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Harvesting Squash Seed: Purity is Important!

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All these squash varieties are related and will cross pollinate if grown nearby.

Squashes are masters at crossing with their neighbors. Even varieties that are very different in appearance, such as zucchini, pumpkin, pattypan, and vegetable spaghetti are all derived from the same species (Cucurbita pepo) and will cross readily. The fruits that result from crossed seed will be hybrids, therefore likely intermediate in appearance, taste, and texture between the two parents, and not usually what you want.

If you intend to harvest squash seeds for next year’s sowing, it’s therefore best to limit yourself to growing only one variety in your entire vegetable garden. In community gardens, where a wide variety of squashes are sown, it’s probably best not to save seeds.

Commercial producers of squash seed leave a mile (about 1,6 km) between plants to ensure varietal purity. Even then, it sometimes happens that a squash plant you sowed produces fruit that looks nothing like those in the seed pack’s picture. If so, just blame an errant bee!

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

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