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Beginning landrace gardening – questions about squash (bush or vine) and watermelon flesh color  RSS feed

 
David Joly
Posts: 5
Location: Saint-Didace, Québec, Canada (Zone 4)
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Having read Carol Deppe’s books and Joseph Lofthouse’s papers on Mother Earth News, I feel inspired by their work. I’ve been gardening for a few years and I now want to start saving seeds and do landrace gardening. We have a small orchard (about 200 trees were planted in the last years) and we are growing more and more vegetables, mainly for self-sufficiency and sharing/selling surplus. I feel that landrace gardening is the way to go to adapt crops to our specific growing conditions without having to care too much about inbreeding depression, isolation distance and pure seeds. I would like to first focus on cucurbits for my breeding projects.

Our growing conditions :
We are in Québec in hardiness zone 4 with temperature extremes of -30 to -35 Celcius in winter, and +30 to +35 in the summer. Our soil is a mix of clay and loam on a southern slope. Our last spring frost is usually at the end of May and the first frost coming by the end of september. We have an average of 550 to 600 mm of rain during the growth season.

Questions about squashes :
Last year, I did some tests and I could grow some squashes like red kuri, spaghetti squashes, lady godiva and styrian pumpkins, and even got some big blue hubbard squashes and a few butternut squashes.

This year, I have ordered seeds from early and tasty squash varieties and I will let everything be freely pollinated, and finally saving seeds. Some varieties I want to grow have bush growth habit (Discus buttercup, Gold Nugget and some delicata (pepo) squashes) and I read that this is a dominant gene that should be possible to select for in the next years.

I feel that bush growth would be easier to manage in my setup than vining habit. Also, I would like to share my future seeds with people living in my town and have only small space for their garden, so I think that a locally adapted bush squash could be of good value for small urban garden.

Is there a big disadvantage of bush habit versus vining habit ? Has anybody made valuable observations regarding this issue ?

I’ll also start pepo and moschata squashes landraces.

Questions about watermelons:
Last year, I was able to harvest Blactail Mountain (it was my best producer), Sugar Baby, Cream of Saskatchewan and a few Sweet Siberian.

This year, I want to grow more varieties and some of them will have yellow flesh. Is there a significant taste difference between red and yellow flesh watermelons ? Does one tend to be sweeter than the other ? Is there any other valuable trait that would be correlated with flesh color ?


I’ll be happy to report back my progress and share seeds next winter !

David
 
Casie Becker
gardener
Posts: 1474
Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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I don't know why, your post was the final push I needed to finally order a copy of Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties. I have The Resilient Gardner (and love it) but I was having a hard time convincing myself to spend money on another book about plants. We have nearly a full bookcase of gardening books and magazines already. It'll be here in a few days now.
 
Andrew Barney
Posts: 50
Location: Northern Colorado
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Hi David, sounds like we have similar gardens in many respects. I used to think i was in 4b but now i think i might be in 5a. But some clayish soil in some spots. similar weather with a few differences maybe. I think you get more rain, our last frost is early may and our winters only go to about -20 in a cold year. Yeah The people who have inspired me in gardening and plant breeding are Joseph Lofthouse, Carol Deppe, Alan Kapuler, Alan Bishop, and Rebsie Fairholm. Most of my time is spent over on the Alan Bishop Homegrown Goodness plant breeding forum, but i noticed joseph has a few threads over here and i wanted to comment on the mendel pea breeding thread. Plus there is a cool thread about the S. habrochaites wild tomato breeding that i will probably comment on at some point.

I will comment on the watermelons first as that was one the the big projects i collaborated with Joseph on and we swapped a lot of seeds back and forth. He definitely helped my watermelon landrace form, not entirely sure i helped his as much, but maybe since our climates and gardens are so similar that it's not hard for the plants to adapt from one to the other.

Is there a significant taste difference between red and yellow flesh watermelons ? Does one tend to be sweeter than the other ? Is there any other valuable trait that would be correlated with flesh color ?


The short answer is yes i personally prefer Canary Yellow watermelons a little over red. Though a really good red can be just as good. Though i find them hard to find. last summer i got a few really good tasting reds out of my landrace that really surprised me. There might even be a difference between red and pink but i don't know enough about the differences between them to really know. I've heard white flesh can be good as well, but so far the ones i got that were white were very bland so i've been selecting them out.

In the case of Watemelon, there are at least two different yellow fleshed watermelons. One is dominant to red, the other is recessive. I personally find the Canary Yellow flesh watermelons to taste the best, maybe even better than red, though a truly good red one can give even the Canary Yellow watermelons a run for their money. I find the salmon yellow fleshed to taste awful. Spitters in my opinion. Cant remember which type the Hopi Yellow are, but if i had to guess i think they are salmon yellow. Hopi Yellow was one of many parent varieties that went into both Joseph Lofthouse's and my own watermelon landrace projects. Joseph has continued to select for only yellow (not sure which type), i have only started to select out any insipid salmon yellows, leaving any red or canary yellow.

