Monday, July 4, 2011

Squash for 2011

Upper Ground Sweet Potato Squash
I gave a great deal of thought to the variety of squash that I wanted to grow this year, for the freezer, for the seed, for fall decoration and for sale. I decided on the Hopi black (of course), Turk's cap, Hopi pale gray, sweet dumpling and 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.


Darlene's Quilts and Stuff said...

I agree with you gardening should be fun not stressful. Good luck with the plants you have left.

The Japanese Redneck said...

Whew, you have been doing a lot.

Leigh said...

Very interesting post Sheryl! I'm concerned about cross-pollination too, but my solution was to grow only one type per year. :p I like your idea better.

Brenda said...

I admire your diligent seed saving efforts! Can you please tell me the difference between male and female blossoms? I want to stuff and fry my zucchini blossoms, but I've heard you're only supposed to pick the male flowers. Help?

Sheryl at Providence Acres Farm said...

Hi Brenda, If you look closely at the inside of the blossoms, you'll know right away which is which.

Also, the female blossoms are growing on a small ball on the stem, that will eventually grow into a squash if pollinated. The male blossoms grow on top of long stalks that usually stand up above the leaves.

Extreme Gardener said...

The Hopi Black looks very interesting. Hand pollinating is a bit of a pain, but I've found the c. pepos are pretty easy to handle. We also forgo the zucchini, but I usually plant extra winter squashes, especially c. moschatas, to use instead of regular zucchini/summer squash. That way I don't have so many varieties to deal with for hand pollinating...

Dean Slater said...

The Hopi black that you show in the picture is showing Moschata traits in the fruit and the stem
I rather doubt this is a C Maxima, but rather C. Moschata.

Providence Acres Farm said...

The second photo of an "Upper Ground Sweet Potato Squash"