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Cross Pollination and Seed Saving?

 
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I just gained access to another, much larger garden.  Looking forward to expanding it--last summer I was eating like a king.
I wanted to get into seed saving.  90% of my seeds are heirlooms, so that shouldn't be a problem.
As I did some reading though, I don't understand how people are able to save seeds.  One source said, for example, squash required 1/2 mile minimum to prevent cross pollinating.  Cukes, similar thing.

I obviously don't have that kind of space!  

Is their any way to ensure that I don't get cross pollination?  Or do I need to try and figure out how to keep some of the plants isolated (by a great distance) and go from there?
 
master gardener
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I work hard to make sure there's as much diversity as possible in my garden to maximize hybridization. Why would you prefer the opposite?
 
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Are you trying to preserve a specific variety - maintaining or decreasing genetic variations in the line?

Or are you trying to adapt the variety to your location so it grows better in future years?

Most of the time, a home garden is doing the second.  Commercial seed saving is doing the first.  So they have stricter requirements on spacing and cross-contamination.  

Have a look at Carol Deppe's books on seed saving for more information on this sort of thing (your local library should have them - and if they don't then they SHOULD have them and you can tell them I said so).  Deppe is one of the few authors I've found that makes it clear what we need to achieve different goals.  (one of her books is about breading new varieties - it's epic).  She also talks about techniques for when we want absolute purity in seed saving - like hand-pollinating squash .  

Of course, there's always landrace seeds.  
 
steward
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I have been saving seeds for a long time.

I didn't read any books on how to do seed saving as my mom showed me how.

The easiest seeds to save are beans and peas.

My favorite seeds to save are tomatoes.

Dear hubby was telling me yesterday that we are going to be saving Bluebonnet seeds this year.

The key to getting this right is going to be how to dry the seeds properly.

He wants to collect lots of the Bluebonnets seeds when the seeds are ready.

I have a lot of mesh bags so I am thinking about putting the seeds loosely into the mesh bags.

Here are some threads that you or others might find helpful:

https://permies.com/t/119976/Saving-seeds-Basic-information

https://permies.com/t/247587/Seed-saving-leaflet-beginners-check

https://permies.com/t/162810/start-seed-saving
 
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for squash if you only grow one variety of the three species you can keep pure varieties and have diversity. they dont cross pollinate.
 
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I plant varieties near each other so I get good crossbreeding., choosing neighbors that have characteristics I like.
I like landrace plants, which are things that have been crossbreeding in an area, and are adapting as they go along to make plants that have a better chance of surviving local conditions.
I save WAY too many seeds, and usually over plant so I can thin the weaker ones. I don't thin until I  absolutely must, and I don't pull them up, I  cut them off with scissors.or clippers. That doesn't disturb the roots of the ones being kept, and lets me let them grow  bigger so I have good choices of which to kill. So plants that don't do well don't get their genes passed on, and plants that aren't doing well and I remove them don't get their genes passed on. What's left is well adapted for my conditions.

 
pollinator
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The best way to keep squash pure is to plant different species.  For instance I will be growing a Pepo summer squash landrace AND a Maxima winter squash.  I can plant them next to each other and not worry about separation distances since the two species rarely cross.
MOST tomatoes are highly resistant to cross pollinating due to the design of their flowers.
Beans and peas are also know to be resistant to cross pollinating due to their flower design

This means you can raise these vegetables and save seeds from them with very little chance of your seed being crossed.

Now if you want to raise yellow crookneck and zucchini your squash will likely cross as both are Pepo.  The same hold true for zucchini and acorn squash.   The take away here is that you need to know your squash species.
 
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I have come to think that they focus on getting "exactly this plant" is putting our food supply at greater risk. I am trying to take a more landrace approach, although I admit that I have limited area for planting annuals, so it's a very slow process.

I really enjoyed reading this thread: https://permies.com/t/137741/Thoughts-Seed-Saving-Joseph-Lofthouse
 
master pollinator
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One more vote for 'don't worry about it "

Somewhere in these forums Joseph said something like "every time I plant a potato, I will harvest potatoes that tastes like a potato". This has freed up my mind.

On the other hand, the two summers that I've grown Arkansas Traveer tomatoes, they have produced all season long, even during our heat. That's a trait I don't want to loose. So I  grow my tomatoes in different rows, with, say, a pole bean trellis  between them.
 
Jay Angler
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Joylynn Hardesty wrote: That's a trait I don't want to loose. So I  grow my tomatoes in different rows, with, say, a pole bean trellis  between them.

