Are you thinking of decorating your home with gourds? This decorative squash will not only make your home looks attractive. But, it also allows you to create various crafts from it, such as water bottles, musical instruments, candy bowels, and utensils. For those purposes, you had better growing gourds in your garden instead of buying them.
- 1 A Brief History of Gourds
- 2 Gourd Plant Characteristics
- 3 Basic Requirements of Growing Gourds
- 4 Types of Gourds to Grow
- 5 Growing Gourds Tips
- 6 Growing Gourds from Seeds
- 7 Storing and Drying Gourds
A Brief History of Gourds
Gourds have been cultivated since antiquity. There is some evidence that this vegetable was cultivated 13.000 ago. Ancient Egyptians had used bottle gourds as water bottles. On the other hand, the Chinese modified the shapes of gourds for a certain religious purpose. Meanwhile, Native Americans used this squash to create bird houses. These days, people are growing gourds for decoration and crafts.
Gourd Plant Characteristics
Gourds are hard-shelled decorative squash species that come from the family of Cucurbitaceae. In general, these plants are native to Asia, Africa, and other warm temperate climates. In the US, gourds can grow well in USDA zones 3 to 10.
Moreover, they need a long growing season to reach maturity. Some species require 180 days to mature and others need 120 days. Therefore, patient is needed during the process of growing gourds. These particular vegetable plants have a trailing habit. The vines can grow very long, up to 9 m long.
When the plants are mature they will start flowering. Some of them have yellow flowers and others are white. Gourds have separated female and male flowers. It is very easy to tell the difference since the female ones have bulbs at their base and bloom on the side stems.
When the flowers are pollinated by insects, they will develop fruits. The shape and size of the fruits are varied depend on the species. In addition, most of them have hard rind in various colors, such as orange, green, and white. But, other ornamental gourds, such as luffa, do not have hard shell.
Basic Requirements of Growing Gourds
There are some basic requirements that must be met when you are growing gourds. Without these requirements, your gourd plants will likely to suffer from some problems. Here are 4 basic requirements in growing this decorative squash.
Gourds are adaptable to various types of soil, such as sandy, loam, and clay soil. However, the soil must have good drainage. Similar to pumpkins, gourds are greedy feeder. Therefore, they will grow well only in soil that is rich in organic matter. In addition, soil with pH level of 6 to 7.5 is ideal to grow this decorative squash.
Before you start growing gourds, you need to make sure that your garden gets plenty of sunlight. It is because these vegetable plants will only thrive in full sun. If they do not get 6 hours of per day, they will be prone to diseases. Moreover, they may not be able to produce fruits.
During their growing season, gourds require plenty of water. It is recommended to water them deeply once a week, about 2.5 cm deep. When you are watering them, you must only moisten the soil. It is because getting the plants wet can make them prone to disease.
Gourds grow well in warm temperature because they are warm season plants. The seeds will only germinate when the weather is warm and all the dangers of late spring frost has passed. Once the seed germinated, the young plants need temperature between 21oC and 30oC to reach maturity.
Types of Gourds to Grow
When you are growing gourds, you will have choices of gourd types or varieties to grow. Each of them is unique and serves different purposes.
1. Daisy gourd
This decorative squash is one of the cultivars of Cucurbita pepo. This plant produces small orange, yellow, or green fruits, about 7 cm wide and 2 cm tall. One of the things that make this gourd special is its shape. From the top, they look like flowers, particularly daisy. That’s why people call them daisy gourd.
This type of gourd will mature in 95 days if planted in the right condition. Similar to most gourds, it loves sun and rich fertile soil. The vines of this plant grow up to 4.5 m long. However, you can trail them to grow on a trellis.
2. Turks turban squash
If you are looking for unique fall decoration, you must plant Turks turban which is a clutivar of Cucurbita maxima. It is colorful and looks like a turban. The bottom part usually has strong orange color and the upper part is a combination of white, orange, and green. It is large with diameter of about 25 cm wide and weight of about 3 kg.
This edible squash is ready to harvest in about 95 days to 120 days. Plenty watering, full sun, and rich well-drained soil are needed by this plant. Since it has bigger fruit, training this plant on a trellis may not be the best idea.
3. Lagenaria siceraria
This hard-shelled squash is one of the favorite gourds to grow. It is usually made into musical instruments, kitchen utensils, bowls, water bottles, and birdhouse. Therefore, it is sometimes called bottle gourd or birdhouse gourd.
