|Upper Ground Sweet Potato Squash|
I planted 7 hills of our best Hopi Black Squash with 2-3 plants per hill. I planted one hill of the Hopi pale gray with just 2 plants, 1plant of the upper ground sweet potato squash, one plant of the sweet dumpling and three plants of the Turk's cap. They grew well this spring and began to bloom a few days ago. Now we come to the hard part - keeping the C. maximas from cross pollinating.
I have been using the masking tape method. You can see it here: "Hand Pollianting Squash". I considered a few other methods this year, bagging the flowers, using screen boxes but settled on what I considered to be the simplest.
I have been going out to the squash field every afternoon and taping all flowers shut that were due to open the next day, then going out at dawn and hand pollinating them, then bringing the used male flowers into the house and putting them in the compost bucket. While this will work well, it's not ideal, especially for someone as busy as I am.
This morning I decided that I was too busy to keep doing that. We also have so many new things on the go here this year that I just don't have room in my stress quotient for it and the continued worry that I might miss one and sell seeds that were crosses. I made the decision today to grow only four squash each year, one from each family: maxima, mixta, moschata and pepo, since they don't cross between families. No more worry and work to keep the seed pure!
No more worry about cross pollination!! I will still hand pollinate the squash to get a bigger yield but I can rest assured that the seed is pure.
Next year I will add a large striped cushaw (C. mixta). That means I don't grow zucchini or large pumpkins, since both are pepos like the sweet dumpling, but I'm ok with that. It's worth it to save myself the hassle and worry that I might miss something. We don't eat a lot of zucchini. As a matter of fact, I didn't plant it this year at all just because I didn't have the time.
Next year I might consider large, walk-in screen boxes that enclose the entire hill, maybe, if I want to grow more than the four squash varieties.
What a relief! Some things are just not worth the work and stress it takes to achieve them.