Volunteer Vegetables

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

Some of my readers may understand the meaning of the headline while others may not. Therefore, allow me to explain what I understand under volunteer vegetables, or volunteer plants in general.

A volunteer is a plant, whether vegetable or other, and we are not talking of weeds though a volunteer can be seen as a weed in some contexts as it is indeed a plant in the “wrong” place, a place you did not intend it to grow, is one that just springs up where you did not plant it and never even came close to the place with one.

This year the containers in my garden – I do most of my vegetable growing, and gardening per se, in containers with some raised beds – have had lots of potatoes spring up what I had never set there.

There must have been viable sprouts of them dormant in the compost – this is compost that I produce from kitchen scraps and such – and they, as far as the foliage goes, are enormous.

I know they say that the proof of the pudding is in the eating and thus the jury is still out as to whether the result of the plants are many good potatoes but ... it sure looks good.

The photo shows the way one – or several – plants have sprung up in an old bathtub that was – originally – supposed to be planted with courgettes.

As said, there must have been some viable sprouts from potatoes from a year or more ago that were in the compost and thus have now turned into potato plants. We shall soon see what they have to show for their loads of leaves. I sure hope that there will be a good crop beneath them and hope that I am not going to be disappointed. I shall let you know when the first plant has been harvested, for they are not just in the bathtub.

Two huge potato plants are growing in large tubs that were used to hold the compost that has been taken out of the composters and I thus ran out of home-produced compost to add to planters.

In another tub there is a large lettuce plant that arrived just like that – probably by feathered carrier. I never have grown that type even before and thus it cannot come from my compost.

If the result of that lettuce, an Italian kind with curly leaves, is anything to go by then I hope for many more volunteer plants – as long as they are not weeds, with the exception of dandelion, as I use them as lettuce – in years to come.

So, learn to distinguish weeds from volunteers and also learn to distinguish edible weeds that you may like to keep and cultivate from those that are not beneficial.

Now let's hear it for the volunteers...

© 2010