LET'S GROW SOME GOURDSBy Dorothy LaVonne Mitchell (LaVonne) on July 26, 2011
|This article covers the essential details of growing gourds.|
LETS GROW SOME GOURDS
by Betty Kent, President
Planning the gourd garden:
Prepare the seed by soaking in water overnight or longer. Seeds may be clipped on the edges next to the point. These two steps hasten the germination time. Gourds are slow to germinate, taking anywhere from one to six weeks. The average number of seeds to germinate is about 60 to 80%. Plant seeds directly into the ground or they may also be started in small pots and transplanted to the ground, after any danger of frost and when the plant has 4 leaves. Gourds do not like to have their roots disturbed and will be slow to begin growth. Plant the seeds to the depth of about time and a half the size of the seed. Though they are slow to get started, once the vine begins, you can almost watch the movement.
If sowing indoors, the middle of April is lots of time to get a vine up and growing before planting outdoors. Plant at 3 seeds to a four-inch pot and thin to one strong seedling once 4 true leaves (real plant leaves, not small seed leaves) have grown. Start at a soil temperature of 70F. Transplant the pot (do not disturb the roots) in the middle of June once the soil and night temperatures have warmed up. Space plants approximately three feet apart.
You might try growing the smaller gourds in large containers like 5 gallon buckets with holes drilled in the bottom then put some rocks in the bottom and use a quality potting soil. Plant 3 to 4 seeds depending on the gourd. Follow the normal growing instructions, and when your plants are about 5 inches tall, put a trellis or large tomato cage to give the tendrils adequate support.
When should I plant?
If you live in the southern zones, simply plant when the last threat of frost is past. If gourd seeds are planted and it turns cold again, don't fret. The seeds will simply lay dormant until the soil warms up enough for them to sprout, usually around or above 60 degrees. Then you'll see gourds growing all over the place.
We live in the Northern part of the country and summers here are short. Is there something we can do to help our gourds get a head start?
Gourds need a long growing season in our hot sunny climate. Ornamentals need about 100 days from sprouting to maturity. Hardshells, Lagenaria, take 120-140 days, depending on the size and thickness of its shell. Luffas take 140 days. Luffas are slower to sprout and will mature late. They like especially hot weather. Water all gourds regularly during the early growing season. When the gourds are mature, usually September or October, stop watering altogether. To discontinue the heavy watering in August is a trigger for the gourds to start the drying and hardening off process. (Again, losing 20 to 30% of the gourds is normal.) I like to use the hard shell gourds with thick walls. They are sturdier for the crafting I do with them.
You'll know your gourds are ripe when it gets to the advertised size for that variety and the stem turns brown.
Gourds generally have few problems. However there are a few pests to watch for. Cucumber Beetles, Squash bugs, Squash vine borer, Cut worms, and Aphids are all possible pests. Gourds can also develop bacterial wilt. If the plant dies, take it out and treat the other vines. Use your organic remedies or the chemicals on the market.
PREVENTION is always the best alternative. Companion planting helps. Some plants to use with gourds: radishes, catnip, broccoli, tansy, dill, marigolds and even the Buffalo Gourd, which is a native that is bitter and smells even worse that the Lagenaria, hard shells.
I have a lot of gourds on my plants, but they're not very big. How can I get my plants to produce bigger ones?
Find the end of a vine. Now, follow it back to its first junction. If nothing is growing on it, then simply clip it at the junction using a pair of pruning shears. Again, find another end, follow it to the junction and clip it. Continue this until a good bunch of the ‘excess’ vines are removed. By trimming from the tips of the vines, you won't make a mistake and cut the wrong vines with the gourds on them. When you come to a gourd that you want to keep, clip the vine leaving about a foot or two of extra vine BEYOND the gourd. If I do clip, I usually leave one or two extra leaves. The object is to leave about half the original vines on the plants. Also, to get good gourd size and growth, I rarely leave more than 2 or 3 gourds on a single plant. I have a lot of room and sometimes, I find only one or two gourds that I feel are worth keeping. In this case, I remove all the others so that all the nutrients will go to these.
Once you have your magic number of gourds established, you can pinch or cut any remaining blooms and gourds from the vines. Do this by simply clipping them near the vine and discarding them. This will force the plant to put all its food into the remaining vines and gourds. This will usually produce only a few, but very large gourds. And, if you stop to think about it, if 1 plant is able to produce 3 gourds and you have 10 plants, that will make 30 large gourds, and that's a lot of gourds.
