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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Cucumis sativus, Cucumis melo, Cross-pollination, Citrullus lanatus, Seeds

Will watermelon and cantaloupe cross-pollinate and produce bad-tasting melons? Is it possible for a vine that had cucumbers growing on it earlier in the season to produce a cantaloupe? I could swear that we now have what looks like a melon on a vine that had cukes before...


The short answer is, no. It's fine to grow watermelons and cantaloupe side by side. Cross-pollination between melon varieties may occur, but not between watermelons (Citrullus lanatus v. lanatus) and cantaloupes (Cucumis melo ssp. melo v. cantalupo), as they are two different species. In addition, cross-pollination affects not the melon produced that year, but the melons one might grow from any seeds produced inside that melon. According to Sue Stickland's Back Garden Seed Saving (Chelsea Green, 2001), "commercial seed growers are recommended to isolate melon varieties by 500-1000 meters" or "bag and hand-pollinate the flowers" to keep unwanted hybridization from happening.

The same principle holds true for cantaloupe (Cucumis melo and cucumber (Cucumis sativus): they are indeed in the same plant family (Cucurbitaceae), but they are different species. If your vines were planted close together, you might not have realized there was a melon developing in among the cucumbers--and if you planted the vines from seed, it's very possible the seed packet contained a surprise cantaloupe!

You may find this information from Iowa State University Extension about cross-pollination among vine crops interesting:
"Since they have a similar flowering habit, bloom about the same time, and are members of the same plant family, it is logical that gardeners might assume that squash, melons, and cucumbers will cross-pollinate. Fortunately, however, this is not true. The female flowers of each crop can be fertilized only by pollen from male flowers of the same species. Cross pollination, however, can occur between varieties within a species."

An article on fruit set in the Cucurbit family from University of California, Davis (which also has information on how to hand-pollinate plants when necessary) says much the same thing:
"A common misconception is that squash, melons, and cucumbers will cross-pollinate. This is not true; the female flowers of each can be fertilized only by pollen from that same species. Varieties within each species, however, will cross-pollinate."

Date 2021-09-08
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Plant Answer Line Question

Keywords: Propagation, Fragaria, Cross-pollination

I have organic Rainier strawberries in a raised bed. I'd like to plant organic everbearing strawberries in the same bed. Is there a problem with cross-pollination? What would be your recommendation for the best strawberry varieties to plant in Seattle?


Strawberries can reproduce by runners or by seed. Those which are reproduced by runners will be clones of the parent plant, but those which grow from seed may cross-pollinate.

Here is more information from the Royal Horticultural Society.
"Strawberries can be propagated in late summer, but no later than early autumn, by sinking 9cm (3.5in) pots filled with potting media, such as general-purpose potting compost, into the beds and inserting individual runners into them. Sever the new young plants from the parent plant when rooted. Perpetual strawberries produce few runners and new plants are best bought in annually.
"Seed-raised cultivars are available but are not recommended*, except for alpine strawberries."
*I suspect this is because you can't know what the resulting new generation of strawberries will be like--tasty or not so tasty.

So I think as long as you harvest your fruit, and don't let fruit ripen and drop into the bed, you can allow runners to produce new plants and they should be the same varieties as their parents. That being said, it's usually good to replace strawberry plants after a few years, just to keep disease problems down (the RHS link above says to replace every 3 years or so).

I've had good luck with Shuksan (June-bearing), and I think I may have grown Tristar (ever-bearing) before, too. Oregon State University Extension has a guide entitled "Strawberry Cultivars for Western Oregon and Washington" which recommends these varieties and several others..

There are many more varieties listed in the Sunset Western Garden Book of Edibles (2010). If you are looking for sources, you might try your favorite local nurseries, but also mail order nurseries like Raintree, Cloud Mountain Farm, and Burnt Ridge. The Northwest Flower and Garden Show in February often has vendors selling strawberry plants.

Date 2020-01-31
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