We have a pumpkin problem. And I don’t mean a good pumpkin problem, like, “Oh no, we have too many pumpkins… Oops!” Although, that could apply later on… I planted six Wee Bee Little pumpkins in the Long Bed. Or so I thought. I noticed they were growing quite vigorously. With all the Christmas goings on it took me a while to realise the problem. The plants are growing many little fruits, but they’re not round! They’re elongated. This means the cross-pollination woes have struck again! We must have some very busy pollinator insects out here.
All these plants I grew from seed saved from the Wee Bee Little pumpkin in The Little Fulla’s veggie garden last season, because it was further away from the other pumpkin plants. It suddenly occurred to me that I’d planted a spaghetti squash (the same species, Cucurbita pepo) alongside the chicken pen, which wasn’t too far away. Why did I not think about that? This was the only real possibility for getting elongated pumpkins. Then I found THIS lurking in the ‘Wee Bee Cross-pollinators’ patch, which confirmed my suspicions:
Well, those things are not going to be much good for eating. It seems I’ve created a rampant hybrid that is bushy and strong as well as fast-spreading, and produces fruit at a fast rate. There is one plant in there that has round fruit, but it’s hard to see what’s going on amidst the rampantness. I am inclined to pull out all the sneaky cross-pollinators, although there is potential for pumpkin racers there. If one of the plants is legitimate then seed could be saved from later fruits if I pull all the others out now.
This is a big issue as Wee Bee Little seeds are not commercially available anymore since there are stricter regulations for importing pumpkin seeds. I am in danger of losing them and I really don’t want to. They are my special pumpkin. I feel like I’m on a pumpkin precipice and I don’t want to make the wrong move in case I fall off, yet I have to make some sort of move, even though I’ve already made a wrong move. Again.
My great hope for now is the pumpkin plant on the deck which was grown from seed from a different line – a plant grown in the main Veggie Garden. The seed was saved from a late fruit to reduce the incidence of cross pollination. So far, the fruits are round. Round is good. Time and ripening will tell if they are true to type or not.
The next thing I’ve done is gone back to older seed packets. Fortunately, I am good at saving pumpkin seeds and I am not good at throwing them away, just in case. I have put a X on the rampant hybrid packet saved from last season, early 2019, and pulled out my packets from early 2018. There were three lines of seeds saved that season. I think I only grew seeds from one line, some of which turned out true and some of which had cross-pollinated with Small Sugar pumpkins. I have set a few seeds from each of the three 2018 packets to germinate via moist paper towel method in the hot water cupboard. Even if I only get one pumpkin with mature seeds to save on each plant it will be worth it. I just have to figure out where to put them around the garden that is isolated enough or cover them in turn on certain days to avoid pollinators transferring the pollen between plants. Or give them to other people to grow at their houses, but only if they are not growing any other Cucurbita pepo pumpkins, spaghetti squash or zucchini… That’s assuming that the seeds germinate…