Where did we get this "row" thing? I've seen some traditional gardens organized more in blocks (but a lot larger than "Square foot gardening" ) I have also read that bees are more attracted to blocks of a single colour. I'm just wondering how much the "row" thing was created by mechanization of farming, and something that's worth questioning if the goal is small scale and good seed production.

Is anyone planting using a polyculture approach like seed balls, and if so, what are their experiences with seed saving? Hugels are often planted that way.

I've also been told that when a bee goes out to forage, they forage all the same plant type on any one trip. Is that an urban legend, or have permies observed it? Is this still observed when bees have a smorgasbord presented to them?
 
Rusticator
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Jay Angler wrote:

Joylynn Hardesty wrote: That's a trait I don't want to loose. So I  grow my tomatoes in different rows, with, say, a pole bean trellis  between them.

Where did we get this "row" thing? I've seen some traditional gardens organized more in blocks (but a lot larger than "Square foot gardening" ) I have also read that bees are more attracted to blocks of a single colour. I'm just wondering how much the "row" thing was created by mechanization of farming, and something that's worth questioning if the goal is small scale and good seed production.

Is anyone planting using a polyculture approach like seed balls, and if so, what are their experiences with seed saving? Hugels are often planted that way.

I've also been told that when a bee goes out to forage, they forage all the same plant type on any one trip. Is that an urban legend, or have permies observed it? Is this still observed when bees have a smorgasbord presented to them?



I'm pretty sure it started with using oxen to plow. The longer they could make the row, the less space they lost to turning the oxen...
 
r ranson
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Jethro TullBrought row sowing to England after observing the higher yields in what was formerly Al Andalusia and other parts of Europe.  By harrowing between the rows, it reduced weed pressure and compaction of the top layer of the soil.  

This was at a time when the labour pool for migrant farm workers was fairly low and the population was increasing so they were ready to embrace new technology that had previously been ignored.  

Planting in rows also reduced the amount of seed per acre.  Before that, the seeds would be scattered over ploughed ground and depending on the weather that year, the seed would take in the trough or the ridge.  But they needed something like four times as much seed to broadcast than to plant in rows.  

It's way more complex than that.  Good music though (that's a joke on the pun on jentro tull)
 
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Dorothy Pohorelow wrote:The best way to keep squash pure is to plant different species.  

Interesting! So I have zucchini and spaghetti squash, heirloom seed, and I want to preserve the heirloom heritage because of it's taste! A heirloom tomato, for example, tastes sooo much better than a cross breed you can find just about anywhere.
So where would one go to see if something will cross pollinate? This will be my first attempt, and I too read that you need humongous space so things don't cross pollinate. I thought that might be just to discourage the home gardner from saving seed so they would have to buy lol

 
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In addition to what others have said, you might want to read Joseph Lofthouse’s book, Landrace Gardening.
 
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Diane Legacy wrote:

Dorothy Pohorelow wrote:The best way to keep squash pure is to plant different species.  For instance I will be growing a Pepo summer squash landrace AND a Maxima winter squash.  I can plant them next to each other and not worry about separation distances since the two species rarely cross.
MOST tomatoes are highly resistant to cross pollinating due to the design of their flowers.
Beans and peas are also know to be resistant to cross pollinating due to their flower design

This means you can raise these vegetables and save seeds from them with very little chance of your seed being crossed.

Interesting! So I have zucchini and spaghetti squash, heirloom seed, and I want to preserve the heirloom heritage because of it's taste! A heirloom tomato, for example, tastes sooo much better than a cross breed you can find just about anywhere.
So where would one go to see if something will cross pollinate? This will be my first attempt, and I too read that you need humongous space so things don't cross pollinate. I thought that might be just to discourage the home gardner to to save so they would have to buy lol

Now if you want to raise yellow crookneck and zucchini your squash will likely cross as both are Pepo.  The same hold true for zucchini and acorn squash.   The take away here is that you need to know your squash species.




A Partial List


PEPO:
ZUCCHINI
TATUMI
PATTI PAN 52 days
ACORN 87 days
YELLOW STRAIGHT NECK 47 days
RUGOSA
GREYBEARD
CALABACITA
BENNINGS GREEN TINT 52 days
SCALLOP YELLOW BUSH 52 days

MAXIMA:
HUBBARD 100
BANANA
BUTTERCUP
LAKOTA 90

LAGENARIA:
CUCUZZA
BIRD HOUSE GOURD


MOSCHATA:
BUTTERNUT 95 days
TROMBONCINO 80 days ***
TAHITIAN 120 days
PENNSYLVANIA DUTCH 105 days
LONG ISLAND CHEESE  100 days
SOUTH ANNA BUTTERNUT 95 days

MIXTA:
CUSHAW 90 days
 
Diane Legacy
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[quote=Bob Waur

A Partial List

Thanks Bob! This helps a lot 😊
I will be looking up what species spaghetti squash is from to see if I can grow them next to zucchini and still preserve the heritage.
I really enjoyed reading this whole thread and all the responses
 
Dorothy Pohorelow
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Diane Legacy wrote:

Dorothy Pohorelow wrote:The best way to keep squash pure is to plant different species.  



