Volunteer Angst

by Daisy on 04/12/2012

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The more experience I have as a gardener, the more ruthless I become about certain things, like pulling out plants that don’t perform well, cleaning out crops that have started to bolt in time to get another planting in of something else, and I’m even getting better at thinning.

But I still have a weakness for volunteers, plants that spring up where they weren’t planted.  They might have gotten in via the kitchen compost, last year’s crop, or a passing bird, but they seldom turn out to be what you wanted, where you wanted it.

This year, it’s not even last frost date yet and I’ve got a huge volunteer squash that’s almost ready to bloom.

Right in my bean patch.

It’s getting huge, it’s shading the beans, I don’t even know what type of squash it is, and I can NEVER get a squash to maturity because of the bugs anyway.

So why haven’t I yanked it out yet?

Good question.  One I don’t have the answer to. It makes no sense to keep it, and there are actually two of them.

I beg you to help me pull out these squashes.  Give me the push I need.  It must go.

And then we’ll get to work on the ninety-five volunteer tomato plants.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Jessie April 12, 2012 at 9:11 am

What about gently transplanting to a pot or an acceptable area? That way you aren’t tossing them out, but if they don’t survive the transplant it’s no big deal. That’s my method, it relieves a lot of my plant guilt. 🙂

Jessie : Improved April 12, 2012 at 9:38 am

I actually wanted to comment about your squash borer problem – I have found that vining types that are allowed to take root all over the place are much less susceptible. Also, mound a little dirt over the roots in the center and that will help some too. I just let my squash spill out of the bed and into the yard (much to the chagrin of the lawn-mowing members of my household…).

Lucy April 12, 2012 at 10:10 am

No, not going to push you to yank it out – I’ve spent the last week moving volunteers (what we excitedly call FREE plants) into bare spots. Very gratifying walking round a beautiful garden centre this morning looking at the price-tags on what self-seeds here in abundance – and I’m sure someone would be happy to take the baby tomatoes off your hands!

Christine April 12, 2012 at 10:20 am

Can’t help ya–I’ve got a volunteer squash right in front of my garden gate. I keep stepping over it to enter. What is wrong with me?

Carolyn M April 12, 2012 at 10:35 am

No help here either. I grew “Pumpalopes” one year. That’s what I called the huge hybrid squash that grew in my garden. No idea what it was a hybrid of but I cooked it up for my dogs and they enjoyed it.

I do think you need to transplant…as your poor beans will suffer.

Now help me with my millions of disobedient plants please!

Carrie April 12, 2012 at 11:19 am

I was rolling with laughter when I read this post! I have several volunteers that have popped up all over my yard. Some cucumber near the shed, lettuce plants near our property line, celery and squash (maybe?) near the compost bins, and a few other viney plants in our front flower garden where I added a little compost. I love them all though and embrace them. If they’re in a bad spot, I simply move them to another part of my yard where other volunteers are doing well (since my garden is usually full and planned out).
I’m thrilled that I came upon your website. I look forward to reading much more!

Amber Dawn April 12, 2012 at 1:42 pm

This entry made me smile WAY too much to tell you to tear it up! I’m with the transplant camp. But then again, I am just starting gardening and am much too soft still..

Maria April 12, 2012 at 2:37 pm

I had a volunteer last year (ground cherry) and I just let it go because the herbs next to it weren’t doing good anyway! Wouldn’t you know, it was the BEST ground cherry plant I have ever had! Three cheers for volunteers! (when they are in the right place!)

Arnulfo Guerra April 12, 2012 at 6:29 pm

I relate to your feelings regarding volunteer plants. I usually remove these plants and place them somewhere that they will get a second chance. i have a lot of trees and shrubs and vines and flowers.

KimH April 13, 2012 at 3:30 am

Sorry.. you wont get the support you’re look for from me either I love volunteers and I’ve gotten some of the BEST veggies from them.. Sorry. 😉

But I do understand the consternation you feel.. It wasnt a part of your plan.. That squash is too big to move now.. but those tomatoes arent.. I’d personally let it go & see what happens. You can just guide it around your bed since its obvious its a vining type.

Wishing you the BEST volunteer squash!

