Grow and Save Squash Seeds

Grow Squash (Cucurbita spp.)

There are four species of domesticated squash that are commonly grown in gardens: winter squash, pumpkin, summer squash, and gourd.. All four species are essentially cultivated in the same manner but members of the different species will not cross with one another, allowing a seed saver to grow multiple squash species at the same time.

Time of Planting:

Sow seeds outdoors after danger of frost has passed in the spring, or start from seed indoors and transplant out in the spring.

Spacing Requirements:

Create 12 inch diameter hills 6 inches apart. Plant 6-8 seeds per hill and later thin to 3-4 plants per hill. Sow seeds 1 inch deep.

Time to Germination:

5 to 10 days

Special Considerations:

When growing squash for seed, hand-pollination is recommended.

Cleaning and Processing:

To remove squash seeds from the fruits, simply split the squash in half by shallowly cutting through the rind from top to bottom on both sides and separating the two halves. Cutting through the center of the fruit can damage seeds. Next, scoop out the seeds, massaging them free from the pulp as much as possible. Transfer them to a wide-mesh strainer - or any other container with openings large enough for pulp and strings to pass through - for rinsing.Running the seeds under a strong stream of water will help dislodge the seeds from the pulp. When working with varieties whose seeds are hard to separate from the pulp, soaking the seeds for a few hours can facilitate cleaning. Large screens made from quarter-inch hardware cloth work well for cleaning and rinsing big batches of seeds. Immediately after cleaning, rinsed seeds should be spread out to dry in a thin layer on screens, if possible.

Decanting can be a good way to separate viable seeds from lightweight and underdeveloped seeds. Decanting simply means pouring out the mixture of water, pulp, and immature seeds off the top of the liquid, while keeping the mature, viable seeds at the bottom of the glass. This method is only effective for some types of squash because even the viable seeds of many varieties will float, rather than sink. Alternatively, winnowing can help separate lightweight and underdeveloped seeds once the seeds are dry.

When fruits are processed individually - such as when winter squash seeds are extracted as a meal is prepared - the seeds should be cleaned and then mixed in and stored with seeds of other fruits from the same planting, in order to maintain the genetic diversity of the seed crop.

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