Watermelon flesh color is controlled by several genes to produce scarlet red, coral red, orange, salmon yellow, canary yellow, or white. Canary yellow (C) is dominant to other colored flesh (c). Coral red flesh (Y) is dominant to salmon yellow (y). Orange flesh (y-o) is a member of multiple allelic system at that locus, where Y (coral red flesh) is dominant to both y-o (orange flesh) and y (salmon yellow), and y-o (orange flesh) is dominant to y (salmon yellow). In a separate study, two loci with epistatic interaction controlled white, yellow, and red flesh. Yellow flesh (B) is dominant to red flesh.


http://cuke.hort.ncsu.edu/cgc/cgcgenes/wmgenes/gene07wmelon.html


In the case of bush squash i tried growing that bush butternut moshata 'butterbush' i think it was called. It actually did really bad for me. Not sure if that is because it's not adapted to my climate or if it was just suffering like the other squash these last two years. I havn't had the best luch with squash these past two years and i'm not exactly sure why. I think it might have been the soil. Squash can do fine if they are planted in a good spot in my yard, but do poorly in others. I think i need to stay away from the end of the yard that is more desert like with hard clay dry soil. But i also need a spot that can get plenty of sun. So i guess i really don't know when it comes to bush squash. I personally don't think i will try bush squash again. The vining types seem to do better because they can lay down more roots to get more water which is kindof critical in my climate i suspect. The air is very dry here and wicks away with the wind and high altitude.

Last year, I was able to harvest Blactail Mountain (it was my best producer), Sugar Baby, Cream of Saskatchewan and a few Sweet Siberian. 


p.s. It is interesting that Blacktail Mountain was your best producer. It has consistently been my worst. Failed miserably at least three times i tried it. Even Joseph has commented that it has not done well for him, so neither of us recommend it to people. But hey, if it did well for you then great! I like Yellow Doll for a Canary yellow and Sweet Dakota Rose for a red. But i like my grex/landrace better because it has both in it with other possible great combinations adapted to my garden.
 
Andrew Barney
Posts: 50
Location: Northern Colorado
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Yeah, Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties is a great book!

The one i just bought is the one written by Rebsie Fairholm (the one who discovered the red-podded pea)! The Lost Art of Potato Breeding (Garden Alchemy). I just got it I'm so excited to read it!

Another ok book is this one:
Plant Breeding for the Home Gardener: How to Create Unique Vegetables & Flowers
Book by Joseph Tychonievich
 
David Joly
Posts: 5
Location: Saint-Didace, Québec, Canada (Zone 4)
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Andrew Barney wrote: p.s. It is interesting that Blacktail Mountain was your best producer. It has consistently been my worst. Failed miserably at least three times i tried it. Even Joseph has commented that it has not done well for him, so neither of us recommend it to people. But hey, if it did well for you then great! I like Yellow Doll for a Canary yellow and Sweet Dakota Rose for a red. But i like my grex/landrace better because it has both in it with other possible great combinations adapted to my garden.


Thank you for your feedback about watermelons ! About Blacktail Mountain, my seeds come from a local seed producer, so his strain is probably adapted to my local climate. It may have helped. I'll look specifically for canary yellow watermelon.

About bush squash: I think you have a good point about vining squash having better rooting opportunities. I do not water my plants during summer, so I'll compare if vining squashes are doing better in these conditions than bush squashes. However, our last summer was unusually dry and our summer pepo (bush) squash did not have any problem with no watering at all... so maybe it is not critical under my conditions. We'll see !

David
 
Andrew Barney
Posts: 50
Location: Northern Colorado
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yeah, could be. I think mine came from the south U.S. so it's more than likely that they came mal-adapted for my climate despite them being originally bred in Idaho which should theoretically be similar enough to do fine here. whatever the case may be it did not continue in my landrace. It is possible it contributed pollen though. There were black bees going from flower to flower for the first few years i planted my grex/ proto-landrace in extra crowded conditions to facilitate higher crossing rates.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
Posts: 2683
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I like squash with bush habit because they seem more resistant to weed pressure. They tend to shade out weeds. However, the plants seem to be less productive, I presume because they capture less sunshine. So I have ended up selecting mostly for vining types in my garden.

I like canary yellow watermelons. I perceive red watermelons as being bitter. So if I grow canary yellow watermelons, they taste sweeter, even if they have lower measured sugar. Because they don't need extra sugar to mask the bitterness of the red coloring. So in my climate that is marginal for ripening watermelons, I'm targeting yellow watermelons because they taste sweeter considering the growing conditions they have to work with.

I feel bad about badmouthing Blacktail Mountain, when so many people speak  highly of it... I've planted it in a number of fields, and in different growing seasons, and it did poorly each time.



 
Joseph Lofthouse
gardener
Posts: 2683
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
520
bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
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I constantly struggle as a plant breeder with the question: "Should I be breeding what people want? Or what they really need?"

People want little squash. That might weigh a pound, so that by the time they cook it they can feed the whole family. Problem is, that a squash plant is going to produce one fruit... Doesn't matter to the plant if that fruit is 20 pounds, or if it's one pound. Each plant takes the same labor, fertilizer, growing season, space etc... But productivity is 20 times better in one variety than the other. So which variety should I be breeding? Which should I be taking to market?

I'm leaning more all the time towards growing what people need, and to heck with their wants. Really? People can't cut a 5# squash in pieces and make several meals out of it?



 
William Schlegel
pollinator
Posts: 165
Location: Montana
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:I constantly struggle as a plant breeder with the question: "Should I be breeding what people want? Or what they really need?"

People want little squash. That might weigh a pound, so that by the time they cook it they can feed the whole family. Problem is, that a squash plant is going to produce one fruit... Doesn't matter to the plant if that fruit is 20 pounds, or if it's one pound. Each plant takes the same labor, fertilizer, growing season, space etc... But productivity is 20 times better in one variety than the other. So which variety should I be breeding? Which should I be taking to market?

I'm leaning more all the time towards growing what people need, and to heck with their wants. Really? People can't cut a 5# squash in pieces and make several meals out of it?





This squash problem. Ugh. I brought a pile of squash to the farmers market. Only sold a few puny ones. I have one thats heavier than my son (he is about 10 months old and 25 lbs, squash is over 30). Definitely gonna make several meals out of that one. I may have to cut it into sections and bake the pieces in a couple shifts.

 
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