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This is a badge bit (BB) that is part of the PEP curriculum. Completing this BB is part of getting the straw badge in Gardening.

Encouraging volunteer and wild plants to grow together in a beneficial polyculture has many benefits. Volunteer plants usually tend to seed themselves well and are generally pretty tough and vigorous growers, which can be very helpful traits to have in a crop. They also can reduce the job of planting seeds. Who doesn't like less work?



source


To get certified for this BB, you will need to show 3 species of volunteer plants and 2 species of selected wild plants growing together, and a brief description of what you did to encourage the polyculture, like mulching or selective chop and drop.

This thread talks about selecting volunteers as a useful trait in plant breeding, and has a good discussion about volunteer plants in general.

Volunteering vegetables- The squash that won't go away...

What if there's a lot of unwanted plants growing amongst the volunteers?

Volunteers versus weeds

How to Certify That Your BB is Completed

 - A picture and identification of the 3 species of volunteers and 2 species of selected wild plants
 - A brief description on how you encouraged the volunteers and selected the wild plants (ie mulch, selective chop and drop)
 - A brief description of the permaculture use of the plant if it isn't obvious

Clarifications for this BB

 - "Volunteer" (for the sake of this BB) means a domesticated plant that reseeded itself without human help.  Does not include missed harvest (potatoes) or plants that spread on their own by runner or rhizome like mint, strawberry, raspberry, etc.
 - "Wild plant" (for the sake of this BB) means a wild plant that reseeded itself without human help
 - Plants must have a practical permaculture use (food, fiber, medicine, spice, etc)
COMMENTS:
 
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Could someone please help clarify the distinction between wild plants and volunteer plants? I just moved into my property last fall. I have a great patch that I’m allowing to grow as a tree nursery of things that came up on their own. This patch has strawberries (wild or previously planted I don’t know), mint (I assume planted, now well spread), maple and aspen, and a few others I haven’t identified yet. Do I need to plant something there and allow them to volunteer next year?
 
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There's a link above about "Volunteers vs Weeds" that has a bit more context.  I read it as a volunteer is a deliberately planted plant that has reseeded or seeds from cooking found their way back into the garden from compost.  A wild plant is something that came from elsewhere and didn't have an origin in a seed packet (or the like).  

So I'm not sure the strawberries or mint are volunteers or just established perennials...  Maple and aspen would be wild plants.

I think getting volunteers to happen is easier once you're doing Ruth Stout composting and growing veggies/fruit on purpose, the volunteers just start happening.
 
gardener
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Would it be easier to understand if it said "domesticated volunteers" and "wild type plants"?

Also are volunteers only those from seed? or do spread tubers and roots outside of original planting area count as volunteers?

 
Mike Haasl
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Good questions!  I'm not sure.  I'll try to ask Paul some time and see if he can weigh in...
 
S Greyzoll
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Amy Arnett wrote:Would it be easier to understand if it said "domesticated volunteers" and "wild type plants"?

Also are volunteers only those from seed? or do spread tubers and roots outside of original planting area count as volunteers?



Yes. I think this is clearer. To me a volunteer is anything that comes up that I didn’t put there, which would include wild plants. I think wild and domestic is a clearer distinction. I think I’ll chop and drop the weeds in that area and put in some squash and ground cherries, both of which will bring me volunteers next year. Thanks!
 
Mike Haasl
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We updated the requirements in the top post.  If you can think of any obvious loop holes that we should plug, let us know.
 
Mike Haasl
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Here's my submission.  First pic is of a banana with a volunteer butternut squash (black arrow), tomato (yellow arrow) and pepper (blue arrow) growing out of the compost near the banana's base.  Also in the polyculture is a wood sorrel (red arrow) which is a green for food.  I couldn't get all 5 into one picture (so close!).  The second pic is of a bed of garlic with wild amaranth (orange arrow), dill (yellow arrow) and red orach (pink arrow).  The amaranth is the wild one (at least I didn't plant it ever).

I encourage/select for these plants by not chopping and dropping them.  The amaranth is starting to take over which might become a problem.  Wood sorrel is pretty gentle so I don't mind it popping up in places.  I also mulched the area around the banana before I knew the volunteers would arrive but it worked out in their favor.
Banana-with-friends.jpg
Banana with friends
Banana with friends
Garlic-with-friends.jpg
Garlic with friends
Garlic with friends
Staff note (Mike Barkley) :

I certify this BB is complete.

 
pollinator
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Can I take pictures of wild plants that I'm attempting to cultivate for seed collection? There are a couple "weeds" in my yard that I'm planning to replant/re-seed for future use in my garden. (Horseweed, medicinal value. Milkweed, pollinator plant. "Sensitive" plant Mimosa pudica, nitrogen fixer)
Do they still count if I relocate them to a spot where they can grow with other plants or do they need to be in their "as found" locations? Mine are spread all over my yard currently, with little flags and bits of wire cage around them to protect them from bunnies and over-zealous husbands with lawn mowers...
 
