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Ask a Master Gardener: Save your pumpkin seeds

Q. If I have a great pumpkin crop can I save the seeds from this year's harvest and plant them in the spring? What is the best way to store the seeds?

A. Yes, you can save the seeds, but the pumpkins you get from them might not look like the pumpkins you grew this year.

Pumpkins can cross-pollinate. So earlier this year, a pollinator, most likely a bee, may have carried pollen from another pumpkin's flowers to your pumpkin's flowers.

Cross-pollination doesn't affect the fruit: If you plant a knucklehead pumpkin seed, you'll get a knucklehead pumpkin, no matter where the pollen that pollinated its flowers came from. But the cross-pollination does affect the seeds inside that pumpkin.

The seeds produced in this year's pumpkin will carry DNA from both plants, and the pumpkins those seeds produce may show characteristics of either or both parents. They may look quite different from either parent.

Even if you only planted one kind of pumpkin, you may get cross-pollination, because bees can carry pollen for a long way, and they may have visited your neighbor's garden before visiting yours. And, pumpkins can cross-pollinate with some other vine crops, such as zucchini, decorative gourds, and some types of squash.

If you have the space, it might be fun to plant the seeds from your pumpkin and see what you get. Sometimes gardeners who do this wind up with really freaky looking fruits.

To save the seeds, soak them to get the last of the gunk off, rinse them, and then dry them thoroughly on newspaper or paper towel. Store the seed in a cool, dry place in an airtight container.

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