This is a journal of my vegetable gardens. Skippy was my first dog and he thought the garden was his, even though I did all the work. Now Suzie and Charley follow in his footsteps. We're located near Boston (USDA zone 6A). I have a community plot, a backyard vegetable garden, fruit trees, berry bushes, chickens, and bees. I use sustainable organic methods and do my best to grow all of my family's vegetables myself.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

weeds, volunteers or invasives?

dill volunteers
Copy of 173 Copy of 163
volunteer squash in the onion bed anise hyssop sprouts

Some plants reseed regularly in my garden: bachelor buttons, anise hyssop, Johnny jump ups, borage, dill, ruby streaks mustard, even tomatoes and squashes. This year a few pea plants sprouted in my compost pile and last year's potatoes sprouted in the garlic bed.

I suppose much of gardening is choosing what should grow where.

I carefully moved the dill volunteers to their own patch, and the ruby mustard and Johnny jump ups to theirs. Most of the borage I let stay where it grows. The hyssop is aggressive and I pull most of it and let a few plants (in places I want them) grow. All volunteer tomatoes and last year's potatoes get pulled. Occasionally I let a squash volunteer grow. This year, I have one volunteer squash still growing in the onion bed. Last year's volunteer squashes turned into prolific medium-sized pumpkins. Likely this year's is too, but its a fun mystery for now.

I have some aggressive volunteers this year. A couple years ago I planted seeds for a purple morning glory. It is a lovely plant and flower. Someone warned me that its invasive. I remember I replied - "well, I'll just pull up the plants I don't want". And that's what I am doing now - LOTS of them. I have morning glory sprouts every where within 20 feet of last years vines. I keep thinking that if I can pull them all this year and prevent ANY flowers, then I can eliminate them from my garden - and my neighboring community plots - and the adjacent meadows. We do not need another invasive. Gardening near a natural area requires attention to what we plant to prevent invasion by aggressive plants.

Other sprouts in the invasive category in our community garden plots are oregano, mint, raspberries, and sunchokes. My garden plot has problems with the latter two. Today I pulled many many raspberries and sunchokes from my plot. They sneak in from neighboring plots. I've designated a small area for a few raspberry vines, which do really well here and are delicious.

In my home garden, the prolific volunteers/weeds are violets, ruby mustard, tomatoes, dill, and oregano's. I have 3 types of oregano that I love to cook with. It seems daily I pull up stray oregano from my rose bed or garden paths. In my suburban home garden, I like to encourage somewhat aggressive plants to fill spaces I don't have time to plant. I don't mind pulling them when I want to plant something else. In a suburban location, the aggressive  plants don't spread out of my yard.

The invasive volunteer in my parents garden is also oregano. This year my dad did a lot of work to reduce the oregano patch which had gotten out of hand. Like me, my mom likes to have a good amount available to add to the salad and cooking, so my dad couldn't remove it all.



Blogger Lynda said...

The first year we moved to our ranch home I planted beautiful deep purple morning glory along the front fence...I've been pulling out morning glory for the last 36 years...oh BIGGEST gardening mistake.

June 13, 2012 12:53 AM

Blogger Daphne said...

This year anise hyssop takes the winner in annoying volunteers. I think I'm going to cut the flowers this year before they set seed, which is too bad since they are pretty.

June 13, 2012 6:09 AM

Blogger becky3086 said...

I have a couple of volunteer squash and I think I am going to stop putting potato peelings in the compost bin as they never seem to compost down, they just grow.
I have had morning glories in my front flower garden for years now but this year I noticed there weren't any so I threw in some seeds, lol, once you get used to them, they never leave. I also have 4 o'clocks. They are REALLY invasive but we like them and I don't have to do anything to keep them blooming so they have stayed and taken over. Oh well.

June 13, 2012 7:19 AM

Blogger Holly said...

My volunteers this year are oakloaf lettuce, sunflowers, and lots of burgundy amaranth. The lettuce and amaranth I leave because I can let it develop to a certain point and then just add it to my salads. Some of the sunflowers I am moving, leaving in place, or eating as sprouts. Last year my family started feeding the squirrels tons of sunflower seeds, which promptly filled the gardens and lawn. I left quite a few plants and it gave lots of colour and the goldfinches loved my garden...but it was a little too much shade in my already shady backyard. My backyard is quite sheltered so the oregano seeds never go far. Conveniently, this year they seeded themselves into a nearby empty pot along with some chives.

