Thursday, May 26, 2011


In my old garden I had self sown volunteers that I relied on to come up every year. And they did like clockwork. Most of them were in the umbellifera family. I had cilantro, parsley, and dill. My three stalworts of the garden. I keep thinking of not doing parsley that way anymore because it is always last to germinate and the ones I start inside are always better. But the other two are prefect for both production and ease. They always germinate early in the spring before I can get them to come up.

Cilantro is a slow starter. It can take weeks to germinate, but if self sown, it just comes up easily and early in the spring. This is not self sown. When I moved gardens the cilantro did not come with me. I'm trying a slow bolting variety this year. I need to start some more seed soon. I hope to let some of this batch go to seed. I want to sprinkle it about the herb garden so it can come up every year. I'll have bits of it all over the garden too. I think it is my favorite volunteer because when it flowers, it brings every kind of beneficial to the garden. It just swarms with them.

I seeded some dill in the early spring, but this is self seeded dill from my last garden. It turns out the compost that I brought with me still had viable seeds even though it was two years old. It is coming up anywhere I put compost from the old yard. Which means mostly in my garlic bed as I mulched with compost last fall. I'll pick some of the plants for eating, but some I'll let go to seed amidst the garlic. I'll scatter the seed heads around so it will come up all over. It really is a weed, but if I let it grow big enough it is an edible one. Its flowers also bring in the beneficials, but mostly the lacewings love them. It brings one "pest" into the garden too. But it is a much loved pest - the swallowtail butterfly. At my last house I would always have the larvae of the black swallowtail on my dill, chomping away. Most caterpillars I consider pests, but I love the butterflies. They are just so pretty that I'm happy to share with them. It also gives me a place to put the ones that hatch on my carrots, where I don't want them. I'll share my dill, but not my carrots.

One of the self seeded plants that I loved the most, I figured would never make the trip with me. But oh I was wrong. I've got three johnny-jump-ups growing in the garlic bed and two in the rock wall garden. They are edible, but I rarely eat them as they make me smile too much. I don't know why some flowers make me happier than others, but this is one of my favorites.

I even have another kind of viola in the herb bed. This was not planted by me, but the soil must have had seeds. Most of the weeds I pull, but these I let pop up anywhere. Sometimes I even transplant them to places where they have a better growing space. This one is hiding between and a bit behind the mint pots. Maybe it will keep blooming all summer long in the shade. I hope I'll get even more of them and my jump-ups next year. I might even pull out some saved seed from my jump-ups that I have and sow it around the garden in the fall to add to the genetic pool.

So you encourage volunteers in your garden? If so which ones are your favorite?


  1. I've never even thought about allowing cilantro to self seed. I normally pick it all and then have to reseed the next Spring. But like you said it takes awhile to get going and by the time I actually get it sown and then it grows in I have had to buy cilantro at the store. I'll have to try and let some of it go to seed.

  2. I also love Jump-ups! The vast majority of my flower/herb beds are volunteers. Dill, basil, even habeneros down here in NC! My flower beds are cottage style so it is always a surprise with the flowers!!

  3. I also like seeing the volunteers come up. I have loads of tomatoes, but also coriander, oregano and endives coming up all over the place. I'm not so keen on potato volunteers though because I have read that they can harbour diseases, especially blight - which is very prevalent here. Fennel and Good King Henry are also prolifif self-seeders in my garden.

  4. Potatoes volunteering in my compost pile, two years in a row.

  5. I encourage volunteers in the garden! Like you, I love to let the cilantro bloom all over the place amd sweet alyssum also, they both draw beneficials in droves. This winter I let some chamomile volunteer and bloom like crazy and found that the beneficials love it also so I plan on scattering seeds of it around the garden as well. A couple of native plants are allowed to volunteer in the garden - California poppy and Claytonia, one for the beautiful flowers which the good bugs love and the other to add some variety in the winter salads. And those cute Johnny-Jump-Ups, they volunteer around my ornamental beds and love the gravel patio. That's my current list of favorites!

  6. Very nice. I didn't know that cilantro had beneficials. We use it a lot, and definitely encourage it's growth. We have a volunteer squash growing in our compost bin this year, and every year we're sure to get tomatillos. They're prolific volunteers.

  7. I am going to plant more dill for the butterfly! I had the most beautiful and large two-tailed yellow swallowtail in the yard yesterday on Jupiter's Beard.

    My volunteers are cantaloupe and watermelon from the compost. I had 16 sweet cantaloupes one year. My co-workers were very happy.

