Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Cucurbitaceae Family

otherwise known as melons, cucumbers, squash.

These seeds are best started directly into soil. Start them indoors, in flats, 4 weeks before you want to transplant them out. Try successive planting - start new plants every week early in the season, for a continuous harvest. Instead of the usual varieties found in stores, try some unusual heirlooms from catalogs. Your choices are endless when you start from seeds yourself.

You can save the seeds to plant again next year. Every year you save a seed, it gets more acclimated to your own back yard and improves according to your environment. Cucumber seeds will remain viable for 10 years, squash will remain viable for 6 years. For long term storage, melon seeds should be stored in the freezer. For indepth information of saving seeds check out Seed to Seed, by Suzanne Ashworth

This is a variety of summer squash called Ronde de Nice, it is great for stuffing.

Grow a seperate plant just for saving seed, because it will slow down production.....if you are going to save these seeds, you don't pick them until they are fully mature (the skin gets hard enough that you can't break through with your nail, like a winter squash). You also want to be sure to isolate, so it doesn't cross with another plant from the same family in your garden (or your neighbors).

Isolating is so much fun because you really have to get to know your plants intimately. First thing you have to learn to recognize is which flowers are male and which are female, then you have to be able to recognize which flowers are going to open the next morning, because you have to tape them shut the night before, so no insect gets inside and pollinates it. Also, I tied a red flag onto the female, so I remember I hand pollinated it, and I won't pick it and eat it by accident.

Then you have to hand pollinate the female flower with pollen from the male flower, then retape the female flower and hope that the fruit grows and has not been crossed. You wont know the latter until next year, when you grow the seeds you saved, and they are true to form. It's very scientific, but so rewarding and will bring your gardening experience to a new level.

This is my most prolific and best tasing cucumber. It's a hybrid, so I can't save the seed, but it is so worth growing.


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