Saturday, May 16, 2009

Garden Mystery

There is a mysterious plant growing in my vegetable garden. Or rather, it's not so much the plant, which is definitely a member of the squash family, as how it got there that's the mystery.

I garden by the “square-foot” method, so my vegetable garden is small and pretty much under control. In late April I planted one bed in lettuce and arugula seeds. Neither came up, so I put in some fail-proof lettuce transplants.

Pretty soon I noticed some seedlings coming up among the lettuces. But there was no mistaking them for members of the salad family. Their cotyledons were fat and oval, their stems were thick and hairy. And their true leaves, when they emerged, were deep green and crinkly, and big.

I have compared the mystery plantlets to the zucchini that's growing in another bed, and they look similar, but not identical. They might be acorn squash, or yellow squash, or huge pumpkins that will take over the entire yard.

How did they get there?

The compost I put on the garden this spring dates from fall, 2008, when that season's acorn squash was safely stored in the basement, so its seeds could not possibly have gotten into that batch of compost.

And here's a spooky thing. All the way across the yard, against the back wall of the chicken/goat facility, I made a narrow bed in which I planted a mini variety of pumpkin, planning to train them up the wall of the shed. But the chickens got out for fifteen minutes one day and, ignoring the woods and fields all around them, made a beeline for the pumpkin patch, which they plowed up from end to end while searching for, and finding, the pumpkin seeds.

A few days later, the mystery seedlings came up in the vegetable garden. Strange, don't you think?

Of course there is no way the chickens could have ingested the pumpkin seeds, then run over and pooped them into the vegetable garden, in the few minutes they were out. Maybe they picked up the seeds and ran across the yard with them in their beaks and planted them in the garden? Chickens will do strange things sometimes.

Whatever they may be, I'm not pulling up the mystery seedlings. I'm going to transplant them somewhere, and see what they turn into. I don't know where I'll put them, as members of the squash family tend to ramble, and the last thing I want is yet another garden to take care of. But I'll think of something.

5 comments :

  1. Mine grow out of the compost heap, or right in front. Some years they produce, some years they're just for show. Cucumbers, pumpkins, squash. Those same little seedlings.

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  2. We gave up growing vegetables a number of years ago after years of nothing to harvest after a spring and summer of work but a couple of years ago we had a mystery plant come up next to the front porch. It was a vine and grew and grew and grew. It produced crookneck squash -- it turned out that my husband threw an old crookneck squash next to the porch after Halloween the fall before and it sprouted. It was a lot of fun. Maybe I'll do it on purpose this fall.

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  3. Bridgett and Dona, your mention of pumpkins and Halloween made me remember that last fall we "recycled" people's old jack o'lanterns to feed the chickens...that may well be what's growing in my lettuce bed. If so, I'd better take defensive action right now.

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  4. i love mystery plants! i get mystery cherry tomatoes in odd places, i think because the tomatoes get stolen by squirrels and dropped in various places in the yard.

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  5. I have now made a new little garden and transplanted the mystery seedlings into it. We'll see what they turn into. I think they're pumpkins.

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