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Volunteer Plants

 
Posts: 106
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
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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: 106
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.
 
pollinator
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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
Posts: 106
Location: Central Indiana
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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.
 
gardener
Posts: 700
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: 106
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.
 
garden master
Posts: 1031
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern 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: 106
Location: Central Indiana
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So my volunteers.
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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
garden master
Posts: 1031
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern NC, US
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Those volunteers look great Jonathan!

Have you harvested anything from the volunteer gooseberry yet?
 
Jonathan Ward
Posts: 106
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
garden master
Posts: 1031
Location: Zone 7b/8a Temperate Humid Subtropical, Eastern 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: 106
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: 182
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.  
 
Jonathan Ward
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Quick update on where things stand.  I've direct seeded 2 tomatoes that i chose and the rest are all the volunteers.  I now have volunteer peppers coming up so i get to play this guessing game again.  I've included some general shots of the garden as well as my son's first gooseberry.  I prefer them green and sour but everyone else in the family likes them ripe and sweet.  These are still green so he wasn't sure at first but ended up eating like 15-20 of them.
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This is my sugar snap peas that are growing on a makeshift trellis. Butter crunch lettuce in front of them with some of the volunteer tomatoes on the left of the frame.
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Transplanted yellow bell pepper.
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Direct seeded butternut squash.
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Gavin's first gooseberry.
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Direct seeded brandywine pink tomato. One of the volunteer tomatoes in the background of the frame.
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My middle daughter standing next to one of our sugar snap peas growing straight up..i haven't seen them get that tall before. It's almost 5ft. She's there for reference of size.
 
gardener & author
Posts: 1700
Location: Ladakh, Indian Himalayas at 10,500 feet, zone 5
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Tomatoes are usually self-pollinated anyway so they are likely to be fairly similar to the parent plants. Or a cross between two yummy tomatoes you grew last year should be fine. The peppers, though have the issue mentioned above, that if you grew both sweet and hot peppers last year, you'll have no idea how hot any given volunteer is.
 
Jonathan Ward
Posts: 106
Location: Central Indiana
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Thought i'd give another update as things have been progressing.  Everything is growing great.
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Butternut squash. There is a small tomato from seed near the stake.
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Sugar Snap peas are the tall growies. Lettuce in the front. Bell pepper on the right and the tomatoes staked there in the middle.
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Lots of lettuce, tiny peppers in the front. I haven't picked the best ones yet but will probably do that next week. The tomatoes are in the background.
 
pollinator
Posts: 1013
Location: Nevada, Mo 64772
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My volunteer Crimson Sweet Watermelon and Hales Best cantaloupe usually do as well as the ones I plant, sometimes better.

I haven’t planted cherry tomatoes for ten to twelve years. They keep coming back.
 
Jonathan Ward
Posts: 106
Location: Central Indiana
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Was out looking at my tomatoes today as per this thread and looking i see the below picture.  I've got probably 8-10 little tomatoes scattered across my volunteer plants.  I'm stoked to see them as they develop further.
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Jonathan Ward
Posts: 106
Location: Central Indiana
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so i've harvested 5 tomatoes off of my volunteer plants.  Used several of them for other things so i haven't tried them directly but they've been good for what i've used them in.  They're a touch smaller than if i'd bought seeds/plants but they're not bad.  I'd say about the size of a tennis ball.  The plants do have an abundance of tomatoes though so even though they're a touch smaller i will have no shortage of harvest.
 
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