Lessons: Seed Saving and Hoop House

I’ve never been diligent about seed saving. Some we always save–sunflowers and purple hull peas, for example. But with most things I’ve just taken the easy way out and bought seed every year.

Last year I decided to try saving a few more things, figuring I’d start with easiest and work my way up to the more difficult. So I saved watermelon, cantaloupe and okra seed. The results were a mixed bag.

The saved cantaloupe seed did great. I had nearly 100% germination and the plants look good. The watermelon, on the other hand, was a complete fail. Hardly any of the seeds germinated. Not believing it was the fault of the seed, I replanted and again nothing came up. Finally I broke down and bought seed, which I just got in the ground last week, a month behind schedule. The saved okra seed germination was mediocre. Had I planted it more thickly then thinned it, it would have been fine. As it was, I filled in the gaps with new seed and it’s all coming along fine.

I don’t know why the watermelon seed didn’t germinate. I planted it in the same garden, at the same time, as the cantaloupes. As for the okra, a friend told me his experience has been the same. He quit saving the seed for that reason. I have no idea why the seed company seed outperforms our saved seed. But for now my takeaway is that I will continue to save watermelon and okra seed for use in emergencies, but will rely on purchased seed, if available.

As for the hoop house, I’ve learned not to try to plant squash in it. As I mentioned in an earlier post, pollination was terrible. I attributed that to an absence of pollinators (which was definitely a factor). Nina, the Matron of Husbandry, directed me to self-pollinating zucchini seed, something I hadn’t known existed. Researching that seed I learned that zukes won’t pollinate above 90 degrees. As the summertime temps in the hoop house are routinely over 90, that must have been a major factor as well.

I’ve been hand-pollinating the plants and we’ve harvested a lot of beautiful zucchini from the hoop house, much earlier than our outside plantings, but the yields are very poor. As if that wasn’t enough, pollinators may not like it in the hoop house, but squash bugs love it there, and they’re doing their usual brutal job on the plants. So no more zukes in the hoop house.

The beans we planted in it are doing very well, as are the tomatoes.

Lessons learned.