Interesting! So I have zucchini and spaghetti squash, heirloom seed, and I want to preserve the heirloom heritage because of it's taste! A heirloom tomato, for example, tastes sooo much better than a cross breed you can find just about anywhere.
So where would one go to see if something will cross pollinate? This will be my first attempt, and I too read that you need humongous space so things don't cross pollinate. I thought that might be just to discourage the home gardner from saving seed so they would have to buy lol



This thread will help some maxmi, moschata, pepo  But generally if you use it in the summer while it is unripe it is a Pepo. There are some exceptions like Tromboncino which is a Moschata.  Acorn and Spaghetti are also Pepo so your Spaghetti and your zucchini can cross.    
Here is another source for the information on squash List of gourds and squashes

And yes you do need lots of space between the two squashes as they are insect pollinated but growing them is separate parts of the yard like one in front and one in back will limit cross pollinating between them.  Of course I know of at least one person who is actually working with a zuc x spaghetti cross to make better tasting spaghetti squash that can also be used green. The person talks about it in the Going to Seed forum
 
gardener
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Hi John.
When I started farming I was determined not to use any chemicals of any sort and I was pretty obsessed with keeping heirlooms pure.
After a year of trying to grow squash and various  heirloom pumpkins I had failed miserably. Squash bugs and borers had killed all of my plants.
I was very disappointed and was ready to give up on permaculture. During the next growing season I posted some of my frustrations here. Joseph Lofthouse and others helped me see things from a different perspective. He suggested planting several varieties and saving seeds from whatever I harvested. That year I was able to save a few seeds from one pumpkin that had nearly reached maturity. The next year those few seeds yielded a wheelbarrow full of a new, unique variety. They were beautiful and delicious. The season after and every year going forward this new variety was unstoppable. Even though they were covered in squash bugs there was never any harm to the plants or fruit.
Until poor health dictated that I sell the farm a decade later I continued to farm this way. Before I left I gave all of those seeds to a few young farmers who are growing them this year. I’m thrilled that my struggles can help them get ahead!
 
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John Pollard posted some nice links on a different thread, 4 years' ago. There were 5 links - 3 now sadly seem dead.

John Pollard wrote:Handy Table for general info like plant spacing for isolation - 5 pages
https://www.seedsavers.org/site/pdf/Seed%20Saving%20Guide_2017.pdf

Small Scale Organic Seed Production - 40 pages
https://certifiedorganic.bc.ca/programs/osdp/I-066%20Seed%20Handbook%20v5.pdf


How to grow a seed collective - 40 pages
http://www.farmfolkcityfolk.ca/PDFs_&_Docs/Est_a_Seed_Collective_v9comp.pdf


A Guide to SeedSaving, SeedStewardship & Seed Sovereignty - 22 pages
https://seedambassadors.org/docs/seedzine4handout.pdf

The Woody Plant Seed Manual - 1241 pages
https://www.fs.fed.us/rm/pubs_series/wo/wo_ah727.pdf


 
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I grew Long Island cheese pumpkins and butternut squash relatively close together last year, and saved the seeds without thinking about cross-pollination. Are those seeds worth growing? I've seen a lot of talk elsewhere about cross-pollinated squash being extremely bitter and inedible. I would hate to spend a whole season growing something I won't eat in the end.
 
pollinator
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It isn't cross pollination by itself that makes pumpkins bitter. Like crossing a labrador and a poodle won't make a wild wolf. Or crossing a jersey cow with a Holstein bull won't make an aurochs, but still a high producing milking cow.

The fear of bitterness (and linked toxicity, be careful and don't eat bitter pumpkins/squashes!) comes from crosses with decorative squashes which were bitter. (And by the way, not all decorative squashes are bitter and toxic.). The squashes were domesticated by selectively breeding the ones which were not bitter. Now crossing two non-bitter varieties is very unlikely to yield a bitter offspring.

Angel, both your varieties seem to be Cucurbita moschata, so they can potentially have crossed. See it as an opportunity to develop a new variety even better than both parents! Simply keep seeds from the best fruits.
 
