Do you garden?
Are you familiar with the term “volunteer”, as it pertains to gardening?
Before I tell you about my mysterious invaders, (welcome though they may be) maybe you’d like a rundown of how the garden fared this summer?
Trust me. It won’t take long.
I wish I had a happier story to tell about my garden this year. The sad truth is, however, that it has not been a very good year for vegetables at my place. If you are a vegetable, you apparently don’t want to live here. If you are, on the other hand, a weed? Well. I am sure that you will feel right at home. The good news is that the tomatoes are going great guns out there. And that is really, really, good news. I have had so many meals of tomato sandwich in the last week or so. . . I really think I could live on cherries and tomato sandwiches for the rest of my life.
Okay, so, tomatoes? Yes! Beets? Yes! Sugar Snap Peas? Yes! Pumpkins? sort of. . . and that about encompasses the gardening success stories this year. Well, the chamomile did beautifully, but that really grows more like a weed. It pretty much grew in spite of me rather than because of me. I also grew green beans which produced like crazy – but tasted awful.
It’s hard not to get discouraged when things go awry in the garden. The 10 year old boy said, “Mom! You’re going to be a failure in the eyes of your blog!!” (No. I’m not kidding. He really said that.) Ah, well. I think this is a perfect opportunity for keepin’ it real. There are good years and bad years in the garden. That’s just how it is. And, trust me. This is not the worst year I’ve had. I never tried to tell you I was an expert in the garden. Did you experience the tomato blight in 2009? That blight didn’t only ruin the tomato crop. I did not take one single piece of edible produce from my garden that year. Not one.
And yet I continue to garden. . . It’s humbling to have to purchase zucchini and yellow squash though. What we had there (and with all squash type plants this year) was a failure to pollinate. Breida, without enough bees. . .
This is the part where I’m hoping that you will jump in and commiserate with me. Tell me I’m not the only
failure one who struggled to produce the produce this year.
Back to the Volunteers. Or maybe you can call them my consolation prize. . . Volunteers in the garden are plants that just show up. Not the weeds – they don’t count. I’m talking about real plants and flowers that just decide to grow where they like – without any input from you. Last year I grew a fine crop of millet (from spilled birdfeeders) out there in the vegetable garden.
This year’s volunteers are a little more surprising. And organized.
When I left for the Haven Conference in June, I had some sunflower seeds soaking on the counter in the kitchen. They had already sprouted but I hadn’t decided where to plant them – and then I just ran out of time. When I left for the airport they were there in a saucer, optimistically growing leaves like they were supposed to. . . but they were destined for the garbage can – and not the vegetable garden. The lesson here is: don’t soak your seeds unless you are sure of where you want to plant them.
So I wasn’t surprised, when I got home, to find that the little sprouts were long gone. (I was quite surprised that all of the kitchen counters had been cleaned along with a lot of the rest of the house) So, you can imagine that when I started to see sunflowers coming up in the among the vegetables, I assumed that someone had taken the little sprouts and planted them while I was away instead of throwing them away.
But no one did. I wouldn’t even believe them except these are not the varieties that I had seed for.
They’re all just volunteers. And there are a LOT of them. They’re the healthiest thing going out there. Tall and strong. Drought resistant. Gorgeous. I’m so glad they decided to volunteer at my house this year.
The sunflowers in the above photo are growing in with the basil. The basil did not do very well. It looked just like the basil from last year, which made dark, bitter pesto. So even though the basil was a fail – a big strong sunflower grew right next to each basil plant. And they grew in with the zucchini. And they grew in with the pumpkins. I even thought for a while that someone must have gone around at the garden center poking sunflower seeds into the plants for sale. . . but then I realized that the basil and the the pumpkins came from different places. I guess the only rational explanation is that some little critter buried the seeds at some point.
But where did the critter get the seeds?
And what kind of critter is that meticulous?
I didn’t plan for them to be there but I’m glad they’ve decided to invade my garden this year. I’d be gladder if there were also zucchini, yellow squash, enough pumpkins to decorate with. . .
Who volunteered in your garden this year? Was it an invasion? Were they welcome or not?
Tell me about it!