  8. You know I already hoed up my forget-me-nots, thinking they were weeds. My dill went downwind, and is growing in the neighbor's yard. I am babying one volunteer tomato, because I know it is a small early variety that I can tie to the fence, but I've purposely pulled all the others. Last year I had volunteer yellow summer squash, but the plants weren't very productive. My best volunteers this year are the sweet alyssum, and I'm letting it grow wherever it wants.

  9. I am going to have to plant dill in my front flower bed. I would love to have more butterflies by my front window. I tried planting milkweed there, but all of them died. Dill is much easier to sow and grow than milkweed. I haven't planted it because I don't care to eat it.

    I didn't know that cilantro would self-seed either. I will have to let my baby one go to seed at the end of the season. I love cilantro and would really like to help my beneficials. They have really been helping me in the garden this year. It's alive with the 2 types of beneficial wasps, and lacewings have been spotted too. I have only seen one ladybug, but am happy for any help I can get.

  10. Fennel volunteers for me in the herb and butterfly gardens. I always have plants to give away. And this year I had a purple perilla volunteer in the herb garden. It's always hard to get this one started from seed, but I guess the volunteer had the conditions it needed.

  11. Johnny Jump-ups are the best!

  12. My cilantro is in bloom in a new-ish bed. I hope it self-sows and I get volunteers. I had some tomatoes volunteer last year but, they were pretty wimpy.

  13. Love the Violas most of all. Melampodium is a summer fav along with Madagascar periwinkle.

  14. I never get volunteers-but that's my fault-I actually enjoy weeding and do it often. I think I weed out the freebies unknowingly. I have to learn to relax because I'd LOVE some volunteers!!

  15. Vanessa, At my last house it used to come up so heavily in one bed that I could just thin it out at a couple of true leaves and get a good harvest.

    Jeremy, wow I've never had a pepper self seed here. Tomatoes yes, but never peppers.

    Mark, My last oregano never self seeded. I keep hearing they take over the garden, but mine never did. I'd pull the potato volunteers too. I know some let the grow, but the chance of blight is just too big where I live.

    Karen Anne, I try to only put cooked potatoes in my compost so they don't volunteer for me. lol But right now I have some kind of squash volunteering in the back. It is a race to see if I cover it up first or if it can outgrow me adding things.

    michelle, I have sweet alyssum this year too. I always wanted it to self seed at my last house, but it never would. I'm really hoping that this year it will.

    Jody, it swarms with hoverflies and wasps of all kinds. I've got one of those squash growing too. I wonder if it will live.

    Brie, I never get melons volunteering. I always have to plant those.

    Granny, I can only hope my forget-me-nots and my borage volunteer next year. I have them under the gas meter. The soil is really crappy and shallow there. But I hope they grow anyway.

    Crafty Cristy, well cilantro is coriander. I always let it go to seed so I can get the coriander too. Same with dill. I collect the seed to cook with. And even if you try to keep the seed heads collected, you will miss some anyway. Though I so scatter it occasionally around the garden on purpose.

    villager, in my last garden the black-eyed-susans would volunteer all over the place. I considered this a weed and ripped them up. This year I'm having trouble trying to start them from seed. Sometimes nature just does a better job.

    Wendy, they are!

    Raechill, tomato volunteers are pretty wimpy for me too. But mostly that is because they start so late that they can't keep up with the ones sown indoors.

    NellJean, melapodium is so cheery. I've never grown it myself though.

    Sue, I like to weed too. But I've learned what those little plants look like. As long as it has one true leaf I can make sure it comes up. And I usually weed by hand, not by hoe so I can see them and leave the ones I want. I also find the weeds are easiest to pull when they have at least two true leaves or bigger. Otherwise they are just too tiny.

  16. My dill volunteers every year. What I plant intentionally doesn't seem to mature lately. I have one green mass in my small vegetable garden this year that looks like a lush green moss or ground cover. I went to investigate and it is dill seedling. I am afraid when I till the garden they will have to go.

    I have had parsley live and come back every year here and not from volunteers.

  17. Gosh, I never gave it much thought! But now I am going to purposely spread more dill and cilantro seeds :)

    I do have both of them volunteering in the herb garden and on our patio sidewalk cracks!, but I am going to let them spread elsewhere :)

  18. I love volunteers, Johnny Jump Up is one of those, strangely I have yard long beans volunteers this year, they sprouted in mid 30F, go figure.