June 13, 2012 10:08 AM

Blogger sarah said...

I have dill, tomatoes, oregano and cilantro (that's a new one for me) sprouting up all over the place in my yard this year. I've been tending to let the dill and cilantro just stay put and grow in at least some of the random spots, but the tomatoes and oregano have got to go! I even found some oregano had traveled all the way from my backyard to my front ornamental beds. How the heck? That is one sneaky plant.

And of course I also have issues with my sunchokes, raspberries and mint, but at least that is invasiveness I signed on for and (somewhat) planned for.

Well, better too much than not enough, I guess?

June 13, 2012 10:51 AM

Blogger Paloma said...

Good post! I have a friend (she is an amazing and somewhat famous gardener and author) her name is Betty and she says that a weed is only a plant growing in the wrong place... so true! :) I like how you call them "volunteers"

If you are ever interested in knowing about my friend Betty and her AMAZING "Heritage Flower Farm" (where you can always -except during winter- find her on her knees working!) here is a link: and a little about her:

I just thought I would share! I love gardens!!! and I love reading your blog! Thanks again for sharing!

June 13, 2012 12:06 PM

Anonymous Megan said...

It's so funny to me to think of morning glory as an invasive in other climates! It's something I grow in my garden each year (and I have to plant new seeds each year) - zone 3!

June 13, 2012 2:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I get mystery squash every year and sunflowers volunteer. I have collards that reseed and migrate at will. A whole bed of strawberries that sprang up on their own are doing better than the ones I planted.
I pull up the excess ones, but often it seems to me that the plants are better than I am at picking where they should grow.

June 13, 2012 4:56 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lovely topic it is "volunteers in the garden." O am not sure from where, as I have not seen any neighbor having it, I got some morning glory growing last year at my veggie garden, and I was sooooo happy. Free flowers. This year yes they are every where within 20 feet. I let them be again, will see where this I re planted 4 of my weed tomatoes out of curiosity, even thought I had like 13 varieties already this year. I never had good luck with dill, I wish it was growing all over, I planted it in 5 different places this year to see where s better for it. My weed flower is purple bell flower(don't know the name) I literally dug three spade the place they were and cleaned all the roots and they came back even stronger. So if any one wants some I live close to Boston :]

June 13, 2012 8:40 PM

Blogger kathy said...

Is it only the purple morning glories that are invasive? Are the pretty blue ones also?

Huli: Purple flower is Creeping Bellflower. Impossible to eradicate, but quite pretty.

June 13, 2012 9:14 PM

Blogger Vanessa said...

I planted grandpa otts morning glories last year not listening to anyone's warning that they will self seed easily. I laid 5 inches of new mulch down on top of where they were last year and they are still popping up.

June 13, 2012 9:19 PM

Blogger David Velten said...

Ditto the oregano. I also have a problem with garlic chives. I never dead head them in time and the seed tends to roll.

June 13, 2012 10:01 PM

Blogger Tina Marie said...

Two years ago, I built new beds in my garden, and that same year the guy at the local organic nursery gave me two sunchokes to plant. He went on and on about how great they are, how diabetics can eat them, good in a roast, etc. I took his word for it. I planted them both in one of the raised beds. Its has taken OVER! My garlic, favas and peas are holding out, and I'm pulling them as much as I can. Hopefully I can dig them all up this fall. I also have borage, cilantro, tomato and a few dill volunteers.

June 14, 2012 12:17 AM

Anonymous Garden center Tulsa said...

I am toatlly agree with your information i like it.
Thank you for post..

June 14, 2012 2:11 AM

Blogger Parsnip Love said...

Morning glories are the bane of my existence in the garden (zone 7a) and the main garden nemesis for most of our community garden. To make it worse, many people get a contact skin allergy from morning glories (usually if you allergic to poison ivy). Wretched stuff. I giggled to myself when an earlier commenter was surprised that someone would think of this as a weed because I am always horrified when I see that you can buy plants and seeds for it. :)

June 27, 2012 4:05 PM


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