You can grow your own food. And we can help!

Have you ever let a volunteer vegetable plant grow in your garden?

Nov 05, 2010

This year I had the most robust summer squash plant grow in my garden, which I just posted about on my personal blog


I was curious to find out if any of you have let a volunteer vegetable plant grow in your garden and what the results were. 


I know that they say that with many vegetable plants, you aren't supposed to let them grow due to the buildup of disease, such as potatoes and tomatoes. 


What has your experience been? 


Yes. I like volunteers. Most are pleasant surprises. There is a lot of discussion about volunteers throughout the Groups, forums, and blogs on this site. I posted one in Garden Pictures about a cantaloupe. Browse around the site. There is a search box in the upper right corner. Stay natural, David
That's interesting. Very cool. Was it an OP cantaloupe or a surprise?
We had many volunteer heirloom tomato plants--in our compost! I left them to see how they would perform, and they're still producing (although we expect a freeze tonight.)
Every year something wild comes up in my garden. I got about 200 collard seeding this year. Only about 10 made it to transplant size. My rule is if they can not grow to transplant size then they are not strong enough to past on seeds for next year plants. I got a mustrad green lone plant, where I had greens this spring. It came up in July, but I did not notice until August. In August it was 3" tall, with no plant within 12" square, I let it grow, where it came up.
- didn't make it to transplant size? Maybe overcrowding? given how much seed brassicas produce in one place with seed pods?
This year I'm enyoying a big big number of volunteer tomatoes. They seem to be even stronger than the ones I get in the nursery. I totally agree with let them be. And like the last years, the compost is full of different kinds of cabages, pumkings and squashes. I will tell about results when summer season ends. Volunteers are for me a great, surprise gift!!
I get a quite lot of sunflowers and coloured tobacco plants just appearing amongst the vegetables. Probably from seed in the compost. I let most things grow insitu, though some i do transplant elsewhere, if they are really in the wrong place. Everything that appears goes towards the general mixture. And variety is good as it provides a variety of habitat for different insects to live in. Glenn
We have a recursive patch of sunflowers that just reseeds itself each year. We let them grow for a while, then thin them out to the strongest so that they will have enough room. We have learned not to bother leaving tomato seedlings to grow out of the compost bins - we must have a lot of nitrogen in our pile, because all we ever get are leaves out of those plants. We did have a fantastic acorn squash plant this year that came out of the side of the bin, marched most of the way across the driveway until it got stepped on, pulled a U-turn and came back to safety on the side. It only produced 3 squash, though, probably for the same fault as the tomatoes, but perhaps just not enough sun, or the heat on the asphalt was too much, but hey - 3 squash is better than none :) Husk Cherries (aka ground cherries or cape gooseberries) seem to do best as volunteers. I have had no luck planting them from seed, but they seem to be one of our most vigorous volunteers, popping up all over the place. We have be careful where we let those stand, though, because they will take over. By the end of last summer, one plant had taken over 9 square feet of one of our beds (4x12, so it's a substantial percentage). We welcome the tomato seedlings in the asparagus bed - we read somewhere that they ward off the asparagus beetle, and we like the sound of that :) We do pull them before they get too big, though, but by then the cherry tomato jungle is up so that's enough protection - not to mention our last chance to weed the asparagus.
I had a similar experience with ground cherries. I planted a start one year. It reseeded itself the next year, which was great. Then I moved. Couldn't get the seed to do anything this year. Keep your fingers crossed for next year!
