Josh used to say, “How can they be ‘volunteers’? So your plant made seeds and those seeds grew… isn’t that what plants DO?” I just laughed. Any experience with gardening will tell you that if it were that easy, there wouldn’t be colleges and libraries and $2,000 academic courses dedicated to figuring it out.

That’s why finding volunteers always makes me so happy – kind of like welcoming in a friend, or adding a new hen to the flock, or getting picked first for kickball. Some beneficial plant chose me, all on its own, and I didn’t even have to do any of the work! One of those special gardening moments, I guess.

Of course during the beginning years of a garden, most of the volunteers are weeds. I mean heck, they still are, of course. Though through the years either I’ve become more open-minded or my weeds have become more genteel, because this spring there were only 3 inedible species, and they were scarce. Though my garden looked a bit scraggly around the edges, I could truthfully say there were no “weeds” – because everything was useful (and delicious). This cut down my workload enormously too, of course. :)

But there were some nice surprises of a more domesticated nature as well. Permaculturists will yawn and say “well of course, letting plants spread seed naturally, creating a self-sustaining perennial garden of annuals is how we should all garden,” but it was a delightful surprise to me to meet the offspring of those plants I’d worked so hard on last year.


butterhead lettuce babies


I didn’t get pictures of the dill mini-forest, the scallions, leeks and garlic, or the wheat (wheat!), darn it.

I’m letting this squash stay in my compost at least until I find out what it is:


cucurbita misteriosa


I suspect a jack o lantern due to general robustness & vining habit; though it *is* growing in chicken manure, so who knows. I wish it were a zucchini, because none of the ones that I actually tried to germinate would grow. (old seed, I expect.)


not a nettle


I know everyone talks about how prolific mint is and how you can’t escape it, but this is the first true mint I’ve found in my garden. I don’t mind it as a weed – it smells nice, makes a nice ground cover, uproots easily, the bees love it, and it’s useful. See how it’s surrounded by crown vetch, a nitrogen-fixer? (I’m teaching Sofía to identify legumes’ beneficial properties by calling them “fertilizer plants.”) A perfect bee snack bar.



Those dianthus were tiny seedlings last year – wow they must be happy there. We have some volunteer tansy and cosmos too that I didn’t photograph. I don’t know what that orange flower is, though, do you?


please don’t be useless


And finally this little peach seedling, which I suspect may be a rootstock sprout but I’m hoping is actually some kind of viable offspring. I like its red leaves. I wonder if it’s related to one of those decorative, non-fruiting plum trees. If I save it, we will see.

What volunteers do you have in your garden?

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