Vegetable Garden Surprises

I spend the winter thumbing through seed catalogs. I carefully select the varieties of plants that I nurture and care for over the summer in my vegetable garden. Although there is planning, I know enough to not expect the harvest to go as planned. The successes vary year by year. Last August the cucumbers were so abundant that I was making pickles. This year, the cucumbers have succumbed to wilt and insects. However, this year’s crops of tomatoes are the most delicious they’ve been in ages, and the carrots are sweet.

Every year I plant a pumpkin patch, and, other than watering, I ignore it. It fills with weeds. In a good year, I have enough pumpkins to set on the porch for Halloween.

This year, I put in a half-dozen butternut squash seedlings, too. The other day I went into the pumpkin garden to cut some tall grasses for the goats. I waded through weeds, and I spied some color underfoot.

I have a bumper crop of butternut squash!

But, that is not the biggest surprise in this year’s vegetable garden. The best is what I did NOT plant. Early in the spring, I spread two wheelbarrows full of compost on the goats’ pasture, where the soil is thin and nothing grows. Well, something is growing there now!

It’s my favorite winter squash, the delicata. I’m glad the boys don’t find it tasty.

This summer I finally replaced the asparagus patch (the original one Candy ate up, but that’s another story.) I planted the asparagus roots, and then I slowly filled in the trenches. I used good compost. I left it alone.

Lo and behold, the one plant I have never been able to bring to harvest, a sweet melon, is hanging off the side of the raised bed!

What have been the surprises in your garden this year?


  1. I don’t have enough sun here to have any luck with a vegetable garden. But I was wondering how your grape vines are doing?

    • Thanks for asking about the grapes! I’ll have to do a post about them and my plans for the vines. They are zooming up the fence, I expect Jack in the Beanstalk to arrive and be “Jack in the Grapevine!” I’ll be constructing a trellis for them for next year. The chickens have already found green grapes, but say they’ll wait until the fruit ripens to eat them.

  2. HAHA! I just love garden surprises! I like to let stuff go to seed before I pull it and then see where it pops up later on! Do you ever refer to the farmers almanac?

      • My daughter swears by the farmers almanac. I’ve never bothered but it sure is interesting. It tells you when to work the soil and when you should plant your seeds. It even tell you what days that you should be weeding the garden. The almanac also tells you when NOT to do those things. According the the book, the 20 and 21st were the best days to transplant seedlings. I missed out on those dates but perhaps a couple of weeks won’t matter? I dunno!! If anything I think it is a motivational tool. Kiss the chickens for me :)

  3. My surprise this year was cantaloupes! They flowered like mad and then did nothing for MONTHS! I was so mad at them I stopped watering them and one day I spy a big round cantaloupe hiding under the leaves. I am not mad at them anymore!

  4. I hope I get some surprises like that next year using all my good compost. Mostly I get a lot of tomato volunteers. Makes for some good plants too. I am surprised the goats did not eat those squash.

  5. I love all your surprises!! I really want to try watermelon next year but we’ve had bad luck in the past. The critters get to them before we do.
    We planted potatoes this year. Just the ones that grew eyes in the bag sitting in my lazy susan. What the heck, right? Well, nothing was happening. We were at a party and spoke to a friend that grows them every year…he told us what to expect and when. We were hopeful but it seemed nothing was happening. Two days later, we saw green sprouting from the area we planted them. Exciting stuff!! Not a great ending to my surprise story though because no potatoes grew. lol But the green leaves were pretty.

    • Are you sure there are no potatoes underground? A neighbor gave me rhubarb, and when I weeded around the new plants I found potatoes that he’d given me too.

    • Careful! Planting potatoes that are not meant for seed can be a source of “Late blight”, which affects tomatoes as well.

  6. I have volunteer squash coming up everywhere, but no fruit yet, so I’m not sure what kind it is! Sweet peas have been appearing randomly also, and several flowers that I have NEVER planted on my property… the birds are bringing me gifts now!

  7. i got a good one this year – early in spring i nearly pulled up what i thought was a sunflower that i didn’t want growing there – only i felt sorry for it and tamped it back in – after all, a sunflower wouldn’t bother an asparagus patch very badly. but then the ‘sunflower’ started runni ng across the yard and it turned out to be a pumpkin! one surprise after the other. would send a picture -will – later -because it isn’t pumpin-color yet

  8. Aren’t snakes a concern when you walk thru all this growth? This is the first summer I haven’t seen Copperheads or their skins in my yard in NW GA. Am attributing that (accurately or not, I’m not sure), to a Barred Owl who has been doing his own “harvesting” in my yard every evening this summer

  9. Thank goodness no poisonous snakes here. I admit to screeching when I see a harmless garter snake. I once saw a hawk eat a huge hog nose snake. As much as the raptors are a threat to my chickens, I am happy to see them take care of snakes and vermin.

