Preserve pumpkin strains you love

Even if you are new to plant propagation, there is one vegie that you are bound to succeed with. Pumpkins naturally form roots wherever their leaf axils touch suitable soil, and you can take advantage of this.

Find a healthy young shoot and drape it across a pot full of soil mix so that the leaf axil is in contact with the soil surface. Pin or weigh it down as necessary, then wait, keeping the pot moist, until you see roots filling the pot. Sever the stem from the parent and replant the new pumpkin – in a pot that you can move to shelter if you’re worried about frost.

This is the best way of preserving your favoured strain, as pumpkins are rather promiscuous. They cross-breed amongst themselves easily, so unless you hand pollinate you can never be quite certain of the result.

This is an advantage if you want to experiment with plant breeding. Just grow two or more different types – I recommend that you chose Jap as one parent, since this variety is very hardy and productive in our climate – and transfer pollen from your chosen male flower by dabbing the anther onto the stigma of a female flower on the mother plant.

Pollen is at its best just after the morning dew has evaporated, and the female flowers are only receptive once they have opened naturally. Keep the females covered with a paper bag before and after they open to make sure the only pollen they get is the one you choose. Your new cross-breed might be good, bad or indifferent – you can’t know until the seeds are grown and producing themselves.

After the warm wet weather you might have noticed yellow spots on your pumpkin leaves. This is either downy mildew or bacterial leaf spot – copper oxychloride spray will control both.


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