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Autumn Jobs

Posted By: Paul 08/12/2009 09:27:00

Autumn is my favorite time of the year, while the harvesting heralds the end of a years work in the garden the autumn is also the start of the next gardening year.

Ground preparation and planting of over wintering crops are jobs of the moment, as is the biggest aromatic reminder of autumn, the leafy bonfire. My first job today, after I have finished writing the newsletter is to collect together a pile of dry leaves and twigs and start a small bonfire on the allotment. Then whilst I am tidying up the plots I can indulge my self in a true autumnal experience.

Today I will also finish harvesting any sweetcorn that is if the badgers haven't eaten the lot. Also the Borlotto beans are ready for picking. I have a few courgette's which I have left on the plant to grow into large marrows so I can save the seeds for next year. Currently they're about 2.5 feet long and are just starting to develop hard skins. Normally harvesting the seeds from courgette's and marrows is a bit hit and miss as the plants can become quite easily cross pollinated with other members of the curcubita family. The resulting offspring could be a wonderful mix of the best qualities from the two parent plants or they could be a mix of the worst qualities. But finding out will be part of the fun next year. I'm quite hopeful as there where not too many squashes and marrows nearby.

Selective cross breeding is a complex process used by seed producers to give us new F1 varieties of plants and vegetables. They spend many years inbreeding two sets of parent plants until 90% of the genes in each family are inherited. Then they cross pollinate members of the two families producing an F1 variety. Because the parent plants have been 'stifled' through inbreeding when they finally mix with fresh genes they exhibit 'hybrid vigour' and produce bigger, better or earlier crops, depending on the inherited traight from the parent plant. How do the seed companies know which traight is inherited? Well they don't until they have grown a crop to see what the results are, and that's why F1 varieties are more expensive. You maybe thinking why don't they then mix two F1 varieties to make monster vegetables. The answer is the the seeds produced by the F1's have lost most of the hybrid vigour and their offspring will return to obscurity.

If you wish to grow a super large marrow to win your local vegetable show the answer is to select the largest (non F1 variety) plant and save the seeds. Next year grow a selection of the seeds and select one plant to become the male donor. Then using elastic bands seal the female flowers and using a cotton bud or similar fertilize them from one male plant. Reseal the female flowers and watch the marrows grow. When it comes to harvesting select the biggest marrow and save the seeds these will become the plants for next year. In this way you are forcing the inheritance of the size gene in the second years offspring. Repeat this process for five years and you will have your own variety of Marrow custom built to your own requirements.

Hopefully next years crops will produce some surprise mutations.

Happy Gardening!


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