Volunteer Armies

I often hear other gardeners talk about some interesting "volunteer" in their garden, a plant that grew out of nowhere in just the perfect spot. For me this does happen once in a while -- except for the "perfect spot" part, as I usually have to transplant.

Most of the time in my garden though the solitary volunteer is a thing I only read about. For me, seedlings arrive in hordes, great swathes of tiny plants, volunteer armies in miniature.


I guess it's because I prefer growing plants that reseed, and that for some reason the blooms I prefer (which the pollinators do as well it seems) produce copious amounts of tiny seeds, like feverfew...

...whose seeds are like dust.

Red-whisker clammyweed (I could type that name a hundred times and not get bored with it!) has larger seeds, but an exceptional germination rate it seems -- perhaps because this native is an annual?

They always want to grow right at the sidewalk edge too.

The king of the volunteer army this year though is Perilla...

...which went from a single plant two years ago...

...to dozens last year and bazillions this year it looks like.

I'll dig up tiny clumps of all of these armies and pot them up, then pull or mulch over the rest.

I can't do much about the violet seedlings in the lawn though unless I apply chemicals...

...and it's not that big of a deal for me to go to that extreme. I'm using the "mow what grows" philosophy (and loving it).

So, what's invading your garden this spring?


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Mark and Gaz  – (April 17, 2015 at 11:22 AM)  

Yikes, ours is more on the nuisance side, hundreds of seedlings popping up from the big Acer pseudoplatanus down at the bottom of our garden.

outlawgardener  – (April 17, 2015 at 1:21 PM)  

You get fun seedlings. I've been pulling Impatiens glandulifera, hoeing dandelions, fighting with holly and ivy, and trying to get rid of the shotweed before it starts blooming and shooting seeds everywhere.

Alan  – (April 17, 2015 at 2:24 PM)  

Mark/Gaz: I don't mention the silver maple (Acer saccharinum) seedlings, as they come later and I battle them every year. Loved the "helicopters" when I was a boy, but now...

Peter: Two interesting facts: 1) shotweed is edible 2) Castor bean pods also explode and shoot their seed everywhere. I'd call that one "red rider weed" though because I think they could shoot your eye out. :)

danger garden  – (April 18, 2015 at 11:21 AM)  

My castor beans did explode and shoot their seeds everywhere, so far there are no seedlings though...and that's the story of my garden. So many things that are supposed to seed around never do. I kind of feel like a failure.

Lisa  – (April 19, 2015 at 5:55 PM)  

I love volunteers! Some of my favorite plant placements and combinations have happened by sheer luck. Not sure what that says about me as a gardener! I just found another one today - a "hens and chicks" volunteer that put itself in just the right spot. Not sure how it happened, but it definitely made me smile!

Alan  – (April 20, 2015 at 10:38 AM)  

Loree: I wouldn't expect castor bean seedlings yet -- they seem to need it to be fairly warm before they get sprouting. And as for the lack of other volunteers, you keep a very tidy garden with lots of rock mulch... maybe that has something to do with it? Or maybe you just need to outsmart them, and start saying how much you like the fact that nothing reseeds in your garden. That should get everything sprouting. :)

Alan  – (April 20, 2015 at 10:41 AM)  

Lisa: the biggest volunteer plants always grow in the front of the beds for me. What's your secret? :)

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