by Tammy Taylor~
So I recently shared an update on my veggie garden progress. If you’ve read it you know my peppers and tomatoes were pretty much a bust this year due to our weird spring. You see, I planted seeds in my indoor greenhouse and placed that greenhouse at a south-facing window in my home like I always do. But the constant cloudy weather this spring hampered a good germination. The few plants that did germinate were hardened off & placed in the garden. But you know peppers and tomatoes like a little more sun, a little more heat. All those seeds were just a big, fat bust. I’m disappointed since RancherMan had requested a Pico-De-Gallo garden this year. Garlic? Check. Onions? Check. Cilantro? Check. Tomatoes? Hummm… But I was recently able to replenish some of the vacant areas in my garden. It cost me ZILCH. “How can you get free veggie plants for your garden?” you might wonder. I’m so glad you asked!
The easiest way to get free veggie plants in my garden is to watch for volunteer seedlings. On a typical gardening year I get several volunteer plants. This year my first sighting was in the bed where I planted peanuts. I saw there were several vines that sprouted up. Now based on previous year’s plantings these vines could be spaghetti quash or heirloom pumpkin, or even cantaloupe. (My guess is cantaloupe.) I’ve allowed them to grow right where they are. These vines make a great living mulch, especially here in my peanut bed where I’m needing the ground moisture conserved to allow underground peanut formation. These vines will shade the ground and keep it cooler and preserve that precious moisture during those hot summer months.
But what do I see here among the other mysterious vines? These leaves are much more cut, I’m virtually certain it’s a watermelon vine. Well ok then – go ahead and help my peanuts little watermelon vine. I’ll gladly accept any watermelon deliciousness that results!
And make no mistake, there will be lots of deliciousness that results from these volunteer vines. Since we began beekeeping last year there have been many honey-making visits by our bzzzzzy workers to our garden. Talk about a beautiful symbiotic relationship! These honey bees are not only helping to assure my garden harvest success, but they’re also making some delicious honey for us! You GO girl, shake your Honey-Maker! LOL
Relocating Volunteer Seedlings
I’ve also found other volunteer plants in the garden that needed to be relocated. Since my tomatoes that I planted by seed had been a big bust, I was beyond excited to find this tomato seedling happily reaching for the sun. It too was in my peanut bed so it needed to be relocated.
I often relocate volunteer seedlings in my garden. I typically give them a special place in one of the planting rows. Heck if it wants to live & provide this badly, who am I to deny it! As it turns out this volunteer is doubly exciting since it replaces one of the veggie plants that never sprouted. Woo-hoo!
So what did I spy beneath my *compost tumber? A closer look reveals yet another tomato plant, along with a vining veggie plant of some sort. Just like my peanut beds, I like to plant vining veggies beneath my tomato plants to shade the ground. So I dug up both plants and planted them in the tomato patch in my veggie garden. Looks like I’ll have a decent-enough tomato crop after all.
Win/Win Volunteer Plants
And you know I plant sunflowers along the fence that divides my chicken run from my garden. These sunflowers are beautiful to me. And my mom loves them when she comes to visit. Plus they offer shade to the chickens since they’re planted on the western side of their run. Oh and the resulting seeds are shared with both the chickens and the wild birds, so I’m actually growing some of their food.
Of course I planted that row of sunflowers again this year, but some were spindly out of the indoor greenhouse because of the lack of sun this spring. They’re kinda growing ok, but we’ll see how they do.
But THIS? This little sunflower seed fell across the fence and sprouted in the chicken run. RancherMan’s 6′-3″, so this reach means that dang sunflower plant is over 8-ft tall now! The chickens are currently using its large leaves for shade right there in their chicken pen ! Beauty for me, shade for the chickens and food for them too later on. That’s a win/win right there!
Enough Produce to Share
I didn’t plant my pickler cucumbers this year because RancherMan’s not fond of raw cucumbers. I enjoy them but there are only so many cucumbers a girl can eat. So I made refrigerator pickles with many of them last year. RancherMan enjoys pickles and although that worked out great, again, there are only so many you can consume. As a result I left them off the planting list this year.
After the garden itself was planted I felt a little sad. I think I’m really gonna miss those cucumbers. But wait, what’s this?? Yep, sprouting next to the chicken fence, a cucumber vine. Yea! So I’m tying it to the fence to allow it to grow up & along the fence. This makes cucumber harvest easy for me, but also offers that all-important shade to the chickens during the hot summer months. I’ll probably make more pickles this year and then pass them out freely to family, neighbors, church members, etc. Y’all know how much gardeners love to share!
I love that none of these free plants required me to drive anywhere and buy anything. None of them came with those dang plastic pots that need to be disposed of. And since they’re volunteers they are typically a very vigorously-growing plant. That stacks up to an awesome financial win as well as garden & environmental win. So keep your eyes open, fellow gardeners. There’s often many opportunities to get veggie plants absolutely free!
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