A Closer Look at a Few Pumpkins from the Breeding Project

Yesterday my son sold three of his “Bahfeemus Egg” pumpkins/winter squash, but before he did I filmed a video:

Two of the Seminole pumpkin cross vines broke off. This is not good for storage, so we will eat those first; however, they will heal up and keep long enough to age I’m sure. They are just unlikely to keep for months and months.

The white bumpy pumpkin – if delicious – will be the parent of a new line. I’ve never seen a C. moschata that looks like this one. It’s striking and I hope I can stabilize the line.

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I may have it!

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I shared some of my pumpkin seeds with a neighbor.

Today he brought me this:

Second generation pumpkin. I really like this look! #plantbreeding #pumpkin #agriculture #gardening

A post shared by David Good (@david_t_good) on

I am pretty certain this is Bob’s offspring. Now I need to plant the seeds and stabilize the type. Absolutely beautiful. It looks like a cross between the original Bob the Pumpkin and a cheese type. Never seen a C. moshata like this before. If I can get it to produce true-to-type, you may be able to get an original “David The Good” pumpkin in seed stores in a few years.

This is more of an accidental pumpkin than anything else – there was a great type I found, we planted the seeds, somewhere it must have crossed with something cool, and BAM – now we have something neat. If we can keep it!

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Another Squash Lover

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This is my style of gardening – grow a bunch of varieties each year, save the best performers, then try a new round the next year:

I must say, she’s having better luck with her squash/pumpkins than I’ve been having – but our year isn’t over yet. The vine borers here have been incredible. Locals use Sevin dust to control them but I haven’t done so.

Nevertheless, we have had some good successes:

Down by the river fruit are starting to set, even though I’ve lost a few vines. Maybe next year I’ll break out the DDT and we’ll get some serious harvests!

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Hubbards and then No Hubbards

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First, fail your way to success:

And then you see the Hubbards, just a few days before the vine borers got them, in my video on harvesting the corn in the Three Sisters garden:

So. Close. Another couple of weeks and I would have had fruit on those Hubbards. They were forming. It was working.

Until it wasn’t. The vine borers are a big problem here. A local farmer told me to water the vines with Sevin dust in water to keep them off, but I just couldn’t do it. If I had, though, I would have Hubbards.

Dang it.

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Delayed Sprouting on Seminole Pumpkins?

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A couple of days ago I posted a tour of some of the pumpkins we have growing:

Lots of good things happening.

A strange thing I didn’t mention in the video, though: I’ve planted quite a few fresh Seminole pumpkin seeds and they’ve failed to germinate. Older seeds from local pumpkins germinate – but fresh seeds, right from the Seminole pumpkin, no. Or at a very poor rate.

Another strange thing: I had a Seminole pumpkin vine come up multiple months after I planted it in my garden. Seriously – I had gone on and planted other things, then in the spot where I had planted a few earlier in the year, up came a Seminole pumpkin. I think it germinated due to the rainy season. Very strange, though. I have ten hills I planted and only a couple of Seminole pumpkins have emerged.

Does anyone know anything about delayed germinating in pumpkin seeds? Perhaps a germination-inhibiting enzyme?

Have a wonderful Sunday. See you tomorrow.

 

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The earth is the Lord’s, and all its fullness,
The world and those who dwell therein.
For He has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the waters.

Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
Or who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to an idol,
Nor sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive blessing from the Lord,
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
This is Jacob, the generation of those who seek Him,
Who seek Your face. Selah

Lift up your heads, O you gates!
And be lifted up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord strong and mighty,
The Lord mighty in battle.
Lift up your heads, O you gates!
Lift up, you everlasting doors!
And the King of glory shall come in.
Who is this King of glory?
The Lord of hosts,
He is the King of glory. Selah

-Psalm 24, NKJV

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Defeating Vine Borers by Increasing Pumpkin Root Systems

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Most pumpkins and winter squash have the ability to root at every node on their stems. Why not take advantage of this fact to defeat vine borers?

If vine borers wreck one part of a pumpkin stem, the plant will continue to thrive if it has rooted at multiple nodes. I’ve seen the original stem of a vine destroyed by a vine borer, yet a foot away from the damage, there are happy vines.

This only happens when the vines are growing along the ground, however. If you grow pumpkin vines vertically, you lose their best defense against vine borer damage.

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Pruning Pumpkins?

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Fred Tice writes:

“David, I was wondering if you have some advice on how to prune c. Moschata to produce the larger size fruits. I have managed to find a source of Seminole seed on Ebay and was hoping to grow them but all my pumpkins grown in the past have been quite small, but I did not prune or do much in the way of giving them special attention. Thanks in advance mate. :)”

Oh man. Now you’re making me think!

I don’t have any advice on pruning pumpkins. I generally let them go insane.

HOWEVER – I may have been wrong in my approach.

I dunno, though. I’ve done a lot of searching for the past hour for more on pruning and don’t find much.

Burying the nodes, though – I’m totally going to do that this week.

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Seminole Pumpkin x Calabaza Breeding Project

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Two years ago I shared my pumpkin breeding project. And did an update on my local breeding project the next year.

Though my original project was curtailed by moving overseas, I have picked up again and am doing some good work with Seminole Pumpkin genes.

Here’s one I harvested the other day:

 

These are good, meaty pumpkins with longer necks acquired from the calabazas I crossed them with back in Florida.

Some of them don’t have as thick a neck. This was the previous generation from half a year ago:

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I prefer the thicker neck, however, as that gives us more meat without seed cavity.

My ideal pumpkin has non-stringy flesh, a good, nutty sweet flavor, long keeping ability, good vigor and a nice look. We’re getting there. I’m sure we’ll have throwbacks to the less tasty calabaza parent, but hopefully over time I’ll be able to stabilize the type to consistently produce thick-necked fruit of a good size. These are usually 9-12 lbs. About perfect.