To Roger & all, here is the "volunteer production" link I mentioned earlier in this comment. The Drupal comment box needs to be tuned to be more friendly to "cut & paste" info inserts. At present, anything that is "cut & paste" inserts ONLY at the top of the comment box. This makes it necessary to compose comments that include multiple info inserts in Word & cut & paste whole thing. While that process is possible it definitely impacts spontaneity when time is a factor! Amy, I won't take the liberty of reposting your fascinating squash photo here ... Thanks for linking your excellent blog. I do know from our regional seed expert & Extension Agent, Jo Ann Robbins, that squash easily cross-pollinates & it looks like one parent was golden Zuchinni & the other was maybe-golden Acorn squash & the Zuchinni gene for elongation kicked it! So much for forensic genetics! I will send her this link. Your photo reminds me of a photo of the most adorable offspring of a Zebra & a Donkey that is probably too off-topic to post on KGI. The young foal? has a beige body, striped legs & attentive parents on hand. I hope that those who have commented on their volunteers will include the how & where info. It is easy to add to a comment with the Edit tool. For those whose volunteers were in the compost, it would be interesting to know how you compost. My composting system was & is turned only by worms & is on a two-year cycle. Since the compost is continuously moist for two years, which seems to be longer than any perennial stratification period, I rarely get weeds - or volunteers - in the compost. I do layer the compost & it does go through the heating process, but from there the worms take over. I will later insert a link to my KGI comment on "volunteer production" which I forgot to pick up before I started here. From Amy's great blog post: "This plant grew in a location that was previously overgrown forest and blackberries and hasn’t been touched in at least twenty years. So someone, at some time, must have grown some sort of squash on our property!"
I was thinking that the squash actually looks like a zephyr squash. But hey, it's parents could have been anything, right? Maybe it was an OP variety. Too bad I had other squash plants growing not far away, or I would have saved the seed and grown it again and again.
I get a quite lot of sunflowers and coloured tobacco plants just appearing amongst the vegetables. Probably from seed in the compost. I let most things grow insitu, though some i do transplant elsewhere, if they are really in the wrong place. Everything that appears goes towards the general mixture. And variety is good as it provides a variety of habitat for different insects to live in. Glenn
Hi Amy, I have found that greens produce the best volunteers... from kale to lettuce, mustards, Asian greens, and this year lots of Swiss chard 'Bright Lights." What I've noticed is that these plants tend to evolve quickly, within one or two generations, to adapt to the local climate. The result is better plants for your particular site. Often I will let the greens produce a seed stalk, then lay it down in a different part of the garden for the next batch. It may take a little thinning, but this year with chard I didn't thin at all. It kind of "thinned" itself, and the patch was free of weeds.
I had mustard & collards come up from seeds. I like the move to another bed Ideal, have to try it this year. I like "LEAF" not Bush collards, they last 3-5 years, if watered in the dry summer season. I had fresh organic collards on the 4th of July, I picked them on the 3rd of July.
Hi Joel, Do you have a favorite named variety of collards? I haven't grown them lately but like them and they are so nutritious, I should plant some again...
I get my seeds local & I think they were "Georgia Southen" leaf type. But Flash & Champion are two other kinds. I sometimes get transplants that are grown in a local greenhouse. I keep my collards for more then one season. I have been told that you should let the frost sweeten the greens before you cut them. I cut them when they are ready, frost or not.
I will have to let my chard go to seed then. :-)
The squash picture in your personal blog is awsome. Yes I also like volunteers and sometimes leave them to see if they produce. earlier this year I had one cantaloupe like Dave, some butternut squash other than those I planted and a sungold cherry tomato. Today I dug up a volunteer potato. Apparently I missed one when I harvested in July and it started growing in August. I just planted my greens around it. It gave me eight beautiful potatoes. There's a lesson here for me...I can grow a second crop of potatoes, something that had not occured to me to try.
I found something awesome about this on google [1] and I want u to check it out.[1]

Add comment

Log in or register to post comments



Join our e-list to stay in touch




Praise for KGI:

"A group that can get
things done"

-Mother Nature Network

"One of the web's best sources of gardening info"
-Washington Post 

"The meeting place of the world's gardeners"
-WorldWatch Institute

more here



About us:

KGI is a nonprofit community of over 30,000 people who are growing some of our own food and helping others to do the same.  

Join our mailing list:


Connect with us:

Contact us:

Kitchen Gardeners International
3 Powderhorn Drive,
Scarborough, ME, 04074, USA
(207) 956-0606