Angel Hunt
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Thanks, Hans! That is good to know.
 
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If you haven't already, highly recommend reading Carol Deppe's and Joseph Lofthouse's books on this topic, as mentioned by many others above! I am NOT an expert on saving seeds and have only been doing it for 3 years or so.

These are my strategies (of note, my garden is pretty far from any neighbors):

1. grow only one variety of things that need serious isolation. For squash, I only grow one C. pepo, one mixta, one maxima, and one moschata. I still isolate them some as there is conflicting info on some cross pollination between these. Many people hand pollinate. I wanted to grow another winter squash instead of zucchini, so I now grow cucuzzi (a gourd, different genus) as my summer squash.
2. For things that don't cross as easily (tomatoes, cowpeas, beans, etc.), I do grow more than one variety, but not right next to each other. As far as legumes, you can grow more than 10 types that won't cross with each other (fava beans, lentils, cowpeas, common beans (phaseolus vulgaris), runner beans, lima beans).
3. For peppers, I grow one of each Capsicum species (currently, a shishito, aji alpino, and tabasco). You technically have 5 to choose from. These won't cross-pollinate.
4. I don't save brassica oleracea seeds (kale, collards). Note that Russia/Siberian kales are napus and I do save those as I don't grow any other napus species. I do save one b. rapa (bok choi).
5. I chose majority of vegetables that I COULD save seed from. I make exceptions only when really worth it, generally things with large yield yet hard to save seeds.
6. I don't save seeds from plants that are very prone to inbreeding depression (i.e. corn) as I would need a much larger population.
7. There are ways to cheat if you have a smaller than needed minimum number of plants. I recommend the books above.
8. Some accidental crosses may lead to cool new varieties! I welcome these occasionally.
9. I prefer to start with landraces when possible.

To give you an example, I grow one variety of sunflower, marigolds, parsley, basil, dill, cilantro, tulsi basil, radish, watermelon, melon, cucumber, squash/gourds (see above, 5 total), fava bean, common bean, runner bean, lima bean, pea, pepper (see above, 3-5 total), okra, leaf mustard, bok choi, Siberian kale, mache, arugula.

I grow 2 varieties of tomatoes approximately 25 feet apart from each other. I grow 2 varieties of cowpeas (one is yardlong, one is lady peas, very different looking) approximately 25 feet apart from each other.

In addition, I save my garlic and potatoes, as many varieties as I want.

Each year, I repurchase sweet corn, flint corn, collards, and cover crops (Austrian winter peas primarily).

Edit: I forgot to add, I won’t grow things that would make me paranoid (bitter melon that I can’t evaluate properly). This takes out some of the anxiety. I also stash some seed so that I can start over if needed. Finally, it helps to change your mindset - instead of saying I am limited to one squash, you can start looking into other species and discover something new. That’s how I found cucuzzi gourd.

 
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I can understand wanting to preserve some varieties that have unique properties, and developing landraces might be a rather slow process if you only have room for a couple plants of each species.

I personally grow two moschata species, one is Butternut Squash, and another is Guatemalan Green Ayote. The Guatemalan has unique flavor and texture, very sweet and rich texture, and also superior resistance to powdery mildew and keeps going right up to the first frost, so I want to preserve those properties, which Butternut Squash lacks - butternut has the advantage of producing earlier, and it has a bit of a different taste, which is still my second favorite tasting squash.

If you pay attention to your squash plants, you can probably figure out the night before when a female flower is going to bloom. So you can cover it with a mesh bag (small enough mesh that bumblebees/carpenter bees can't get through) and hand pollinate with a male flower of the same variety the next morning, and then put the bag back over it when you're done hand pollinating. The next day the flower should have wilted so you can take the bag off.

Also, the 1 mile separation is to guarantee 99.99% chances of no cross pollination. If you're 0.1 miles from the nearest plant of the same species, you'll probably still have 99% chance of no cross pollination. Even at 100ft, I'd give it 90-95% chances of no cross pollination.

For other things, I don't care very much about cross pollination, ex lettuce. Lettuce is lettuce to me... doesn't matter too much what exact colour or shape the leaves.
 
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I purchased, at $1 per bean, shinshu runners beans (only 3) as they are supposed to make a perennial plant. I want to avoid cross pollination so I keep the perennial aspect. I've read runner beans (or is it just scarlets) cross pollinate much more readily than other beans.  I've read I need something like 50 or more meters to prevent cross pollination for runner beans.

Any input on this is most welcome.  

thank you one and all.
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