The first time I ever heard of volunteers, as regards growing things, was about a decade ago, when I was on archaeological survey in a series of fields out in Riverside County. The farmer pointed out his potato volunteers which dotted his othewise fallow field. “These housing developers, they’re buying up all the prime bottomland and putting houses on farms.” We were not working on a project for a housing developer at the time, but rather for the widening of a road to serve all those houses. Either way, the farmland on which we stood was possessed of numbered days.

The first year we gardened, there were a few volunteers. One will never find all the potatoes, all the sweet potatoes, or gather all the tomatoes. And the next Spring, or around here, the next hot spell, little sprouts will pop up in those places. Each year we garden, we find more and more volunteers. This year, our volunteer roster includes marigolds, tomatoes, nasturtiums, squash of all varieties, ground cherries, tomatillos, onions, nasturtiums, borage, peppers, green beans, nasturtiums, fig trees, grape vines, artichokes, and liquid ambers. And nasturtiums. Did I mention nasturtiums? We pull most of the tomato volunteers, as they are coming up EVERYWHERE. We pull all of the squash. Squash cross pollinates and makes things like zuke-kins. The fig forest is allowed to grow- how many fig trees can fit on our boulevard, really? The grape vines were a real surprise. I had not realized that table grapes will grow from cuttings. My bad, of course, And I don’t want to pull the vines from the long bed that we put all those cuttings into last fall. I like grapes. Also, I figure maybe I’m a few years out from full on grape vines in that location? I recognize the possibilities of self delusion. Most of the onion volunteers appear where we’ve put the extra trim we get at Mother’s. Will they bulb? I certainly don’t know, but I will find out! The peppers? I’m not sure where some of those seeds are coming from and as near as I can tell, the tomatillos that are coming up on the south side of the house are fruits that fell off the roof last summer. I suspect that many of these plants are growing because we’ve essentially been rehabilitating our soil for the last several years by adding vermacompost and worms to all our beds. Now, our soil is evidently quite fertile.

I admit I love the volunteers. I’ve moved several from where they sprouted to new spots in the garden. I am quite hopeful we will get some ground cherries and tomatoes and peppers. We might get a zuke-kin, too. I’ve left a couple of squash plants to grow.

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