Parents Beware: Your Squash Are Promiscuous

Don't Save Their Seeds!

I don’t save seeds from summer squash, winter squash, pumpkins, cucumbers, melons or gourds. Why not? They're promiscuous. Bees pollinate them with other squash-family plants, producing strange hybrids. 

Cheryl's squash from seeds saved from a winter squash

I recently got an e-mail from Cheryl, in Springfield, VT asking about her seeds:  “I know that I saved acorn seeds from last summer’s acorn squash.  I planted them, the plants have grown beautifully, and now they are producing zucchini!  What happened?  Am I going crazy? “No, Cheryl, you are not. You have hybrids.” 

Squash hybridize freely.

Then I visited a garden in Meriden, NH where they had the same problem: strange squash from saved seeds. Here’s the answer: squash family plants of all types cross pollinate, creating strange fruit. Some will be tasty, others less so.

Hybrid squash from seeds of a winter squash in Meriden, NH

According to information from the International Seed Saving Institute, you need to separate your cucumbers and squashes by a half-mile of space if you wish to get seeds that you can save and be sure that they are what you want. So it’s not enough that you only grow one kind of squash, you neighbors may be growing pumpkins or watermelons, Cheryl. Sorry.

I use row cover to keep striped cucumber beetles off squash, but this would work for keeping away the bees if I wanted to hand-pollinate them, too.

If you really want to save squash seeds, you have to screen or cover your plants with row cover, and hand-pollinate. But few of us have the time for that. Not me, that’s for sure.  

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