Pleasures & Plants – Volunteers 2014

In blog posts of past years you will find me praising the season’s “volunteer” plants. Volunteer plants are those whose seeds have slumbered in the earth through the winter. These seeds spring to life when the temperatures become warm. Volunteer plants are one of the top reasons I don’t mulch my flower beds. Besides being filled with unwanted chemicals and dyes, a heavy layer of mulch smothers any hope of volunteer sprouts seeing the sun.

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When I spotted the pink trumpet of this petunia growing in the crack of my front sidewalk I was astounded. How had the small plantlet survived the tromping feet of my grandchildren, the mailman, myself and my husband, and other visitors who come to my front door? I knew I had to try and save the petunia. It was definitely living on “borrowed time.” Sooner or later the sole of a shoe would smash it’s tender blossoms and leaves into the unyielding surface of the concrete.

I knew that pulling the petunia from the scant dirt between the sidewalk blocks would be doom. The roots that it had so steadfastly sent into the soil would be torn away and the plant would wilt and die within an hour. What was the solution? Perhaps I could loosen it a bit with a plastic knife, and then gently tug until I could pull it away from the confines of the concrete.

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Happily, for both of us, the knife worked. The plant loosened its grip, I tugged, it left its first home. The small petunia is now planted in a bare spot in my front garden. After the passing of several days, it is still alive and thriving in the hot summer sun of June.

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I have dozens of volunteer plants springing up in my gardens. At times I let them grow where they have begun, but often I dig the sprouts up and move them to bare spots. Happy Gardening!

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Check out this terrific article on the Mother Earth News Website: Volunteer Plants: A Garden Bonus

4 thoughts on “Pleasures & Plants – Volunteers 2014

  1. Christine Dufault

    How do you tell a volunteer plant from a weed? I have some things popping up and I can’t tell if they are weeds or not!

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    1. It can be hard. One thing is that I try to remember (or better yet write down) what I grew in that area the previous year. I also wait until the sprouts have a few sets of real leaves. Yes…it does look a little “weedy” but the reward is a very full and lush garden. There are also quite a few weeds that I recognize so I know to pull those right out. Thanks for the comment. Have a happy day!

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      1. Christine Dufault

        Thanks! I know it’s nothing I planted but my neighbors on either side of me plant a ton of different flowers so the wind could carry anything! I mainly do veggies and fruit then in the very front near the street I do phlox and pansies mainly.

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        1. You are right…heavy rains can move seeds in soil too. Often the volunteers are several feet away from where the parent plant stood. This is especially noticeable if they are on a slight incline. 🙂

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