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What's Your Preference for Keeping or Removing Volunteers?

 
pollinator
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Location: Middle Georgia, Zone 8B
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I have several volunteer tomatoes this year. I almost always have several volunteer collards. I missed a few sweet potatoes last fall that overwintered and have taken over several feet of other growing areas.

We have several corn stalks growing out of a big pile of mulch my husband brought home. I would like to use the mulch, but I don't want to move the free corn!

Some of the volunteers are in the way of plants I'd prefer to nurture. But I hate to pull up free plants! So I'm in a quandary about whether to pull them or leave them be?

What is your personal preference for volunteers? Keep? Transplant? Put in the compost heap? Share your philosophy and experiences.

Edited to add: this thread looks like a fun project! https://permies.com/wiki/122923/Encouraging-volunteer-wild-plants-PEP

 
pollinator
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I have had volunteer tomatoes. They were fun! I put them in mini greenhouses, and I even got a few tasty cherry tomatoes before the frost.

I guess I am envious. Volunteer sweet potatoes? Hook me up. You have a great, long growing season. Ours is 4 months, maximum, between seeds-in-the-ground to a killing frost. But at our higher latitude, we have many more hours of daylight during the summer.

Back to the point, though: if we have volunteers that are interfering with our food crops, off with their heads. If they can flower and feed bees in the interim, they get a reprieve. It is temporary.
 
Stacie Kim
pollinator
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When people are envious of my long growing season, I have to remind them of our AWFUL insect pressure. And the humidity keeps our temps sauna-like--Our dewpoint this afternoon was 72 degrees...oppressive!

But back to the volunteers...I suppose our opinions are similar. Keep what's good, compost something that's intruding on other, more desirable crops.

I hope to get my BB for the volunteer plants soon. I can't count the sweet potatoes, as they were merely forgotten from last year. But I did find a volunteer squash of yet unknown variety I could count with the tomatoes and collards.
 
pollinator
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Volunteers,   I have the best success letting them alone and adapt my garden around where they come up.    I put logs around them to protect them from me stepping on them or mowing them with a lawnmower.


I encourage them by taking the biggest tomatoes and sowing the seed in areas that produced well in years past.


I am merciless on them if they show any sickness they are removed or pruned.       To get better genetics you have to let only the strongest survive.

I also like to take cuttings front ehe strongest and root them elsewhere  in case disease hits,  I don't loose the good genetics.
 
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Stacie said, "But back to the volunteers...



Stacie, if a volunteer is not bothering or getting in the way of another plant, my suggestion would be to just leave the plant.

We pull volunteers sometimes because we already have enough of those plants to furnish what we need and I don't have anyone to give them to.

If the volunteer is crowding another plant, maybe carefully dig it up and plant it in a better spot.

If the volunteer is something you don't like, maybe something new you tried, give it to a neighbor.

"Chop and drop" is a good way to use volunteers also.  Chop and drop will return nutrients to the soil. That way, you are using the volunteer to help your other plants.  
 
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Location: Carlton County, Minnesota, USA: 3b; Dfb; sandy loam; in the woods
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If something want to grow and feed me, I feel sort of obliged to let it. I occasionally move them somewhere better (better for me, I mean), and sometimes they die from that, but I don't think I've ever just killed a volunteer vegetable. But that's probably a more soft stance than is really ideal.
 
pollinator
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I love volunteers and generally let them grow or transplant if they are in a spot that interferes with planting something else.

There are some exceptions, tomatoes being one. I have a basically feral population of current tomatoes that have crossed with something else and are easily recognized by their foliage, I keep them. I generally discard other volunteer tomatoes because I save seed from the best of the best and if it was left in the garden to rot it probably didn't make that cut to start with.

Some other things that I barely even plant any more because they have established on their own are radishes, dill, turnips, poppies, marigolds, sunflowers and a few others. They are in the group that is either left alone or transplanted.
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