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Heirloom Question

 
Steve Flanagan
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Location: North Fork, CA. USDA Zone 9a, Heat Zone 8, 37 degrees North, Sunset 7/9, elevation 2600 feet
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One of the advantages to growing heirlooms is that you can save the seeds from one generation to the next. Can heirlooms cross pollinate? Lets say I am growing Heirloom pepper A and Heirloom Pepper B, both of the Capsicum annuum species. Will A and B give seeds true to type?
 
Kitty Hudson
Posts: 33
Location: SW KY--out in the sticks in zone 6.
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Depends on the varieties/species.

Sweet peppers will crosspollinate if planted within 150' of one another, and hot peppers will cross with each other and with sweet peppers within 300', producing seeds that are hybrid. Beets and Chard will cross with each other up to something like 1/4 mile. Different types of lettuce only cross with one another up to 12-20', so you can grow different types in the same garden patch as long as they're far enough apart.

I go to Southern Exposure Seed Exchange's website whenever I want to check planting distances. Seed saving distances are listed under the cultural notes for each type of plant.
 
Steve Flanagan
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Location: North Fork, CA. USDA Zone 9a, Heat Zone 8, 37 degrees North, Sunset 7/9, elevation 2600 feet
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Thanks for the reply.
 
Jen Shrock
pollinator
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Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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If you wanted to save seeds, you could isolate flowers/fruits on the plants, ensure "pure" pollination and then save the seeds from those fruits.
 
Miles Flansburg
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So if I plant a hugel bed with a polyculture of all sorts of heirlooms I may end up with who knows what from year to year?
 
Jen Shrock
pollinator
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Location: NW Pennsylvania Zone 5B bordering on Zone 6
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You would just have to be more conscious about the seed collection. You don't have to isolate by distance if you are careful about isolating some of the flowers and then pollinating them yourself. There are some good books and online resources that will help you do this. Once the fruit starts to grow, you just need to keep track of which ones you pollinated so that you don't end up eating your hard work and future hopes!
 
Rion Mather
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Be careful when selecting plants with the heirloom label. Here is an sum up of why:

http://blog.seedsavers.org/open-pollinated-heirloom-and-hybrid-seeds/
 
John Polk
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Yes. Most Open Pollinated seeds can cross each other.

Unless you are trying to breed a new variety, it is best to space them far apart.

I know a guy who raises peppers for seed, and doesn't have enough acreage to space 30+ varieties at the proper distance.
So, he built little cages, approx 4' x 4' x 4' with PVC pipe, and has them covered with shade cloth, to keep the pollinators confined to one variety only. The cages need to be opened before flowering to allow pollinators in, but then closed so they cannot move on to another bush.

If you decide to hand pollinate individual flowers, two methods are suggested: use an artist's brush to simulate a bee browsing around in the flower, or use a vibrator to cause the pollen to 'fly' (electric tooth brushes work well for this). Then, the selected flowers need to be identified for later collection. A small length of red thread tied around the stem will do the trick.

For pepper seeds to be mature, the pepper needs to be ripe. This means letting it remain on the vine until it turns red...usually beyond the eating stage.

Here is a chart which shows how the different pepper varieties will/might/won't cross pollinate:

Pepper-crossing.PNG
[Thumbnail for Pepper-crossing.PNG]
 
Steve Flanagan
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Posts: 324
Location: North Fork, CA. USDA Zone 9a, Heat Zone 8, 37 degrees North, Sunset 7/9, elevation 2600 feet
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I have aji dulce peppers that I want to save seeds from this year. Aji dulce are a cultivar of the Capsicum chinense species. I do worry about it crossing with my Capsicum Annuum species.
 
Kitty Hudson
Posts: 33
Location: SW KY--out in the sticks in zone 6.
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Wyomiles Hogan wrote:So if I plant a hugel bed with a polyculture of all sorts of heirlooms I may end up with who knows what from year to year?


Not necessarily. There are 4 species of squash, for example--members of the same species cross readily, but members of different species do not. Most summer squash are C. pepo, many winter squash are C. maxima or moschata. If you chose 1 member of each of the 4 families, you could grow all 4 varieties of squash on the same bed without hybridization. Most tomatoes are unlikely to cross at over 35', so if the bed was at least 35' long, you could grow 2 kinds at opposite ends of the bed without crossing (currant tomatoes will cross with any other tomato variety within 150'). The brassica family--cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts, etc--all mix very easily over long distances, BUT they are mostly biennials--you could pick 2 varieties, but allow a few plants of just one to flower and set seeds on even years, the other on odd years to keep the seed pure.

It's do-able, but takes planning.
 
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