18 January 2012

Seed Saving (feat. Giant Pumpkins!)

So back in November, we had a guest speaker at one of our general body meetings. Brandon Huber, a Horticulture major who studies at Temple's Ambler campus, spoke to us about saving seeds and growing new plants with the seeds you save.  Brandon pressed the importance of saving seeds of the heirloom variety for the following reasons: 1.) They have desirable characteristics 2.) They are usually rare and hard to find each season.  If you can save your seeds, you can break away from becoming dependent upon purchasing seeds each season, AND it helps you save money! 

Saving seeds
If you plan on saving seeds, Brandon said it’s best to leave the fruit or flower on the stem, even if it has withered or rotten.  This way the seed is able to dry on the plant, so it is allowed to follow through the full cycle before being removed from its nutrient source.  For cabbage, carrots, beats, and onions, leave at least one sprout in the ground because these plants flower in their second year, and that flower produces the seeds.  
It may be a bit difficult to restrain yourself from harvesting your plant, but it will be worth it!  Leaving one plant on the stem or in the ground will produce seeds for many more plants, so don’t stress about it. 
            Brandon suggested bringing some plants inside during the colder months in order to for them to stay alive until it’s time to harvest the seeds.  He warms his indoor plants with T-5 fluorescent lighting.  Also, Brandon mentioned vermiculture as a way to provide nutrients to indoor gardens.

Giant Pumpkins!

Not only does Brandon save seeds, but he also grows GIANT PUMPKINS!  This is quite a sport.  People spend an entire year preparing for their giant pumpkins.  From searching for the perfect hybrid seed, to finding a great place to grow the pumpkin, protecting it, and transporting it to a festival, growing giant pumpkins is a time consuming hobby.  Seed savers like Brandon will save the seeds of a large pumpkin, and sometimes they even plant two seeds together to grow one hybrid pumpkin.  These seeds can cost as much as $20 per seed!
 The plant takes much tending to because you only want it to house one pumpkin.  This way, all of the plant’s energy can be channeled into the single pumpkin.  If you watch this Time lapse video, you’ll see how quickly the pumpkins grow.  Other factors of growing include protecting it from hungry animals like deer, protecting it from the sun (if it is not shaded, the sunlight will actually begin to bake the giant pumpkin..CRAZY!), and if you do not keep an eye on it, the pumpkin may begin to rot.  Then the next problem is transporting it.  These pumpkins can weigh up to 500-700lbs.  Try figuring out an easy way to transport these delicate giants! 
Given that your pumpkin grows up to be healthy and large without rotting, catching a disease, or becoming damaged during transportation, you can bring it to a festival where they have weighing contests, or you can hollow it out and race in it- boat style- or you can drop it and watch it explode.  The possibilities are endless- you just can’t really eat it… apparently such large pumpkins don’t taste very good.


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