere and tomatoes. Lots of volunteer pumpkins as well. I love the surprise.

  15. Laurie says:

    Volunteers are amazing! I have many tomatoes (cherry, roma, brandywine), lots of potatoes (we should have dug better I guess), green pole beans, sunflowers, and tomatillos. Some of the flower beds have bush delicata squash planted by squirrels – the flowers are beautiful so why not?? I’ve also got nasturtiums, chives, cilantro, mints, and lemon balm all over the place too. I agree: if it’s edible and not too much in the way – Let It Grow! I also feel this way about edible “weeds” such as lamb’s quarters and purslane. My gardens are no where near as neat and tidy as yours, and thus the many volunteers… but I love the gift of this abundance and fertility. I am very careful with the vining squashes though, and keep these seeds out of my compost and chicken manure. Best wishes!

  16. Ginny says:

    This year I have had thousands of volunteer tomatoes. I have not let them be, however. Most of them met their doom, but I have let one live which is growing right next to one of the legs of one of the trellises. I can’t wait to see what becomes of it. ๐Ÿ˜€

    In Christ,


  17. Ariella says:

    When I starting preparing my beds, I discovered lemon balm in several areas, and I found a beautiful vine with gorgeous purple flowers that I discovered was nightshade! Yikes…highly poisonous I read, and it’s in several places in my yard. There are other “weeds” that I have yet to identify. There is also a weed that seems to be a groundcover but looks like strawberry leaves.

  18. Lisa says:

    This year I have a couple of tomato plant volunteers (I think they are yellow grape tomatoes but it is really too soon to tell.) A couple of sunflowers and a couple of potatoes. Last year my volunteer tomato plant produced more than any of the plants that I planted.

  19. jengod says:

    Papaya! I snagged a slightly overripe papaya from the trash at the produce market last winter and chucked it in the compost pile. And this year I got a bunch of mysterious little seedlings that I soon identified as papaya. I’m going to leave them be and see if any of ’em make it…

  20. Hannah says:

    I have volunteer tomatoes everywhere, seems that whereever I dig they pop up. I will have to start removing them, and it’s not the right season here for them to grow anyway. I might keep a couple, just to see how they do. I have also just discovered some volunteer coriander. I transplanted some volunteer seedlings from our old house here, never having successfully grown it before, and now my garden is popping them out too, It’s one of my favourite herbs so no complaints from me.

    I agree with Lisa that voluteers do better. We had a really difficult vege garden at the old house, the only things which would survive were the ones that self seeded from the compost

  21. Beverly says:

    We have one tomato that came up near the strawberries, one potato that I think was stolen from the potato bed by the dogs and replanted by the stairs and three cantelope, or some other kind of melon that are growing in the bean patch.

    I love volunteers. They will grow where they have been planted and we’ll see what they produce!


  22. jengod says:

    A peanut! I put out peanuts for the scrub jays and the squirrels, and one that they buried next to a purple coneflower plant has leaves. I can’t believe it! We’ll see if it survives…

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