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joseph September 10, 2014 02:57 AM

My Squash
I grow several hundred tomato plants per year and am constantly working on developing better tomatoes for my conditions, but my real passion is growing easily-stored highly-nutritious staple foods like peas, corn, beans, and squash.

Here is what today's harvest of mixta squash looked like. I call this a "grex". They were grown together in the same row. Next year and the one after I will call them a proto-landrace. Perhaps in 3 years I will call them a landrace. I have attempted to grow mixta squash for 5 years. This is the first year that I have had an abundant harvest. 70% of the plants this year did not produce fruits, and in previous years I only harvested one fruit total. So this is a good beginning for a landrace: There are at least 7 varieties represented. Approximately 50 varieties failed the survival-of-the-fittest test in my garden. The grandchildren of these plants are where things start to get exciting in a landrace development project.

Today I also harvested landrace moschata squash for seed. There are lots more of these to be harvested for the food pantry and farmer's market. Weight varies from about 2 pounds to 20 pounds. I am currently in the midst of a "frost-emergency" harvest so lots of picking going on. I started working on this landrace in 2009 with most of the survival of the fittest selection taking place in 2010. There was about a 75% failure rate that year.

I am very pleased about that yellow/orange moschata pumpkin. It is unlike any moschata squash I have ever seen before. It gets the rare honor of posing with the farmer.

It was bright yellow even when immature.

I also harvested 2 bushels of small orange/green maxima squash for seed. I forgot to take a photo of today's crops so this is from a couple weeks ago when they first started getting ready.

Today's harvest of the zucchini seed crop looked like this:

I have been working on harvesting landrace beans, but am taking a few days break from beans because they are not damaged by frost.

High resolution version of the bean photo.

I finished the sweet corn harvest a couple days ago. Here's what some of the cobs looked like that I ate for lunch. I have started harvesting the flour corn, but didn't take photos yet. The popcorn is still a few weeks away from harvest.

peppero September 10, 2014 06:51 AM

Joseph I always enjoy your posts as they are informative and provide insight into the conditions you face and how you are dealing with them. Your landrace projects are most interesting. If I had the space I would like to grow every type of squash and pepper I could find seed for. I look forward to future posts.


luigiwu September 10, 2014 07:26 AM

Do you bag your blossoms? or perhaps they are spaced out quite far from each other? How do you keep the strains "pure?" or that is not important to you?

Tracydr September 10, 2014 09:03 AM

I would love to have a blue, red and white sweet corn.

JoParrott September 10, 2014 11:12 AM

Are the colored corns as sweet as regular sweet corn? The photos are beautiful!

joseph September 10, 2014 11:43 AM

Thanks for the kind words.

I do everything possible to insure that my strains are creolized and impure. The mixing of various genetics is what allows me to find combinations that grow fantastic in my garden. I grow what I call semi-isolated patches of some things, for example the small orange/green buttercup. I get about 5% off types when other varieties of the same species are about 100 feet away. That's good enough for me, I chop out anything that I don't like, and don't save seeds from off-type plants, unless I toss them into a different landrace.

The sweet corn has been selected for robust taste. The texture is chewy. I am maintaining the old-fashioned sweet corn phenotype because it is very reliable for me. Sugary enhanced sweet corn fails too often under my conditions.

bower September 10, 2014 05:35 PM

It's great to see such a healthy amount of diversity in the survivors, in spite of the tough selection process and low survival rate that you described. Beautiful fruit. 8-)

Sun City Linda September 10, 2014 07:52 PM

Great pictures!

salix September 11, 2014 03:36 AM

Love those beans! and all the rest, too...

Jayc September 11, 2014 04:04 AM

Stunning crops! Great work.

mensplace September 11, 2014 10:24 AM

This year my yellow squash went from fruit set to huge virtually overnight. The few that I did save were either hollow or pithy even when small. Thinking of giving up on yellow summer squash as it takes up so much space for little return! Don't know if it was the soil or the extreme heat and high humidity, but certainly not worth the wasted space.

Have about 15 varieties of winter squash coming now along with some pie pumpkins. That is saving a lot of mowing! Each time I mow with my riding mower it hurts so much that I'm out of commission for three days. One solution for the front is allowing the Bermuda to set seeds in the front during the incredible heat of late July and August.

Ken B September 18, 2014 09:47 AM

Hi Joseph --

Back in February, Carol Deppe gave us some of your Landrace Moschata seeds to try. It's done pretty well here in Virginia, set lots of fruit early, did seem to get Downy Mildew earlier than most of the other moschatas in our trial patch this year, but then hung in there pretty well.

We've had a mild summer here, with about average rain, so curious to see how it'll do another year when it's hotter or wetter, but so far so good!

We've another 3-4 weeks yet til average first frost, so won't be harvesting these for a while yet, but was really impressed by how early they set such a large number of fruits. Looking forward to eating these this winter!

joseph September 18, 2014 12:26 PM

Ken B: Thanks for the grow report... Hoping for some photos later. I felt honored when Carol listed my moschata squash landrace in her seed catalog. Her book "Breed your own vegetable varieties" played a large role in altering my mindset which lead to the development of that squash. I loved the karma of the student doing something that benefited the teacher. The seed I shared with Carol focused more on necked squash and butternuts and less on pumpkins.

It's hard for me to screen for resistance to powdery mildew because it is so dry here. We had unusual monsoonal rain pattern this year and so I actually got to see powdery mildew this year. It hit the maxima squash hard. Some of the grow reports I get on the moschata say something along the lines of "Succumbed to powdery mildew, but it was so early that it had already produced its crop."

Ken B September 18, 2014 12:35 PM

Usually Downy Mildew is the one we have to worry about more here in Virginia, especially when it's wet, we had it by July (maybe earlier, don't have the trial notes handy just now). We didn't see Powdery Mildew show up til a few weeks ago... just looked again at the squash patch, the Landrace Moschata has probably about half its vines died back -- that's earlier than the other moschatas in the patch -- but since it did set its fruits so impressively early, it looks to be a nice harvest!

joseph October 1, 2014 11:46 AM

I have been working for the few years on selecting for okra that will grow well here. The first year the plants got about ankle high, and only one plant produced one seed pod. That was from perhaps 100 seeds that were planted.

I saved the seed and replanted, and trialed more varieties. The second year some of the plants got knee high and produced a handful of seed pods. One of the plants even survived the first fall frost!!!

I saved the seed and replanted, and trialed more varieties. Here is what one of the third generation plants looked like a couple of days ago. It is as tall as the farmer!!!

They have been productive enough that I have saved some for seed, and have been harvesting okra for eating and for the farmer's market.

I am very content with the progress of the okra project. I live in a cool mountain valley which is not at all suitable for growing the typical okra varieties. But I have found enough genetic diversity within the okra species to be able to select for genetics that do adequately well in my climate. Okra has been a pleasure to work with, because it doesn't seem as highly inbred as some of the other species I have worked with.

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