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Volunteer Plants

 
Posts: 89
Location: Central Indiana
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So last year i had about 5 different pepper plants and 3 different tomato plants.  I bought seeds this year from a local nursery and started them in cups inside.  Planted them outside and before i could put up chicken wire the rabbits topped all my plants (ironically leaving my lettuce and sugar snap peas alone).  So i reseeded directly into the garden.  Fast forward about 2 weeks and i have all kinds of volunteer plants coming up.  The area where i had my tomatoes last year is covered.  I've thinned them out some and a couple have done really really well.  My question is this.  When i talk about leaving them and seeing what i get, the most common answer is "But you don't know what kind of tomatoes you'll get."  Then something to the tune of you'll get bad ones or they'll just be wasted space.  What is everyone's thoughts and experience with volunteer plants?  I'm actually kind of excited to see what i get and if they're not tasty or whatever...guess what...i'll prune them out and there is just more space for the ones i want.  Thanks in advance.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1491
Location: northern California
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My experience of it is that most volunteers from hybrids tend to "revert" back toward something like the wild progenitor of the plant in question.  With tomatoes this will likely be something very like a cherry tomato.  For some people, this is fine, for others not so much.  Some other things are pretty stable and open pollinated, and so volunteer seedlings will end up being quite similar to what was originally planted....winter squash and most "greens" come to mind.
 
Jonathan Ward
Posts: 89
Location: Central Indiana
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Thanks, i was curious.  I think it'll be exciting to see what i get, but it's good to know about the hybrids reverting.
 
master pollinator
Posts: 2725
Location: Toronto, Ontario
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One of my very first astoundingly successful volunteers was a butternut squash that snuck up from under my cucumber vines. I suppose that the genetics there were very stable, because aside from being about the size of a large pumpkin (I think they crossed with my Mad Max the year before) they were the size, shape, and colour of a butternut, and tasted the same, too, with perhaps a little more sweetness, and the flesh was more orange.

Most of the tomato volunteers I get that do well in my climate are cherry and plum tomatoes. I think this might just be due to having so many more cherry and plum tomato blossoms for every watermelon beefsteak and black brandywine blossom I have.

As to taste, I honestly have never had a tomato volunteer that didn't produce fruit at least twice as tasty as the hothouse-grown cardboard tomatoes available at the grocery store. The only real complaint I have is if they are smaller than plum tomato sized (I had a wild variety called Matt's Wild Tomatoes, and these things were honestly the size of my pinky finger nail) and are of a flavour profile suitable mainly for paste or sauce, it's a lot of processing to get them seeded. Frankly, I don't. Rather, I shake the vines with a sheet or apron under what I'm shaking, and those that fall off get rinsed, then pressure-cooked, strained exclusively for the seeds (to get rid of them, potential toxicity issues), and pureed, skins and all, with a high-powered blender or food processor.

I am sure it's possible to get bad-tasting tomatoes, but in my experience, it's due to what it's growing in, and inadvertent contamination, rather than genes. But I could be wrong, and could have been, thus far, simply extremely lucky.

-CK
 
Jonathan Ward
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Awesome.  I have some butternut squash i'm growing this year so i'm excited.  This is my first year of using looseleaf lettuce for a cover crop and i'm impressed so far.  Loving all the info on Permies.
 
pollinator
Posts: 299
Location: South of Capricorn
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tomatoes for me always seem to work out- the volunteer peppers are another question, as I plant way too many kinds, and often get hoodwinked by something that looks like a sweet italian pepper but has the scoville of a reaper (or somethin). Generally I find out after I cut it and manage to wipe my hand in my eye (or somethin). Then again, if you like to live dangerously, it's good fun!
 
Jonathan Ward
Posts: 89
Location: Central Indiana
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HAHA i would love that.  Maybe teach my kids about stealing my veggies.  If i had more space i'd have a lot more stuff but one 4x8 bed is all i've got right now.
 
gardener
Posts: 688
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, NC, US
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I love when I see volunteer plants in my garden!

They usually seem to have increased vigor in germination and be vigorous growers.

The ones I have the most of are cucumbers, since I grow the most of them.

I also love how they usually sprout at just the right time, late enough to avoid late frosts, and early enough to get a good growing season and really take off growing!

One of the best things to me about volunteer plants is that there is no work planting them, that's hard to beat!
 
Jonathan Ward
Posts: 89
Location: Central Indiana
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So my volunteers.
60712132_335227937404082_4458613259443896320_n.jpg
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Was given gooseberries when we bought our house. The initial cluster is doing great. These are some volunteers thanks to the birds haha.
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No so much volunteerish but our new Oak Tree grown in the ground from an acorn. My youngest daughter helped pick the spot for it so she's super proud it's doing so well.
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These are the tomatoes. I've thinned them a little but these are the winners so far. I'll thin it down to maybe 2-3 of them here in a week or two probably.
 
Steve Thorn
gardener
Posts: 688
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, NC, US
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Those volunteers look great Jonathan!

Have you harvested anything from the volunteer gooseberry yet?
 
Jonathan Ward
Posts: 89
Location: Central Indiana
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Not from the bird spread ones.  From the transplant bushes i have.  We made about 10 1/2 pints of gooseberry jam last year...still have 3 left i think.
 
Steve Thorn
gardener
Posts: 688
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, NC, US
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Jonathan Ward wrote:Not from the bird spread ones.  From the transplant bushes i have.  We made about 10 1/2 pints of gooseberry jam last year...still have 3 left i think.



Very cool
 
Jonathan Ward
Posts: 89
Location: Central Indiana
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It is something that i've enjoyed doing.  The plants i have are "native" to the US so they haven't been bread with big berries like some of its european brethren.  What it lacks in size it more than makes up for in sheer number of berries though.  They're great to me so i guess that's what matters.  I did notice as i walked the pond behind the house last night that a few of the houses that have fences close together so that you can't really mow between them...have small gooseberry plants growing there too.  I find great humor in that for some reason.
 
Posts: 152
Location: 7b desert southern Idaho
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I have volunteer lettuce, spinach, kale, chard, beets, comfrey, carrots, I don’t know why I don’t have onions or tomatoes. Seed saving can be labor saving. Guess I could let some tomatoes rot in place, but I’m a little concerned about disease. Pretty soon my Egyptian Onion should start walking.  
 
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