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Cross Pollination

Gardening Reference » Gardening in 2006
by LandOfOz on November 07, 2006 06:19 AM
I have about 8 different varieties of sunflower and zinnias. I would like to plant them next year, however, I am concerned about cross pollination. Obviously, planting them right next to each other may not be the wisest decision. What does everyone do to prevent this if growing more than one variety? I would like to be able to harvest viable and true-to-parent seeds.

Thanks,
Sarah

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by roflol on November 09, 2006 01:25 PM
Heya, Sarah!

I was having a PM conversation about this very thing with somebody just the other day, asking her the same thing. It was suggested to me that, since I don't have the space to keep a good half-mile distance between my varieties of sunflowers, I should plant other types of pollen-y flowers between the sunflower "islands" to better my chances of keeping them true to parent. I'll do this in the back yard where it may look funny but it won't matter 'cause it'll just be me and the dogs and the kids looking at them. lol.

Out front, I'll do a mixed sunflower patch, and donate the resulting seeds to the birds in the winter.

[flower]
by tkhooper on November 09, 2006 09:52 PM
I think you can also get out there early and hand pollenate the flowers that you plan to harvest with the pollen from a like plant. But that would be so labor intensive I'm not sure I would be up to it.

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by johnCT on November 09, 2006 10:54 PM
Sarah, have you confirmed that your varieties are indeed open-pollinated? If they are hybrids they will not come true no matter what you do. Even without pollinators present most plants will set at least some seed, so you may want to think about some sort of physical barrier like bagging a few flowers as they start to develop which will ensure true seed from open-pollinated species.

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John - Zone 6
by LandOfOz on November 10, 2006 12:39 AM
Now, John, I hadn't thought of that. I was assuming that since I got seeds from someone else's garden that the seeds would be able to open pollinate, am I wrong? I'll have to start looking. All I know is that an F1 Hybrid seed isn't going to be true to the parent, right? Also, could I use cheesecloth for bagging or would I actually need paper bags?

Tammy, I spend probably a good 5 hours a day outside during the summer, in a vain attempt to tire-out my kids. I could probably work on a little pollinating while I'm out there... However, I'm not sure how I'll pollinate a 10 foot tall sunflower head... [Big Grin]

ROFLOL, I'm glad that I'm not the only one with this concern. I've got a fairly large yard, although no where near a half mile!! I think I will just keep them seperated with lots of attractive plants in between to distract the bees!!

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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by tkhooper on November 10, 2006 02:18 AM
Stilts? lol. Good luck with your garden. I bet it is gorgeous this comming year.

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by johnCT on November 10, 2006 03:15 AM
Well, Sarah, now who's to say that the seed you got was pure in the first place. [dunno] If it was seed saved from a hybrid plant it will be the F2 generation hybrid and who know's what you'll get. I really don't know much about sunflower varieties I'll admit. I've always just planted mammoth just cuz it's commonly available and I've never bothered to save seed.

quote:
Originally posted by LandOfOz:
All I know is that an F1 Hybrid seed isn't going to be true to the parent, right? Also, could I use cheesecloth for bagging or would I actually need paper bags?
Well, that's right for the most part. Hybrids have two different parents, but yeah. The best thing to use for bagging is a fabric called Tulle. You can buy it by the yard at Walmart. It's very inexpensive. You wouldn't want to use cheesecloth or paper bags.

Also, geographic isolation as a form of cross-pollination prevention does not necessarily have to be huge distances. It could just be a matter of the other side of your yard. The thing to remember is that as the distance increases, the chance of ensuring pure seed increases also.

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John - Zone 6
by LandOfOz on November 10, 2006 10:17 PM
Tammy, so I'd better join a circus during the winter and master stilts, huh? I'll get right on that... [Big Grin]

John, thanks for all the info, it seems I'm always learning something new about plants. It looks like my gardening next year will have to have some planning put into it!

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Sarah - Zone 5b/6
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