Our Mission:

Our Mission: To enable individuals and communities to take an active part in the cultivation of systems that provide the highest quality fruits, vegetables, herbs and other yields, in a way that benefits themselves, cares for the land and environment, and provides a surplus to use, share and reinvest into the system.

Friday, July 24, 2015


OK, so maybe not that kind of "volunteer" :)   How about plants, more along the lines of volunteer corn?  But...
          volunteer (vol·un·teer) noun
                    a person who freely offers to take part in an enterprise or undertake a task.
Let's see what tasks our volunteer plants might be undertaking and how we can benefit from them in your landscapes.
If you feed birds for enjoyment, you most likely will have Sunflower seeds in your mix.  On your own or from your little feathered friends' table manners, you will have some spills, and sunflower seeds readily sprout.  Our bird feeders have an ample supply of sunflower sprouts throughout the growing season.  They could be considered a weed, as I didn't plant them, but the rabbits really love them!  If they are eating delicious young sunflower sprouts maybe they will be less interested in the plants I really don't want them eating.  Sunflower sprouts are often grown by urban farmers who market them (and other) micro-greens to local chefs and restaurants.

We've (and the rabbits too?) also let sunflowers grow if they aren't in really awkward places.  They are fun to watch grow and bloom.  Many pollinators like the flowers and birds love the seeds.  After they mature you get more sunflower seeds, if you can beat the birds and squirrels to them.  I'll harvest these heads, and save them in the garage to put out for the birds during the winter.

Birdsfoot Trefoil is another plant that "stepped forward" to come live at our house.  The yellow flowers, although small, are bright and abundant.  It is related to clover or alfalfa and is sometimes used for grazing forage on poorly drained, low pH soils. Birdsfoot Trefoil is a nitrogen fixer, meaning it can cooperate with certain bacteria in its roots, to convert nitrogen in the air into a form available to plants. 

My lawn grass, and yours, loves nitrogen; its what helps it grow nice green leaves.  My yard also has white clover and black medic so this combination suggests I have a nitrogen deficiency that makes the grass less competitive.  The white clover, which I don't mind, also fixes nitrogen and provides a good nectar source for the honeybees that have made our yard a regular stop.  But black medic is another story as it grows heartily in the high traffic areas of the front lawn.  It forms a mat killing the grass and it produces many many seeds for next year.  So if I can colonize these black medic infested areas with trefoil, I will fill the nitrogen fixing niche for healthier more competitive grass.  (FYI - This European native is on Minnesota's invasive plants list.)

This Milkweed recently "volunteered" in the irises out front.  Although I might relocate it this fall, milkweed varieties provide the only food source for Monarch butterfly larvae.  I haven't found any eggs or evidence of feeding on this plant, but there are a few Monarchs fluttering around. The milkweed in the backyard had a big one on it this week!

Here's a Cosmos that "raised its hand" to bring blooms above the strawberry ground cover.  This garden variety cosmos (probably Sensation) is often found in Butterfly Gardens and seed mixes.  It is a favorite of birds, butterflies and bees. They can reseed themselves for several years and is probably what happened here as it is near where a butterfly mix was planted several years ago..

Have a great weekend, and enjoy the natural world around you!


  1. We have moss roses we did not plant, love that they showed up!

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