Community-based Cucurbita breeding projects - Central Victoria Australia

this weekend kicked off phase 2 of our community based Butternut (moschata) and pumpkin (=winter squash maxima) projects.
The butternut project is a continuation of my 4 year old project, and is quite well formed - seeking a compact, small-fruited robust butternut, great taste, small seed cavity, sweet low fibre deep colour long-keeping. Expanding the range of growers will I hope protect against seed loss, get more people involved in landracing, and further develop the line which is quite advanced. Last season the wet cold La Nina imposed another set of filters. A surprising development was a potential slug/snail resistance in the fruit. more below.

The maxima project is just starting - season 1.5 actually. Last year i started with a small number of maximas from my archive, with a contribution of seed from a grower in Kyneton, a higher altitude town a bit south of here, quite a bit colder and wetter than here is Bendigo. Despite my choice of an over shaded spot under river redgum trees, a few plants produced viable seed with high diversity in shape and colour. This was supplemented with purchased seed from and Ebay seller (Pumpkin Paradise for anyone interested). I got over enthusiastic and ordered too many packets, so each of the packs I’m distributing this season is a unique mix - I couldn’t give everyone everything.

While the seed/growing/selection/genetics side of landrace breeding is front of mind, I’m beginning to realise that for a community-based project the social aspects are probably more important.

I’ll make a few posts below to sketch out the organisational processes, but I’ll add the usual horticultural progress reports and pictures so readers don’t fall asleep.


Results of the season 3 butternut growouts. Season 4 was very sad.

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Great projects Gregg.

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If you want to widen your genetic diversity in pumpkins, then you should know about this ebay shop

This is an unusually diverse resource for Australian growers that not many people know about. I got my selection for my original variety trial that turned up seminole and lakota as my foundation genetics.

Anyone have a similar link in the US?


thanks for sharing this update Gregg!

I’m part of two projects going in my county (first season) so I can fully agree. I am so so so curious what kind of seed return there will be from all the projects this fall. I thought it might be very LOW without more seed saving support/pressure/local pride, so there’s another project evolving right now the Our first workshop is next weekend.

Hi Shane, this is where i got my butternut diversity for starting, and my maxima stuff for the new project. I just went with anything that seemed landrace-y and wide geographical sources.

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My first attempt was broadbeans=favas. got very little material back.
I sought interest from a Permiculture Facebook group, had maybe 40 enquiries, distributed seed via the Castlemaine seed library in their local municipal library.
I was expecting everyone to have similar enthusiasm to mine: however i only got a few packets returned. Lucky i have about 10 kilos of diverse seed.
This might be a strategy to filter participants - distribute an easily-gained crop, see who returns, and use them for the more challenging or limited seed projects.

I expanded the initial FB group with a winter post on my local general gardening community Facebook Page seeking interest in pumpkin=squash projects - membership doubled overnight. however 3 months later when it came to seed distribution, most had drifted away.
I did find the @everyone tag for use with FB groups, that made sure everyone at least got one message, but i was reluctant to spam everyone with repeated messages.
The low takeup might have been influenced by a second ‘shool-teacherish’ message
**We have seed for 2 projects: **
#1= compact butternut, (smaller spaces)
#2 = larger maxima (like Queensland blue).
Distribution is centralised this year to make sure we are all on the same page; to explain the (very simple) process in a bit more detail; and to meet some like-minded folk in person. Our seed stock is not huge, so the packets will be limited to just enough for everyone to grow this year’s crop.
This isn’t a ‘free seed for everyone’s friends and family’ activity, it’s only for current members at the moment - unless we get no interest!
Send me a message if you want to be involved, and include which pickup session and which project you would like so I can organise logistics and pack seeds. I’ll let you know the address after I hear from you.
There is no cost to participate but you must pledge to return some seed at the end of the season.

So we have about 12 participants spread over two towns.
more reports to follow.