Identifying purposeful sprouts in a sea of volunteers.

I have yet to compost my compost entirely. Every year I think I’ll make multiple piles and finally let a compost pile fully “cook.” Every year the time rolls around to work more into the soil and the “more” is “not done cooking.”

Hopefully this isn’t hurting more than my weeding time allotment.

One thing this cycle has taught me, is what a lot of plants look like when they first emerge. This is super helpful when it comes to growing something I’ve never grown before. For instance, beets.

This is my first year trying to grow beets, and I had no idea what their sprouts would look like. I did remember to mark down how many I put per row, and how many rows. There are a whole lot of sprouts in that little corner of my garden right now, and before any get too crowded or too large, I thought to discern which were the beets, and which were volunteers.

In this picture, my first thought was that the red stemmed little guy was either chard or marigolds (both have had red stems in my experience.) Then I notice the sprouts on either flank have soft purple stems. I know that means tomatoes (based on the options from what goes into my compost.) The wee one on the right of the other three is what is throwing me off. It isn’t for sure a tomato, or pepper, or squash. So it’s possible the beet sprout is either another red-stemmed one, or another purple-stemmed one. Either with brighter leaves or paler leaves than the similarly-stemmed counterparts.

How I know it’s not a squash?

All squash so far in my garden volunteer looking like this:

Last spring I stopped counting after pulling 87 of these from the garden, transplanting 23 more into pots, and leaving 8 in the bed. I’m actually hoping this is the weird bowling-ball squash that volunteered last year (that I’d never seed before, or since, but tasted like savory butter with a hint of lemon.)

So I keep looking, puzzling over which sprout a beet sprout may be. And I come across this pair:

You can see that I’ve pulled some tomato sprouts already and laid them on the earth. I like to let them compost right back into the soil. The duo in the middle are more of those red-stemmed bright-leaved folk. Being as there are two, I think they may be a volunteer pair and am about to pull them. My eye traces up though, and there’s another pair. And another. And then there it is, the original red-stem. All in a row. All evenly spaced. I gaze to the left. Another one, splitting the center of the two in this row. Down that row, it continues. Eureka! Beet sprouts identified. Everything else (except the squash) comes out.

I’m hoping that squash will grow as quickly as last year and I’ll have some fresh squash by Mother’s Day again.

Depending on the type of sprout, I either learned what it was through elimination (like I did today with the beets), through growing it indoors in an isolated environment, or through coming across a dense patch of sprouts, digging, and finding the source.

For instance, I now know that these are tomatoes. If I didn’t, I could dig about an inch down and find a partially decomposed tomato – probably of a cherry variety, knowing this household.

And I think the sprouts at the end of the stick pointing up the middle are carrots, but I don’t honestly recall. There are supposed to be carrots in this area. These ones get to  keep their feet in the ground until either showing off some carrot leaves, or revealing a coat of a different color.

This patch however, is new to me. I haven’t gone digging yet. Any ideas?

Things I learned today:

  • Beet sprouts (at least Cylindra and Crosby Egyptian) have red stems, bright lime colored leaves, and may come up in pairs.)
  • I forgot what carrot sprouts look like
  • There is still hope for an all-volunteer veggie garden in my future
  • Possibly, the name of the sprouts in the last photo, with your help.
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5 comments on “Identifying purposeful sprouts in a sea of volunteers.

  1. Your sugar peas already look delicious! We’ll be planting them here in two weeks. Did I understand that you planted them in the fall or early winter and they are now sprouting?

    • plumdirt says:

      I did plant them in the fall. I’d have to check exact dates but believe October. Texas “winters” allow for gardening while our summers (late July through mid-September) are our “off” season.

  2. Kelly says:

    Sorry, I just realized I commented on the wrong post. Your growing season is so different. July and August are very active for us while December & January are off-season. The pea seed may rot in our soggy winter ground but I think its an experiment worth trying. Thanks.

    • plumdirt says:

      It’s 78 here today, which I’m guessing is similar to your July weather?

      Last August was 104-112 almost all month. We had a record year with something like 89 days over 100 degrees IN A ROW. We were already at 99 degrees on March 31st last year. It’s nuts.

      • Kelly says:

        I wish it was 78 degrees here in July, It would be heaven! Normally, July and August temps vary from around 93 to 103, however, last year, and the year before, our temps were 105+ for many days straight. We often go 3-4 weeks with no rain during this time, too. When you factor in the frequent 100% humidity summers here are often quite difficult to tolerate.

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