Thursday, June 5, 2014

So you think you can't garden...

If that's the case, you should take a look at this photo:
Tomato plant growing in a concrete seam on our back patio.  Vegetables that decide to grow of their own accord are called "volunteers".  
Tomato volunteers growing in a bucket of compost that I forgot to spread around.  No effort was made to germinate them and no care or water was given.  
Tomatoes growing in one of our rear mulch beds, 45-lb. dog for scale to the left of the tallest plant.  The tallest one was an intentional planting that I placed in this bed because I ran out of space in my regular gardens, but the rest of the plants in this bed (to the right of the Italian cypress and surrounding the main plant) are volunteers.  
Yesterday I harvested 5.5 pounds of tomatoes, after harvesting 3.5 lbs. two days previously.  Shown here are Sweet Million and Yellow Jellybean hybrids.  The yellow is an intentional color, not a sign that the tomatoes are unripe.  
I've come to prefer the spontaneous volunteer tomatoes over the pure hybrids.  The volunteers represent mixed lineages that arise from composting of kitchen scraps and expired tomato plants from previous years.  Volunteer tomatoes are generally smaller (which makes for better whole freezing) and not as sweet, which makes them more suitable for certain types of cooking.  (I only grow grape and cherry varieties because I don't want my volunteers to get polluted by large-variety genes).

Tomatoes are the single most invasive vegetable that I've ever seen, but they are by no means the only edible that can be grown literally with no effort.

None of the dill that I grow is intentional. They don't call it "dill weed" for nothing.  It grows where it wants to grow. 
I scatter the seeds around the yard, let them come up naturally, and then retain only those that come up in convenient locations.  
By this time, all of my mint and most of my sweet potato crops are also volunteer (the sweet potatoes because root scraps of the previous years' plants get accidentally left in the ground and regenerate in situ).  Almost all of my sweet basil also consists of volunteers.
Sweet basil growing near our front door.  I don't know why it decided to come up here, because I hadn't planted any of this type in the vicinity.  In the upper left hand corner, you can see a volunteer sweet potato.  
Anyway, my point is, gardening need not be elaborate or difficult.  Once established, a lot of useful edibles can simply be encouraged to grow themselves.

Update June 13, 2014:  In Part 2 of this post, I provide ideas on how to successfully manage all that can be harvested from a back yard garden, whether hybrid or volunteer.

1 comment:

  1. What an awesome post! I too have compost volunteers (tomatoes, mystery melons), wind blown volunteers (variety of lettuce, cilantro, and dill), and maybe a few more surprises in store.


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