Monday, October 21, 2013

Growing Open Pollinated Squash for Seed Savers

It is vital for seed savers to learn a few basics on cross pollination. Squashes and Pumpkins may get a tad confusing for some new to gardening and seed saving. 

While it is important to have fun and experiment a bit with different types of open pollinated in the same species group, we should not pass them along or attempt to regrow the saved seeds without knowing a few simple things about open pollinated and heirloom varieties.

The above photo demonstrates seeds saved, packaged and labeled acorn squash. The cross pollination may not affect the fruit grown in its first year. It will however show itself in the second year. The seeds I received were from one of our annual round robin seed swaps.

I ended up with 4 different things out of the same bag of seeds, none of which resembled an acorn squash. The one not pictured was a huge green pumpkin looking item. While a couple things were actually edible, the taste was awful.

Just remember that you can grow different species of squash and pumpkins for saving seeds as long as they are not in the same species group. If you grow the same species group together they will cross pollinate.

So let us break it down into groups and make it real simple. Most seed packages when purchased will have the species typed on the pack. If not, I recommend looking it up real quick before making your finally decisions on what will be planted.

Squashes and Pumpkins belong to four specie groups of the Genus "Cucurbita."

The four specie groups are Cucurbita PEPO, Cucurbita MIXTA, Cucurbita MAXIMA, and Cucurbita MOSCHATA.

1. Cucurbita Pepo, are generally the winter squashes, Acorn and Spaghetti.

Pepo is also Summer squashes and will normally be the Yellow straightneck and crockneck squash. This also includes Zucchini and Patty Pan varieties.

There is a wide variety of Pepo Pumpkins as well. Some of these include Jack O'Latern, Cinderella and Sugar Pie.

2. Cucurbita Mixta, is generally the Pumpkins varieties like Blue, White and Green Striped Cushaws and Tennessee Sweet Potato.

3. Cucurbita Maxima, are some of the huge pumpkin varieties like Atlantic Giant and Big Max. This species also includes the Winter Hubbard Squashes.

4. Cucurbita Moschata, include some of the pumpkins like the Golden Cushaw and the Kentucky Field Pumpkin.

The Butternut Winter Squash varieties are Moschatas as well.

A Special Note as one of my garden friends has reminded me, be sure you are saving seeds from several plants. There is a certain amount of plants some varieties must maintain in size of population in order to save that species from eventually dying out. 

 So as the Bees are busy about pollinating in our gardens, it won't hurt much to gain a little food for thought.

Happy Gardening!

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