It's that time of year where you can order your completely free butternut squash seed as a public participant in the ... deep breath ... Public Participatory Cucurbita moschata Butternut Squash Landrace Breeding Project for Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec... otherwise known as that Butternut Project.
In 2017, I had some great farmers showing me once again how awesome they were at growing by producing loads of luscious vines and fruit. Fruit set was late as we had low heat units last year but I did receive some seed back from participants. Many thanks!
Just contact me with your address and I will send you the seed and details. Spoiler: The details are very easy. Grow squash. No need to Isolate. Store squash from best plant(s) for a few months. Send back some seeds.
Easy as pumpkin* pie.
* Butternut squash makes the best pumpkin pie in my opinion.
Huge thanks to Our Farm's Katie and Kate and Blackstar Urban Farm's Karen (1) for their hard work so far. All crops are in the ground, subject to mother nature for the West Carleton Calorie Crop Breeding Project. She has been busy helping us select plants this year. We have been experiencing a very wet spring and early summer, delaying planting for many people.
Year 1 is to grow out sweet potato for true seed from short season varieties. All three farms have had a great start though a hail storm or two have tattered leaves and I've had golden tortoise beetle though numbers are not overly high. Aster Lane Edibles also has a selection of True Sweet Potato Seedlings that are catching up to the slip planted varieties.
I'm particularly impressed by how gloriously the sweets are growing at Our Farm in their heavy clay soil, especially in this soggy year.
butternut squash landrace - farmer select
true potato seed
Some nice looking potato specimens growing from the Blue Leslie x OP seed kindly sent to me.
(1) Are you the sort of farmer that might want to help grow calorie crops in the nearby Ottawa Valley area? We are looking for two more farms next year. Learn about true seed growing of tuberous crosses and experience the fun of looking at underperforming rows or plants and saying "great selection year."
(2) True Seed, in this context, refers to plants grown from sexually reproduced seed when they are typically grown vegetatively. This reshuffling of genes allows for selection and production of new varieties.
Carrots and friends
I grow a number of members of the carrot family that I'd like to some work on but I am only actively selecting skirret and carrot. Next in my sights will be Sweet Cicely and Mitsuba whenever I get time!
Just Food breeding
Seeds of Diversity is working to increase seed capacity in Canada and Jester Lettuce is one of the OSSI (Open Source Seed Initiative) varieties that is available to growers. It was originally created by Frank Morton at Wild Garden Seeds and I have to say that I love it. This spring, when I did selection on the seedlings, I selected out some darker ones for my own purposes. We'll call them Pink Jester for fun.
I'm also growing out two short season community selections as part of the Just Food Seed by Growers for Growers: short season peppers and disease resistant cucumbers. I'm looking forward to the fried green peppers and cucumber sandwiches.
West Carelton calorie project
In my on going attempt to learn how to breed cabbages in the north, here are some babies. The cabbage is a delicious cross between a slightly blushed savoy (San Michele) and a long season red (Red Rock Mammoth). I've climbed quite a learning curb to get to third generation and continue to climb. For example, the tunnel is producing some great pods but I bet I can't use any pods whose flowers touch the top. At any rate, I should be growing out f4 next year!!
I'm also still doing grow outs and overwintering experiments on perennial kale crosses with Daubenton though I'm thinking of moving away from Brassica oleracea kales toward longer lived Brassica napus kales.
Of course, I'm still selecting seakale, growing out giant colewort, and mostly yellow winter-easy turnip. There is a much older project that I might turn my attention back toward which is a very nice Chinese cabbage. I've been growing it out for years and years but haven't been doing any serious selection. It may be time.
The public participatory blah blah long name.
One of the perks of doing a butternut squash breeding project is eating butternut squash. As they store well on my countertops, and the current population of this public participatory landrace is medium sized, I usually only open one at a time. They are used to make a wide and ever widening array of tasty treats. One photo I couldn't find while searching was straight up pumpkin pie even though I make it all the time. Photos added when I have them.
Would you like to grow your own ingredients? Get your seeds for the Cucurbita moschata, butternut squash, public participatory landrace breeding project for Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec.
Learn more about the project including why difficult years are great selection years: drought, bugs and 2016's squash.
I can tell I had a difficult year when I can't find too many pictures of a project. Usually what happens is that I go out into the gardens, point my camera at the mess and think "nah." Sometimes I snap the shots anyhow because photographs are one of my primary record keeping tools but I must have been sufficiently depressed or overwhelmed by other projects that I didn't bother! That or there's a trove of photos somewhere that I couldn't find (note to self, tag all photos).
