‘Tis the season for collections of beautiful pumpkins, squash, and gourds surrounded by overstuffed hay bales and tall corn stalks. Did you know that growing your own gourds is as easy as growing your own tomatoes? We’re here to walk you through the simple process of growing your own and you’ll have them in time to showcase them for fall!
What is a Gourd?
To most North Americans, a gourd is any hard-skinned fruit produced by a vining plant and includes melons, watermelons, luffas, cucumbers, pumpkins and squash. In a more technical manner, gourds are the fruit from two types of plant families — Cucurbita and Lagenaria. These plants are used for food, and decorations. In times past, gourds have been used as liquid containers, toys and even musical instruments. Chances are you don’t have any plans to make a gourd flute, but Love Your Yard will be happy to show you how to grow them.
The Perfect Place for Gourds
Before you begin planting, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- Choose a location in the garden with full sun.
- Make sure your soil is rich and well drained. Check out our composting tips to get your soil packed with nutrients!
- Place stakes in your garden for the gourds to grow on. They appreciate having their fruits off the ground.
- Gourds are vining plants, which means they need plenty of space to grow, even with stakes and cages.
- Try to eliminate weeds from the soil before planting. Most gourds plants don’t tolerate weeds.
Tips to Plant Gourds
With your gourd patch perfectly planned out, now it’s time to get planting!
- Gourds grow best when planted directly from seed. You’ll want to group about four seeds and plant them 1-2 inches deep in the soil. Space these little groups about 5 feet apart to form a row. If you want to plant multiple rows, space the rows about 6-8 feet apart.
- When leaves begin to develop you will want to thin the seedlings to about 2 in each group.
- Gourd plants can end up taking over your garden, so try Gardener’s Blue Ribbon Ultomato Tomato Stakes to keep the plants from spreading too far. Stakes can coax them to grow vertically.
- Keep plants watered according to the seed package you used. Squash plants will need more water than usual during periods of dry and hot weather.
- Have an all-purpose insect killer handy, such as Safer® Brand End ALL Insect Killer, to fight back against infestations. Cucumber beetles can be especially destructive. This OMRI-Listed® spray, which is safe for use in organic gardening, kills bugs on contact and stops them before they take over your plants.
- Harvest hardshell gourds between 110 and 130 days. Pumpkins can be harvested between 90 and 120 days. Ornamentals are ready in about 90 days. Winter squash takes from 60 to 110 days. Summer squash is ready in 50 to 65 days. They should be hard to the touch and have developed their color. Small gourds tend to dry and preserve better than large gourds.
Get Creative With Your Gourds
Gourds, like other vine plants, are perfect for growing on stakes, trellises, fences, and other tall supports. Check out the photos below to see how some people used outdoor spaces to grow gourds!
How to Cure Gourds
Many gourds can be cured — dried out so they can be used in decorations. Of course, some fruits that we call gourds can’t be cured, such as a watermelon. Others, particularly ornamental varieties, are meant to be cured and displayed.
- Most importantly, have patience! Know that gourds can take a long time to cure.
- Leave your gourds on the vine as long as possible. Check them regularly though as they may become susceptible to bugs or become dinner for a hungry herd of deer. Also make sure they aren’t resting in a wet spot in your garden. At the very least, leave the gourds on the vine until the vine withers. (Note that most commercial growers leave their gourds in the field until completely cured.)
- If you must remove the gourd from the field, place in an open, airy place such as a shed or barn. Pallets are helpful for gourd curing as they allow air to flow completely around the gourds.
- Don’t allow the gourds to touch one another as they cure.
- Check in on the gourds from time to time. They should be getting lighter as water evaporates through their skin.
- If your a gourd feels squishy, it’s rotting. There’s nothing you can do, so toss it into your compost pile.
- Gourds with mold on them are generally fine. Allow it to continue to cure as long as it isn’t softening up. You can easily wash the mold off the gourd when it’s completely cured.
- Your gourd has finished curing when it feels extremely light, is about air temperature to the touch and rattles when you shake it.
Do you have any tips for growing gourds that you would like to share? Did you grow yours to create a unique look in your garden or greenhouse? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it!
We would also love to see your gourd pictures, so share them with us on Facebook.
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