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Should cucumbers, squash, muskmelons and watermelons be grown near each other?

The reason cucumbers, squash, muskmelons and watermelons should not be grown near each other is that they are all cucurbits and may cross-pollinate to produce weird franken-gourds. This myth does have some truth in it, but it is not good gardening advice.

Cucumbers, squash, muskmelons and watermelons should not be grown near each other

Cucumbers, squash, muskmelons and watermelons should not be grown near each other

The Cucurbits

It is true that all of these plants are cucurbits, but they are not all the same species, which reduces the chance that they will cross-pollinate. Summer squash, pumpkins, gourds, zucchinis and some types of winter squash belong to the same species, Cucurbita pepo, and these will cross-pollinate with each other. Muskmelons (Cucumis melo) and cucumbers (Cucumis sativus) are different species and don’t cross with each other or the genus Cucurbita.

Cross Pollination in Cucurbits

When crosses do occur, the resulting seed will contain DNA that is a mixture of the parents, but the fruit will look normal no matter who the father is. You will only see the results of the cross if you collect and plant the seeds.

Sometimes this seed falls to the ground by accident and grows, resulting in weird gourds that the gardener can’t explain. In some cases they incorrectly blame the seed they bought or they contribute the problem to cross pollination taking place in the current season, but the truth is that it is a result of older seed finding its way into the garden.

Cross-pollination is not an issue if you start with store-bought seed or purchase seedlings every year from reliable sources. It is a concern for people who are collecting heirloom seeds, in which case, plants need to be kept separate so cross-pollination does not occur. In this case the recommended separation between different plants is 1/2 mile, according to Suzanne Ashworth in her excellent book on seed saving, Seed to Seed .

 

Robert Pavlis
Editor of GardenMyths.com
I live in southern Ontario, Canada, zone 5 and have been gardening a long time. Besides writing and speaking about gardening, I own and operate a 6 acre private garden called Aspen Grove Gardens which now has over 3,000 perennials, grasses, shrubs and trees. Yes--I am a plantaholic!

I hope you find Garden Myths an educational site that helps you understand your garden better.

14 Responses to 'Should cucumbers, squash, muskmelons and watermelons be grown near each other?'

  1. Well, I think my comment may be out of place as I’m commenting to ask about another topic, which is (Magnetic Water) and its use in gardening and the miracles of using it in terms of plant health, growth rate and yields.

    I am a fan for the blog and an admirer of what you do using scientific approach to debunk widespread myths.

  2. violet says:

    Hi. I’ve been reading through your blog and I’d like to suggest that you select a consistent format for examining garden myths, so that there is clarity about which is the myth and which is the debunking.

    For instance, when I found the site, called “Garden Myths,” the first post was titled, “Dish Soap Can Damage Your Plants.” I had expected the titles to introduce the myths, in keeping with the site name, but instead the title is what you find to be *true*. That’s a little counterintuitive, but I can adapt. Except…the next post I clicked on used the opposite format: the title was the myth in “Citronella Plant Keeps Mosquitoes Away.”

    Then, I notice that you include myths as stand-alone, declarative sentences in the text without first signaling that you are stating a myth, adding further confusion. I found it necessary to read farther or reread in order to parse. The first sentence of this post is an example–it can be remedied by adding “One myth is that…” to the beginning of the sentence for ensure immediate clarity. It may not seem like it matters much, because you go on to clarify at the end of the next sentence, but the brain has to go back and reorient itself from its logical first pass, and the result is less readability.

    I’m enjoying the site and hope you find my advice useful–I think it will make your information more accessible and assimilable by your readers.

  3. Art Thompson says:

    I can see it now on the back of the seed pack –

    “Recommended spacing: 1/2 mile. “

  4. Bonny says:

    Great as usual! Thanks.

  5. Phil Cole says:

    We have a backyard garden and have been growing squash, cucumbers etc very closer together. They grow up on the netting system quite close to the beans. Have had excellent crops with no difficulties. (If any do become ‘abnornal’ we will welcome them to the garden.)
    Phil Cole

  6. Sarah says:

    A few years ago, while living in the Netherlands, I had an allotment. I was growing melons and cucumbers but to my surprise I had some melons that I am sure were cross pollinated as they tasted like cucumbers but looked like melons; Other melons tasted normal. My conclusion was Not to plant these two items next to one another.

  7. Mike Ricci says:

    Spot on! We grow an acre of various winter squashes, pumpkins, and gourds all mixed together and we don’t see any abnormalities. We do not save seed.

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