Gardeners become concerned when gourd plants blossom, but do not set fruit. Gourds produce separate male and female flowers. Male flowers serve as the pollinator and female flowers bear fruit. The female flower can be distinguished by the presence of the immature fruit at its base. Several male flowers are produced before any female flowers, and it is these male flowers that drop without setting fruit. In time, both male and female flowers are produced and the first fruit is set.
Insects and Diseases
There are several serious pests of gourds. Insect pests include the squash bug, squash vine borer, cucumber beetle and aphids. Diseases include bacterial wilt, powdery mildew, angular leaf spot and mosaic viruses. See the listing of related fact sheets for details on these problems and their controls.
Do you have to harvest gourds before frost? Well yes and no. Lagenaria species will tolerate some frost but cucurbita varieties will not. You can know which you have by the flower color. Lagenaria flowers are white while cucurbita flowers are yellow.
Do not cut the gourds until the stems and tendrils are brown. Another way to tell that they are ready is to wait until the gourd begins to become light weight. This will mean that the pulp is drying, that its water is evaporating and it is fully mature. If you take a gourd before it is ready it will shrivel and rot. Remember: you can never leave a gourd on the vine too long, but you can cut it too soon. Leave at least an inch or two of the vine for esthetics sake; also it gives you a handle!!! As gourds dry, they will form a mold on the outer skin. This is normal. Gourds can be stored in any aerated dry place, such as a barn, garage, attic, etc. or they can be left on the vine. The time for them to be completely dry varies with the size and thickness of the shell. (usually between one and six months) They should be brown and the seeds rattle to be dry enough to craft.
What types of gourds are there?
The family Cucurbitaceae include crops like cucumbers, squashes (including pumpkins), luffas, and melons. However, the term 'gourd' can, more specifically, refer to the hard-rinded inedible fruits of the plants of the two Cucurbitaceae genera Lagenaria and Cucurbita and to their dried fruit shells, often used for ornament, instruments, utensils and vessels.
Hard-shell varieties include Bushel, Indonesian Bottle, Birdhouse or Martin, Basketball, Trumpet, Maranka, Zucca, Dipper (long or short handled), & Sensai (small bottle). The lagenaria or hard-shelled are the premier crafting gourds. They're the big ones people make shekeres out of, & big bowls & long ladles. Sometimes you can find them at farmer's markets, but not as readily as the soft-shelled. I've seen lagenaria gourds whose walls (shells) were half an inch thick! People make drums out of hard-shelled gourds. Many are suitable for carving, with shells dense & strong enough to treat much like wood: You can screw into them, hinge them, wood burn, drill holes, have all kinds of fun with a Dremel or similar high-speed crafting drill, cut them with a band saw or jigsaw, & sand them on a belt sander!
Let’s start by growing Birdhouse Gourds
Growing birdhouse gourds and then preparing them as a bird’s next prime real estate is a garden project that anyone can do and a great circle-of-life lesson plan for kids (or you, if you need one). Gourd birdhouses are attractive to many species of birds including wrens, chickadees, swallows, bluebirds, titmice, and nuthatches.
If you want to train them up a trellis or fence, plant the seeds about 2’-3’ apart (intersperse pea seeds in between if you’d like). Birdhouse gourds like well-drained soil and some compost or composted manure tossed in there once in a while.
The gourds will tolerate a light frost, so let them ripen on the vine as long as possible. But soon after that, you’ll need to harvest them and bring them indoors for several months to cure the rest of the way. The gourds will be ready to harvest when the stems turn brown, but as I said, if Jack Frost has brought more than two suitcases, he’s there to stay so go ahead and bring the gourds inside.
Take a sharp knife and cut the stem of the gourd from the vine. Leave about 1 ½ to 2 inches of the stem for a nice handle. Handle the gourds carefully because they bruise easily at this stage. Wipe off any moisture and keep them in a cool and airy place to dry for maybe 3 months. It’s hard to say exactly how long it will take for them to fully mature, but suffice it to say; the smaller ones will be ready faster, etc. If mold appears, just scrape it off with a knife. If any of the gourds get soft or mushy – toss it into the compost pile (because I know you have a compost pile).
During the curing process, the gourds could go from pale ivories, rusts, beiges or mottled gray colors; each one will be unique. Bottles that are fully dry or cured will be light-weight (nothing like when you first harvested them), light brown and hard. The seeds inside will rattle when you give the bottle a shake
Additional information from: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1630.html
Next article we will check out the types of gourds.
|, gourds, grow|
|Single Senior Citizen, engaged in crafts. I like painting gourds, rocks and sewing various craft items: animals, dolls, quilts, and I like doing floral arrangements and mini-gardens.|
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Comments and discussion:
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|lots of great information!||Zanymuse||Jul 29, 2011 5:53 PM||9|