Small Grex/Landrace Seed Starting Questions

I am starting small flint corn and maxima squash grexes this season, as well as a few other types veggies. They will be very small on the homestead scale. My question has to do with saving seeds and then sowing the next season.

Since they will be small plantings I expect to have small amount of individual fruits from which I can save seed (compared to a farmer planting a field or large block for example). When I re-plant the next season I want to express as much diversity as possible. So I am tempted to save seeds from each squash in separate envelopes for example, and then plant a few seeds from each squash the next season.

However that seems like a lot of organizing work and Joseph’s simple approach of all the seeds in a jar approach appeals to me. Do I simply add equal amounts of each seed to one large pile and let the percentages work themselves out at planting time? Or do I keep seed from each fruit separate so that I can be sure that maximum diversity is available?

If I were starting a grex/landrace at a larger farm scale, I wouldn’t sweat it as much because I would be planting way more seed out. But in a small garden/homestead scale I want to be sure I am representing diversity.

Am I overthinking it? I look forward to your thoughts!

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I would keep them separate first year or two and hand pollunate to increase changes for crosses early on. After that there are many good options, but as you said, if you mix atleast try to mix somewhat evenly from best plants. I find it hard not to save all seeds so it’s possible to make for example two mixes; one for the very best and second “genetic variety mix” that has those that maybe aren’t the top performers, but good enough to save. Then you can plant what ever proportion from each depending how much you want to favour top traits. It’s also easier for future years if you have lot’s of seeds to use you can take some of those top seeds and not use second tier seeds. If you have some special trait you want have back up, then it might be better to save atleast some of those separately just in case. Also I wouldn’t save seeds in planting, but instead plant more and cull more. Early growth is probably best way to judge how well adabted those are to your conditions and both squash and corn usually make lots of seeds.

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I’ll look forward to how others answer this.

A simple solution for your situation is to decide way out front how many seeds you’re going to plant next year and then save that many, in the mix you want. Now there’s no decision and the only randomization is what gets planted where.

In the bigger picture, It seems like it comes down to, at least in part, how soon you want to start letting nature weed out poor performers. When you’re letting that happen, just throwing everything in a jar naturally disadvantages the ones that don’t make much seed. But maybe you really want to keep planting a poor performer for a few years because you’re trying to extract a certain trait and get that into your population.

I guess it’s also worth considering whether the seed is the crop. In corn you don’t have to worry about it because corn is what you want. But in squash, the fruit with the most seeds might mean there’s less actual fruit.

I would suggest, not hand pollinating cause that is more work. Put lots of flowers in amongst them and let the bees do the job of pollinating

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@sandra Hand pollinating doesn’t have to be more work. You can just take male flower and pollinate female of another plant. No need to bag or make markings if you don’t want to. More certain than bees. You need to have crosses first to have any meaningfull progress and those crosses that are not made this year need one more season of work to be made. I would say that’s more work. Once you get initial crosses, each generation will diverge automaticly for several years and bees do crosses often enough (on squash) that they will never staple out.


I have a very similar situation and in the first year I have saved seeds separately. It is very easy, since I save seeds when the squash goes to the kitchen and then I taste it and decide if it is worth keeping or not. So in any particular moment there are seeds from a single squash to handle. Usually we eat 1-2 squash per week, and we still have a few to eat, taste and maybe save seeds, from last year’s harvest. I also take into account how well they store this way.
This year, I will go back to my notes and I will plant equal amount of seeds from every squash I have decided to keep as tasty one. We will see which ones will grow from my own seeds. I hope this will be the last year when I do that.

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This is roughly what I would do as a recovering control freak. If I give myself the opportunity to overthink and overdocument, I will. Save on the order of 10 seeds from each squash/ear of corn/pepper that meets the criteria to not exclude (which could be “all of them”, or could be lightly selective to remove very weak or very poorly flavored plants). Especially winter squash you can very quickly end up with gallons of squash guts.

I personally also don’t bother to hand pollinate, but I do have a good native bee population. I just plant several different squash varieties in the same hill and let them sprawl out together. My husband calls it “squash roulette”.


I am in a similar small garden (less than 1,000 sq ft). I had a small mix of varieties last summer. This summer, I have that seed and another mix of new different varieties. I also have been saving squash seed as we eat it, so separately, but not caring so much about nuances of flavor since it was year one and a small mix of varieties. If it stored and tasted average to good, then I’m saving the seed. The fact that they made fruit to begin with was worth saving, and since they’re all about the same, I’m saving some seed from each fruit into a jar. The rest of the seed is also going into a second jar for backup. If things proceed according to plan and I don’t need or want this extra seed, then it’ll go to the chickens.

One difference is that I’m planning on planting way more seed that I normally would – since I’m expecting some (or more) plants to fail – heat, water stress, cold nights, bugs, etc.

I am not hand pollinating, because I don’t want to select for plants that need me to do that. For example last summer we had some pretty good rain during the time that the corn was flowering, and the seed set wasn’t great, but that’s our general weather pattern so I want plants that can set seed before the rains or otherwise deal with it, so I happily saved the seed that did form and will see what happens this year.

Also, in my small plots, I plant very closely together (so cram more in) – but I’m in a hot dry windy environment, so don’t need to worry as much about air circulation, and the microclimate shade and protection they give each other are beneficial. There isn’t negative competition between the plants – of it there is, I’m selecting for successful closer planting!

Thank you everyone for your replies and feedback! I am hearing that I have a bunch of options how I want to go about doing this. For my personality and gardening style I personally prefer not to hand pollinate so I won’t be going that route and prefer to leave that to be bees.

I have already been saving seeds from squashes individually in their own packets and culling less flavorful and less shelf stable squash. I had planned on planting a few seeds of each squash but my “recovering control freak” mind (as @APUCommunityGarden ) puts it wants to just pile them all in a jar and not keep track of different varieties.

I really like the idea of saving say 2 seeds from each squash in a jar and then I can do the same in a backup jar so I have a reserve stock. 2 jars is a lot less organizing than separate envelopes. The only problem with the jar method is that I don’t know how many plants I will plant out next season, it seems to change every season.

So I think I’ll stick to keeping the individual squash seeds separate for now because that seems the surest way to ensure diversity, aside from adding new genetics each season like Joseph does. If I get overwhelmed at any point, I’ll switch to the jar method.

For corn I may start straight away with equal amounts from each ear into the jar because I’ll be saving seed from way more individuals with corn.

Thanks everyone for the feedback! I love knowing there’s no one right way to do it and you all helped me realize I don’t have to overthink it :slight_smile:

This is good advice. I wish I had thought of it last year, because only about 1/3 of my plants fruited. This year I’m planning to overplant. Taking plants out is easy, adding more in is not!

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