The Cucurbita moschata, Butternut Squash, Community Landrace Breeding Project was a success this year though not exactly in the most ideal way. We had a serious drought. We had bugs, masses and masses of cucumber beetles (several types), squash bug and squash vine borer (though no obvious cases at ALE and none reported in these squash from participants I don't think. C. moschata is resistant because of solid stems). Eventually we had powdery mildew at around August 23rd (according to my scant photographic records).
Germination wasn't ideal as I am a low input acreage and rely mostly on irrigation from the heavens. They weren't obliging so I probably poured a few buckets of water on the rows every once in a while. I swear I have some seedling photos from like mid-June or even later... Flowering was late. Fruiting was very, very late. I have immature first flush fruit photos from September. Note the lack of sandals in the below picture... suspicious. Not only that but I cannot find a single full harvest photo. And I've looked three times. Please don't make me look again, I have a lot of photos of plants...
So we did get one and a half flushes of fruit rather than two or three like usual. The half meant that I was harvesting some very immature fruit at frost time and using them more like zucchini.
So why was this good? Well these survivors will potentially enhance some pressure genes into the mix. It also gives me a sense of what parameters this strain can handle. It clearly isn't super thrilled with very high heat and/or very dry soil at flowering time staying in the male flower phase for quite some time. Participants that irrigated or lived in hills that were receiving more precipitation had much better fruit set.
When it comes to plant selection, all years are good years in that they produce results (null - more on that below - is a result) even if those results are not stellar.
Notes from community PARTICIPANTS
I'll post more results when I get them. Thank you everyone!
Past and future
Memories from an easier year 2015.
Plans for the future
Happy Pumpkin Pies and Squash Stews!
I have been following Joseph Lofthouse's development of his version of landrace breeding with some interest. The idea of incorporating more diversity into plant parents rather than restricting the pool fascinates me. Certainly limiting the selection criteria to only a few key characteristics while allowing the rest to vary widely would act as some insurance against changeable patterns in weather, pests and disease. Combined with one of my most common talk/teaching subjects - seeds - a project was born. As I always say, every instance of seed saving is one of seed selection.
I'm not sure why I settled on using butternut squash. Maybe it was because I like it and it stores well for me and it could use a little more selection to ripen well in our climate. Maybe too because it is insect pollinated and only requires one growing season to produce seeds. The seeds are also large and easy to save. At any rate, the idea just struck me that I should offer out mixed Cucurbita moschata seed to people in my growing area with the idea of creating a landrace for Eastern Ontario.
To make it accessible, it needed to have few rules and few expectations. You could fail. Heck, every gardener does. You could grow other squash but if it was moschata, just report to me which types so I knew. You could grow as few as three plants or as many as three hundred just return seeds so I could mix them all together before packaging them up for the next year. You could have your own goals and not request more seeds, selecting as narrowly as you wanted for your own purposes just as long as you respected the OSSI pledge. The genetic material was to remain open source. What I was looking for was minimal; plants that grew well without significant issues that produced family sized fruit that ripened within the growing season from direct seeding. That was it.
Year 3 Results:
Most growers had decent results from 2015 though there were a few that lost their plants to critters and many experienced a sluggish start compared to Cucurbita maxima or pepo. We even had a CSA greenscreekfarm.comBusy Beaver Farm who managed to tuck a few in veg. boxes. The parent population was all classically butternut in shape and seemed to result in medium sizes though there were outliers. I had three flushes of fruit, the first two ripening well and third one struggling to finish. My plants did not have much disease though there was some powdery mildew at the very end of the season. I did not notice many pests, even squash bugs were minimal.
It will be interesting to see how the project progresses. I've also sent out seeds to other areas in Canada and Europe so they can select for their own regions.
In the meantime, I'm eating my way through a lot of squash!
* A gardening friend also participated in the grow out and posted a number of pictures and stories here at Living my Dream Life on the Farm.
Goals for 2016:
1. Package up small and medium sized packages to hand out with instructions.
2. The instructions will also contain an optional sheet to fill in characteristics. I encourage participants to send pictures to Experimental Crops of the North on Facebook or to me here. I find it more fun to share plant adventures.
3. Collect seed for 2017
All about growing, selecting and using edible plants in the Ottawa valley.