This is a continuation of a series. Click here to read Community Gardening: What We’ve Learned Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4.
I hope these things we have learned help you consider participation in a community garden.
Some plants will cross-pollinate causing poor results. Corn, for example, is pollinated on the wind where cross-pollination of different corn types can lead to undesirable qualities such as poor taste, reduced sweetness, increased starchines, or diminished appearance. Separation by distance or staggered planting times can eliminate these complications if all the gardeners work together with a master plan of what is planted and when. That takes coordination and intentional management. Thankfully I am the only gardener at my location with corn coming up this season.
Though it doesn’t happen across all plants, certain species can cross-pollinate with only the second-generation being affected by the mixed characteristics. This makes seed collection for next year a real adventure in science. For example, squashes, pumpkins and gourds (all Cucurbita pepo) can cross pollinate to create second-generation combinations that are less than desirable.
I was recently given a squash that has the typical green color with darker green stripes of zucchini, but the shape and bumpy skin texture is that of a yellow summer squash. I haven’t cut it open yet to see what the flesh is like. I’m hoping for edible. This was the result of an “accidental” plant that was allowed to grow out of a plot where squash and zucchini had been allowed to grow together last year.
This problem is easily avoided by only using bought seeds for this type of planting. This information is definitely something to be shared with gardeners every year so that new gardeners are not tempted to collect seeds for next year from affected species.
The good news is that it’s not as bad as it could be. It is a well-spread myth that this cross-pollination affects melons and cucumbers just like squash, pumpkins and gourds. I was falsely advised by about a dozen people to keep my cucumbers away from my zucchini for this very reason. While there may be other reasons (like hungry cucumber beetles) to avoid close proximity of these plants, cross-pollination and mutant zucc-umbers are not one of them.
I hope you’re enjoying this series. Please keep reading for more community garden tips to come.
Do you have any weird cross-pollination stories to share? Please leave a comment by clicking here.
Beth is a wife to Mike and mother to their five children who range in age from toddler to teen. She spends her days doing school and her nights doing laundry. Saving money in the meantime helps. Beth is learning how to live organically now in the hopes of one day being a successful homesteader.