Saturday, 5 May 2018

How To Grow Squash To Save Seeds

Those that regularly read my blog will know that I'm somewhat in love with growing squash.
Some of last years winter squash harvest
Most years I grow huge numbers of the brilliant fruits and at least 10 varieties. I love the shapes and the colours, the different tastes and learning which ones grow and store well here. I've done this for many years now and have tried dozens of different squashes.

One thing I've yet to do is save the seed from them that would grow true. Squash are a very promiscuous veg and cross ridiculously easy with each other, with the numbers I was growing there was no way the seeds were going to stay pure by chance.

Now I could tape up the flowers the night before they open and then hand pollinate them. This doesn't work on two counts for me. The first is that my squash grow in a huge patch with leaves and stems everywhere, making figuring which is which hard. The second point being that I'm useless and spend two months of the year forgetting to do this!

With the seed swap that I volunteer in we frequently get handed squash seeds that someone has saved from a squash they grew or brought to put on the table. I normally ask a few easy questions to get a gauge of their seed saving knowledge level and then I can decide if they knew what they were doing or not. Most go in a box and I tell them I'll put them out later, these are ones that haven't been isolated are likely crosses or can't be trusted and get fed to hungry chickens!
Seed Swap in Hereford
So other than two members of the swap who sometimes saves squash seeds we don't have huge amounts of home grown squash seeds. This is something I intend to change this year!

Rather than taping flowers shut I'm going to grow only three varieties of squash this year. One from each of the major family groups (there are more groups but I'll start with these), these should generally not cross between each other and as my neighbours don't grow squash the seed I save will be pure and true to type.
My seed planters and future seed savers!
The three families are Maxima, moschata and pepo so I've picked a squash from each and sown the seeds this week, with frosts possible until the second week in June it doesn't pay to be too quick off the draw here.

The maxima I've chosen has become one of my firm favourites. Oregon Homestead Sweet Meat. A friend gave me some seed he saved a few years ago and I grew them last year, each one produced four massive fruits weighing over 10kg! I couldn't quite believe it, they taste amazing and store really well, we've not long finished them (they make great soup).

As my friend was worried he'd not been rigorous in selecting the plants he saved from I decided to freshen up the gene pool and order some seeds from America where Carol Deppe has been selecting and keeping this variety going for years.
All my squash seeds for this year!

Oregon homestead seed from America
Oregon Homestead squash from two plants last year!
The Pepo squash seed comes from my good friend and avid seed saver Adam Alexander. It's a variety called Table Queen and they grew really well last year, forming a smaller acorn squash 6 inches across, perfect for stuffing and baking whole! Also great to not have to cut into a huge squash all the time! They stored well and tasted great.
Table Queen squash - perfect for roasting whole!
The Moschata summer squash I'm growing is one I've not tried before, these are from Adam again and this time came from his visit to Aleppo before the war in Syria there. He assures me they make a fantastic courgette and I hope he's right as I normally grow loads of summer squash and love having a dehydrated supply to use in winter!

So is anyone else saving seeds from their squash plants this year? How do you go about keeping them from crossing? I'd love to hear your hints and tips!


  1. I am envious of your harvest. I plan to try Seminole Pumpkin this summer. It's one of few crops that grow in our intense summer heat. It is a survival crop that has been grown by the native people for hundreds of years. Last time I tried I lost it to a monster fungus but hope to do better this year. Already up to 90 F here and rains usually begin first week of June so need to wait to plant due to water shortage. We keep learning! Love your blog!!! Peg in Florida

    1. Water and heat are never too much of an issue here! I grow mine through plastic and find that I never have to water them as it traps so much water in, but depends on soil conditions, wouldn't work with sandy soil.

  2. Have you ever read Jackie Clays blog?
    Her and her husband live in Minnesota, USA, of grid on an 80? acre homestead. They are seniors and work extremely hard but love it. They have created their own seed business from seeds they save from their gardens I've read her blog from the beginning and I think you might find it very interesting.

    1. no but I'm going to! Sounds right up my street! Great link thanks for sharing!

  3. Your squash bounty looks amazing!

    1. I always grow a fair few! Keeps us fed through winter!

  4. I once saved seed from my Butternuts, and the result was huge unpleasant Squashes. I recommend buying new seed if you want what you had the year before.

    1. Yeah, they cross easily. that's why I'm only growing one of each type to keep pure. Should work well hopefully!

  5. That is an amazing haul from last year.

    1. Thanks! There was a few more that I found later as well!

  6. I grew shark's fin melon last year for the first time (in the polytunnel) - great vegetable noodles, and I still have two keeping well in the windowsill. I have planted some seed from them, but I think they should be OK, since they are cucubita ficifolia, and the courgettes would be c. pepo.

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