Great discussion question, Andres! At one time I would get a little miffed when volunteer seedlings would outdo my best efforts. I’ve learned to take advantage of it and consider it a blessing. I figure, if God plants something in my garden, who am I to resent it?
Most of things that come up on their own are ones that are finicky. Arugula is one such for me. When I sow arugula for harvest, it will turn serrated and old-looking if it’s too cold or too hot. Too much rain makes spots on the leaves. The volunteers seem to generally be happy.
Over the years I’ve grown fava beans in every area of the garden. They’re likely to pop up even before I start sowing. Sometimes the volunteers give me the first crop of the spring. Other times they just make a little nitrogen generator wherever they are. I don’t argue!
In winter and spring I like to leave mustards and other greens to flower for beneficial insect habitat. Some plants go to seed, so the next year I find myself wandering the garden and harvesting “strays.”
A few weeks ago I moved about 20 squash plants from where they volunteered in the potato bed to a row where I’d run short of melon plants. The relocated plants are looking good and just beginning to set fruit—ahead of most of my carefully sown squash. Most of the crossbred summer squash will make big, healthy plants, probably the result of hybrid vigor. So I grow these out and harvest them much like I would with a purchased hybrid. I just don’t save seed from the crossbreds—too many torpedo-shaped or other very odd gourd-like fruits happened when I did that.
If I was to give a short answer, I’ve learned to accept my own shortcomings and take advantage of the help I get along the way. —Bill Nunes, Gustine, California