This book has been my pumpkin-breeding inspiration:

BreedYourOwnVegetablesVariaties_Deppe

As vegetables go, pumpkins are easy to select and breed. The trick is keeping them from crossing with each other. Isolation is key, as is hand pollination unless you’re hoping to create a land race and just let them run together for years.

I’m doing that down the hill with local varieties and will be selecting good-tasting large pumpkins with bumpy skin. They’re far enough away from where I grow my Seminole crosses that I should have problems with genetic contamination. You can see some of my hills in the video I posted on Monday:

Eventually I hope to get some of my pumpkins into the seed catalogs. Wouldn’t that be cool?

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Happy Front Yard Seminole Pumpkins

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Danny shares some photos of his front-yard Seminole pumpkin vines:

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Seminole pumpkins are one of the vegetables I highly recommend in my book Totally Crazy Easy Florida Gardening.

You can almost plant them and walk away. The only reason you DON’T want to do that is they grow so fast it’s not safe to turn your back on them.

I gotta give Danny props for front yard gardening. #HOAResist!

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7 Staple Survival Crops for Northern Gardens

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I was conversing online about staple survival crops for northern gardeners recently and it made me think: I need to write more here on what you can grow in cold climates to keep your family fed.

In my recent Survival Gardener newsletter (you can sign up for the newsletter here) I wrote about yams and northern staple survival crops – and I’ve decided to cover the latter in greater detail here.

Staple Survival Crops

There are plenty of staple crops in the tropics (I cover 10 good ones in my Top 10 Tropical Staple Crop Countdown video) but as you move farther north it gets harder to produce a lot of calories on your land. Seasons are short and sunlight is less intense, plus the variety of plants you can choose from is greatly limited.

Yet all is not lost.

Here are a few tried-and-true survival crops for the north, plus one that shows great potential.

7 Staple Survival Crops for Northern Gardeners

Potatoes

Your best bet as a survival staple in northern climates is the trusty potato.

staple survival crops - the potato

Potatoes are really hard to beat on yields and caloric content, plus they take less space and a lot less work than small grains.

I’ve grown wheat, oats, barley and rye. Though they’re pretty easy to grow, processing makes them a serious pain. I outlined the pros and cons in this article – go read for yourself. Potatoes are much simpler.

The Three Sisters

This is a classic method of gardening practiced by the Indians, as seen here.

Interplant corn, beans and pumpkins/winter squash for a three sisters garden. Let’s cover them individually.

Corn

I love corn. It’s a ton of fun to grow and it’s much easier to harvest and use than most other grains. It’s also beautiful.

staple survival crops - corn

The variety of grain corn varieties is staggering. Up north, I recommend sticking to “flint” corns, as dent corn takes much longer to mature.

Beans

In the three sisters garden, pole beans are used. For a survival crop, look for types you can shell and save – not green beans.

Beans

Beans aren’t super-high yielders compared to a root crop, but beans do contain a good amount of protein.

Pumpkins/Winter Squash

Pumpkins and winter squash will yield you a lot of weight in long-storing calories if you pick the right varieties. Vermont Harvest of the Month has a great illustration and recipes on their site.

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In the north, gardeners should mostly stick to C. maxima and C. pepo varieties. In the south, C. moschata usually does better.

Jerusalem Artichokes

Steve Solomon were talking about northern staples a few days ago and I suggested the Jerusalem artichoke as a super-easy root crop; however, he pointed out that the difficulty most of us have in digesting them makes them a lot less attractive in the long run.

I love their productivity but the tubers mess up your digestion unless you’re very acclimated to them. They are likely a better choice as an animal feed, particularly for pigs.

staple survival crops - Jerusalem ArtichokesJerusalem artichokes are beautiful and make a great addition to the edges of a property or in rougher soil where regular vegetables don’t grow.

I planted these along a rough drainage ditch in hard Tennessee clay and rocks and they grew like crazy.

Turnips

Another option are turnips. I planted big beds of turnips one year and had great success… but eating turnips daily gets old fast.

Turnips: staple survival crops

I knew we grew too many when my wife Rachel presented me with a turnip pie she baked for dessert one evening.

After weeks of turnips in stews, mashed, roasted… then pie… I didn’t want to see another turnip for a long time.

On the up side, the greens are very good to eat and quite nutritious, making them a dual-purpose crop.

Chinese Yams

Some northern gardeners have had luck growing the cold-tolerant Chinese yam, AKA Dioscorea batatas.

a staple survival crop chinese yam

Experiment and see how it does. As a bonus, the Chinese yam produces tiny little roots on the vine. Cook them up like mini potatoes!

See those here:

Try Chinese yams in your garden and tell me how they turn out – they did well for me in North Florida and Eric Toensmeier grew them successfully in Massachusetts. I think they have a lot of potential as a staple survival crop. Just be careful, as they may be an invasive species in some areas.

BTW, I mentioned their invasive nature on my newsletter this Wednesday and reader Sharon wrote back the real invasive species is soy and GMO corn. Wild yam will feed you along with many other weeds.”

I agree. Feeding yourself is of high importance, and if a vegetable grows like a weed and produces calories… I find it hard to demonize.

You can buy Chinese yam bulbils from Sharon in her online store here, along with an assortment of other obscure and wonderful plants.

Conclusion

There you go: seven staple survival crops for northern gardens. Did I miss any of your favorites?

Let me know in the comments.

And check out my book Grow or Die: The Good Guide to Survival Gardening for serious help in a collapse.

Another great title is Carol Depp’s The Resilient Gardener.

And the must-have Gardening When it Counts, by Steve Solomon.

 

*Beans image by Kenneth Leung. Creative Commons license.

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