Mike Haasl
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I think for this badge they need to have naturally shown up in their spot and that spot needs to be in a polyculture type situation.  So I think a wild plant in a traditional grass lawn probably doesn't count.  I think two wild plants that show up in a flower bed (assuming a polyculture of many flower varieties) would count.  I think wild plants that show up in a diverse "weedy" lawn that isn't mostly grass might count as a polyculture but I'm not sure.
 
pollinator
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First picture is my raspberry hugel bed. From left to right I got the following plants:
Cleomi (volunteer, for pollinators)
Green Bean (nitrogen fixer)
Mexican sunflower (for pollinators)
Self-heal (wild)
Ornamental sweet potatoes (for biomass)
Red clover (volunteer, N fixer, pollinators)
Raspberry
Penstemon digitalis (wild, early bloomer for bees)

I get N-fixer growing to improve soil, also potato vines for chop-n-drop.

2nd picture is part of my garden bed for luffa, birdhouse gourd and pumpkin. From front to back, I got:
Balsam (volunteer, attract pollinators )
Pumpkin
Buckwheat (volunteer, attract pollinators (
Tomato
Luffa (attract pollinators, including hummingbird)
Birdhouse gourd (night blooming, attract pollinators)

I tucked in a brush pile underneath the gourd trellis for various critters, and a compost pile on site to improve soil.




P1100634.JPG
raspberry hugel bed
raspberry hugel bed
P1100633.JPG
luffa garden bed
luffa garden bed
Staff note (Mike Haasl) :

I hereby certify this BB complete! Along with your spiffy new gardening air badge!

 
Mike Haasl
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Beautiful May!   Could you answer the second requirement for the BB?

 - A brief description on how you encouraged the volunteers and selected the wild plants (ie mulch, selective chop and drop)  

 
May Lotito
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Yes, I put some compost and apply compost tea in spring time to give the beds a head start. Then I just let things grow wild on their own. If I see bare soil I will chop and drop some grass, usually the ones growing along the edges. In this way I make the beds look neater and prevent the soil from drying out.

I have more polyculture beds but never see the plants from this angle (volunteer/wild/planned).
 
Carolyne Castner
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Mike Haasl wrote:I think for this badge they need to have naturally shown up in their spot and that spot needs to be in a polyculture type situation.  So I think a wild plant in a traditional grass lawn probably doesn't count.  I think two wild plants that show up in a flower bed (assuming a polyculture of many flower varieties) would count.  I think wild plants that show up in a diverse "weedy" lawn that isn't mostly grass might count as a polyculture but I'm not sure.



Ok that makes sense. I’m going to let the “weedy” plants that I’m currently protecting grow to seed as planned, collect some and let the others fall wherever they want! It might take a little longer but they’ll eventually travel around the yard and end up in places where they can grow nicely together
 
pollinator
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The section of my garden pictured below is mostly volunteer and wild at this point in the year.

In these spring I had planted potatoes using compost, and from the compost sprung many squash (probably acorn-type) and one sweet potato.  I thinned out there squash seedlings, keeping those that were best placed.

I also have a volunteer coneflower, probably seed from a plant in another part of the yard.

This time of year there's purslane everywhere,  though not so much in this pic since I used a bunch the day before.  I try to harvest just by pinching off "branches" so it keeps gety ij mg more leaves.

Also lots of lamb's quarters.  If it's in the way, I pull it up young, otherwise I just harvest there top and let it regenerate. I always leave just a few to go to seed.
20200728_182105.jpg
Back 40 (feet)
Back 40 (feet)
20200728_182309.jpg
Volunteer Coneflower (echinacea)
Volunteer Coneflower (echinacea)
20200728_182202.jpg
Wild lamb's quarters and volunteer sweet potato
Wild lamb's quarters and volunteer sweet potato
20200728_182409.jpg
Wild purslane under volunteer squash
Wild purslane under volunteer squash
Staff note (Mike Haasl) :

I certify this BB complete! Along with you Gardening Air badge

 
May Lotito
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I'd like to share the pictures of my polyculture garden. I grew garlic, dill, mustard greens and sweet peas in spring and they have all been harvested. Now cherry tomato, yard long beans, cucumber and sweet potato are growing.

Picture 1
In the middle is a volunteer peach tree that came out of the compost and I am keeping the tree. It grew very healthy and quickly, reaching 5 ft in just 3 months. I tried to make its roots growing deeper by limiting irrigation and fertilization. The whole bed is not watered unless there's severe drought. The peach tree has no pest issue so far.

2nd kind of volunteer plants are balsams that reseeded from previous year. The flowers are not only pretty but also attract lots of pollinators.

3rd volunteer plants are buckwheats. I planted some for green manure early, chop-n-drop them as mulch. Some mature seeds readily germinated and popping up everywhere.

Various wild plants also show up in the bed and I select some to keep, such as wood sorrel, plantain and red clover.

Last picture showed the garden soil is mulched with corn stalks, husk and sunflower heads to maintain moisture and increase on in soil.
garden1.JPG
garden
garden
wildplants.JPG
[Thumbnail for wildplants.JPG]
Staff note (Mike Haasl) :

I certify this BB complete!

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