  10. Oh, my mouth is watering. LOVE squash and melon fresh off the vine. Anything fresh off the vine! I’m so sad almost all the family farmers I know from my youth have sold off their farms to subdividers. I can live vicariously through your web site and pictures. The Farmers Market around here is not too bad. I can just smell and taste your melon! Looks like the old gals loved their pumpkin! As always, thank you for sharing Terry.

  11. My big surprise was not in the garden, but, on the chicken run instead. I planted a passion flower vine on the outside of the run to give a little more shade and also to beautify the 6 foot fence and the darn thing has taken over to my amazement and has beautiful passion flowers. I think I will be sorry next year because it seems to be invasive.

  12. One day last year I looked out a window and saw a robin picking at something on the edge of my driveway. I finally realized it was a small snake – no identifying color or marking. Eventually the robin picked up the snake and flew off with it. The neighborhood list serve discussed ‘worm snakes’ for a couple of days. I asked my vet who particiipated in that discussion about them and she said they had no special markings and were a plain dark gray. I wonder if the robin mistook its catch and what the nestlings thought of their lunch!

  13. My zucchini was over and above what I can cosume, guess that is normal for zucchini. The chickens have taken care of all my cherry tomatoes and a lot of my big ones. They dont have access to them most of the day but in the afternoon they get “chicken time” where they are allowed oit of thier area to forage. I have a very small yard and the chicks are confined to a 10 foot square area most of the time.

  14. Hi Terry.
    I often wonder that there is ANY green left in the goats’ yard. I was under the impression that they eat anything and everything, and then some. How nice to find the squash there! When we bought our farm it was all 6 feet high in weeds. We found a gourd plant in the middle of it all, so I know the pleasant surprise!

    You have a weed that we have here in VA. It’s in your picture of the butternut squash. Long narrow leaves, purplish white flowers. It grows so fast and dense around my composter. I pull up big handfulls of it and add it to the composter when adding kitchen scraps. There is no end to it. Sorry so long winded today.

    • Goats are such fussy eaters! They won’t eat anything wilted or bruised. Pip and Caper even have different tastes. Pip like apple peels, and Caper won’t touch them.

    • The one with the pink flowers? It’s a form of japanese knotweed (Persicaria) — there are color-selected forms sold as perennials (Red Dragon, Firetail, Lance Corporal, etc) but I have found them all invasive.


  15. I.thought I planted 3 yellow tomato and 5 red tomato all are yellow, however next to the edge of my chicken run their are 2 tomato plants growing, I blocked them off, I am thinking one Is red. The other looks similar to t tamarind plant but it’s leaves are round not scalloped, if it is a tomato plant I believe they may be brown, because we have bought brown tomatoes and threw the scraps to the girls so it could be likely. If you haven’t had brown tomato go to Walmart they have them they are called Kumato tomatoes.they are delicious

  16. I have a cherry tomato variety that kept coming up in random places in the garden, so after a couple of seasons I started saving the seeds and planting them deliberately. I have forgotten what the variety really is, but I love my “Cherry Volunteer”. Anything that hardy in SW Florida has to be respected!

    • Lucky you. One year I had cherry tomatoes sprouting up in every raised bed. I let them grow, looking forward to the bounty – and the flavor was inedible!!

  17. Growing lemon cucumbers on the Oregon coast…. It’s been a delicious challenge!

    • The pumpkins that I grow are used for decoration, and then the chickens eat them. One of these years I’ll grow sugar pumpkins.

  18. Hi I’m Ryan remember me? Sadly I’ve lost 2 of my hens by a bobcat last year and 2 past away due to health. I’m 11years old now. We get 6 eggs a day usually. How many do yours lay each day? By the way we also have 3 bunnys liveng with the hens.

    • I do remember you! I’m sorry that a bobcat got two of your hens. All of us who have had chickens for any length of time have losses like that. Right now my hens are starting to molt, but my 12 Gems are still laying about 6 a day. The old hens don’t lay any!
      I checked out your website and LOVE the poems. Everyone should go read them here: Also, the joke, “Why did the chicken cross the road? To prove to the armadillo that is’t possible” is hilarious! My husband grew up in Texas so I’ve heard lots of armadillo jokes, but that’s the first time that I’ve heard that one.

  19. I found a volunteer pumpkin growing in an empty flower bed. It took me quite a while to figure it out, but finally I remembered that last October we did leave a little pumpkin there as decor. Nice surprise!

    About the squash being uneaten by the goats: perhaps the goats don’t care for the fuzzy texture of squash leaves? But then- they eat brambles! Recently I read that they are good for getting rid of poison ivy.

    (I’m catching up with Hen Cam after a summer away from the computer!)

    • They do eat poison ivy and many invasive plants, but they are very, very fussy about flavor and don’t like bitter. They are also fussy about texture, and heaven forbid I offer a bit of wilted parsley!