Saturday, April 14, 2012

Welcome your spontaneous arrivals

I am not talking about people who suddenly appear on your doorstep.  I am talking about the surprises you will from time to time find in your vegie garden if you allow small weeds to live long enough to see what they are.  Some call them ‘volunteers’.  I call them ‘spontaneous arrivals’.

The most common spontaneous arrivals in vegie gardens are probably Parsley and Silverbeet.  If you allow these plants to flower and then go to seed and don’t pull them out until the start of winter, it is very likely you will have them germinate in various spots in your vegie patch the following season.  I saves you buying the seed and putting them in, but there is another reason to treasure these plants: they may well do better than seedlings bought in a nursery because transplanting from a pot, no matter how well done, means the plant’s efforts are at first focused on survival, not growth.

Tomatoes are a prime example.  I have seen cases where a tiny tomato seedling spontaneously appearing above ground in late December produced tomatoes well before some of the carefully nurtured seedlings bought a couple of months earlier.  Why is this?  Because it was allowed to germinate and grow in the one spot, without any interruptions and without all the disadvantages of being in a pot first.

A few months ago a grape (see photo) spontaneously arrived in my garden.  I could easily not have recognized it for what it was and pulled it out.  The vine has grown vigorously and I have built a support for it now.

Pumpkins seedlings, not broken down by your compost heap, can be another great gift.  The pumpkin shown in the sidebar of this blog was a spontaneous arrival in my garden.

You can maximize the chances of this happening by making your own compost.  My compost is mostly nice black soil when it is ready, but still has the occasional seed in it.  One year I had an incredible number of tomato seedlings spontaneously coming up.  I left them to fend for themselves and they produced a wonderful crop of tomatoes.

Determining what a weed is, before deciding whether to pull it out, is the key to success.  I put a little stick next to weeds I am uncertain about.

Of course not every self-sown seed will bring success.  The plant may not produce, or if it does, its fruit may not taste right, because it may be a cross between varieties.  Well, you can pull it out when that is clear.

Self-sown seeds can be presents worth treasuring.  Welcome these spontaneous arrivals!

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