Seed Saving: How to Save Squash Seeds
(Page 5 of 9)
How to Save Squash Seeds: Selection
There is actually no such thing as “maintaining” a variety. Every plant picks up mutations every generation. Most of these mutations cause the plant to be more like a wild plant and less desirable as a domestic plant. If we simply save seed without doing any plant breeding, the variety rapidly deteriorates into something much less desirable. Varieties are not very stable. We must breed actively in order to retain their excellent characteristics. That is, to be good seed savers, we must be plant breeders, deliberately selecting what germplasm to perpetuate. The core plant breeding method of seed saving is selection. That is, we select our best plants and save their seed. But what is “best”? This is a question that deserves considerable thought in every situation, and gets down to the core of what we want from a garden in general as well as from any particular variety, what we believe in, and who we are. Most seed savers select rather randomly, often completely by accident selecting for characteristics that are the exact opposite of what they want.
I earlier gave an example as to how starting big-vine squash and pumpkin varieties in pots and transplanting can lead to selecting for slow germination and wimpy growth. Another frequent counterproductive situation is to plant too early, so that all the fastest-germinating seeds that germinate and grow well in cool weather get eliminated by a late freeze. The subsequent patch will consist of plants whose seed took longer to germinate and came up safely after the freeze.
If one plant has the biggest fruits, seed savers often erroneously choose that plant or the biggest of those fruits for seed saving. But that approach can result in selecting for a variety whose flesh is more watery. (It’s easier to make water than food. The bigger-fruited plant may have been producing the same amount of real food but just putting more water into the fruits.) I think there is really no substitute for evaluating the culinary quality of each fruit before we accept it as parent to the seeds we save. This is impossible for commercial seed production but is easy to do in our gardens and kitchens. Generally, we should evaluate all the production of a plant, not just a single fruit. Sometimes a plant makes just one big fruit. We shouldn’t select that fruit unless just one big fruit per plant is what we want.
I like vigorous plants that start well from direct-seeding early in the season. I grow organically. I use no seed treatments. I use no sprays of any kind, even organic ones. In addition, I need plants that can do well under ordinary field levels of fertility, such as can be maintained by using legume cover crops. So I plant that way in order to be able to select for plants that do well under those conditions. I always plant excess seed, at least three seeds for every plant I keep. In cases where I am selecting most actively for germination and cold-growth ability, I may plant a dozen seeds for every plant I keep.
Page: << Previous 1
| 5 | 6
| Next >>