Jen April 13, 2012 at 6:40 am

I love volunteers too. These are the plants that are tough enough to survive! 🙂 Sorry, it’s not the advice you want…. but if it were me, I would try to replant it somewhere else.

Terry April 13, 2012 at 6:54 am

Keep it! Transplant the beans underneath. Mystery plants are the best and maybe this year you’ll get squash before the bugs roll in.

michelle April 13, 2012 at 9:18 am

Native Americans used to plant squash & beans together. I’m sure the beans will reach up through the leaves. Leave it. Volunteers are the best little freebies ever. I purposefully plant things that will come back– more fun. Less work!

Virginia Pykonen April 13, 2012 at 10:19 am

Gotta vote to keep the volunteer. What if its early germination is a sign that it is resistant to the bugs and conditions that usually plague your squash? Maybe this could be the beginning of your own personal breed of custom squash trying to bless you by being perfectly suited to your site!

Lori April 13, 2012 at 11:18 am

What? Pull them up? Are you mad? I get the very best tomatoes ever from volunteer plants. Transplant if you must, but don’t tear out these lovely, hardy volunteers! Besides, aren’t you the least bit curious what sort of squash you’ll get? I am and it’s not even my plant.

Teresa April 13, 2012 at 1:47 pm

so far I have had better luck with the volunteers than the ones I planted. So if it is doing great keep it you might really enjoy the squash….

Little Sis April 13, 2012 at 3:08 pm

I can’t tell you to pull it. My volunteers this year are doing SO beautifully and include fennel, onion, leeks, and kale. And they all seem much healthier than my “planned” plants. Bah, who needs plans, anyway. 😉

Laurie April 13, 2012 at 3:16 pm

And I bet that most of the people commenting above who voted to keep the volunteers don’t do well with thinning, either…like me!

Christine Decarolis April 13, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Keep the volunteer and move the beans. I find volunteers grow best where they plant themselves and not where I think they should be. Trellising your squash might help with the shade issue and will let in light and air keeping the bugs away. I trellis my cukes (mostly because ground space is at a premium in my garden) and I have enough for salads and pints upon pints of pickles almost every year.

Judy Goldthorp April 13, 2012 at 9:43 pm

I feel your pain . . . I always gave a lot of credit to volunteer plants . . . however, what do you want to grow in your garden? Beans or volunteer squash? If the answer is beans, pull up the squash. NOW!

Cynthia Caton April 14, 2012 at 8:32 am

Our garden is now a host of at least 15 volunteer plants, mostly what looks like squash or cantalope so far. Many are growing between my basil – still not sure what to do because we are huge Pesto fans and I don’t want to risk that harvest. We have a mystery plant from the nightshade family, I’m pretty sure. It is similar to a tomato, but looks a little different. My husband wants to keep it, but I’m not so sure! It’s kind of fun to see what pops up! Last year we got a few beautiful cantaloupes (which we did not plant) from our compost. It was very cool, and one of the only plants that thrived last year in the horrible heat of TX we had. Have fun!

Patty Seifert April 14, 2012 at 9:31 am

The squash will probably be a gourd…

Martina Tkacz April 14, 2012 at 12:47 pm

Transplanting your squash NOW is most likely too late, the plant looks to big to survive. I am also a lover of volunteers, but if I find that it stresses me out every time I look at it, I yank it out. From years of leaving plants where I do not want them, I have learned that it is not worth it. However, edibles i usually embrace and leave them to mature and enjoy the harvest. Why not train your squash away from the beans? Even if tendrils have secured the vine, you can carefully pry them loose one by one and move it in the other direction. Maybe also try to train the beans to grow over the squash? Enjoy what you do, no matter what you decide.

cindy April 14, 2012 at 5:21 pm

Plant marigolds right with the squash- crushed petals of marigolds is what nursing homes and schools are sprayed with to control bug problems- it is a form of pyrethrin. It is good stuff- haven’t had a bug in my squash since I started planting them together 🙂

Tami April 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm

I wish there was a way that I could get some volunteers. Plants don’t much like me. 🙂

For some reason my 1. Catnip 2. Lavender 3. Lemon Grass etc. Hasn’t even come up.

Tomato Lady April 21, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Tami–Perennial herbs are tough to germinate. Also, last time I grew catnip, I had a sudden influx of stray cats. It may be a blessing in disguise.

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