This squash requires 120 days to 140 days to reach maturity. Moreover, its vine will grow up to 9 m. However, you don’t need to worry that it will invade your garden since it can be trained to climb on a trellis.
4. Luffa cylindrical
This type of gourd is from the family of cucumber. It has cucumber-like shape and green and soft skin. However, it is bigger than cucumber. When it is dried, its flesh will turn like sponge. You can use it as bath sponge or craft materials. This climbing plant needs a trellis as a support. In addition, this gourd requires long growing season, about 150 days to 200 days, to rich maturity.
5. Apple gourd
Another unique gourd that you can plant is apple gourd, a cultivar of L. siceraria. The vines of this plant grow pretty long, about 3 m long. Meanwhile, the fruits look like large apples with green skin. The size of apple gourds is 10 cm wide and 20 cm tall. They are perfect for various crafts. However, you need to wait for 120 days to harvest this fruit.
Growing Gourds Tips
Growing gourds is actually pretty easy. You don’t need to have a green thumb to grow this vegetable. However, there may be some challenges that you need to face in growing it. To deal with these challenges, you can follow the tips below.
1. Hand pollination
Relying on insects to pollinate gourd flowers is not always the best idea. If you do not see enough bees flying around these flowers, it is better for you to perform hand pollination. This method will improve your chance of success in growing gourds.
Hand pollination is easy to do. You only have to pick some male flowers, the ones without bulbs at their bottom. After that, remove all their petals and brush the remaining flowers to the female ones. Performing this pollination is an excellent way to increase yield.
2. Don’t grow gourds closely to each other
If you want to grow various types of gourds, it is a must for you to pay attention on their distance. Growing gourds closely to each other may result in cross pollination, especially if they are of the same species.
In consequence, the fruits of the gourd you plant will bear unique seeds. And if you plant them next spring, you will get new fruits with different characteristics from the mother plants. Therefore, you must plant your gourds away from each other.
3. Avoid growing gourds on the same spot for 2 years in a row
If you are growing gourds this year and want to plant them again next year, you must not grow them at the same spot. Growing these plants on the same planting site for two years in a row will cause the plant to be prone to diseases and pest attack. Therefore, you had better perform crop rotation in your garden. It will give you a success in growing decorative squash in the next spring.
4. Use row cover to protect cool temperature
If you live in an area with short growing season, your gourd plants may be exposed from non-ideal temperature in the fall. Therefore, it is important to protect them from the cooler air. There are several ways to do it. One of them is installing a row cover. This cover will keep the plants warm and healthy. As a result, you will have a good harvest
5. Best time to grow gourds
When you are growing gourds, it is essential to start them at the right time. Growing them too early when the temperature is cool will cause the planted seeds to rot. Therefore, you need to wait until the temperature is warm enough. Some experts said that the best time to grow these hard-shelled squash is when the soil temperature is at least of 15oC.
6. Start seeds indoors
For you who live in northern regions, it is recommended to sow gourd seeds indoors about 6 weeks before the last frost date. And when the temperature is warm enough, you can transplant them in your garden. Sowing the seeds indoors at that time will allow you to provide the amount of frost free days needed by this pant to grow.
Growing Gourds from Seeds
If you never grow hard-shelled and decorative squash before, you don’t need to worry. Growing this vegetable is not difficult. These are the steps of growing gourds.
1. Planting site preparation
Gourd plants take lots of space of your garden. Therefore, it is important for you to choose the best location to grow it so thatthey will not disturb other plants. Afterward, you need to work the soil by loosening it, layering it with compost, and adjust its acidity level. You may also need to prepare the trellis for the plants to climb.
2. Sowing the seeds
If you live in southern area, you had better sow the seeds directly to the ground. It will help you to avoid transplanting shock which can cause failure in growing gourds. Once you have worked the soil and the weather is warm, you can start planting the gourd seeds 2 cm deep and moist the soil regularly. Sow 4 seeds per hole and space them 1.5 m apart.
When the seedlings have several leaves, you can thin them to 3 plants per group. You may need to thin them again if one of them is not healthy. If it is impossible for you to perform direct sowing, you can sow seeds indoors. Use peat pots to sow the seeds so that you can avoid transplanting shock. Moreover, you must harden the seedlings for about 2 weeks before you transplant them.
3. Caring for the plants
When you are growing gourds, you need to make sure that they get enough water and nutrients. Therefore, you must water them deeply once a week. It is important to maintain the soil moisture, but you must not get it soggy. Moreover, you need to fertilize the plant with low nitrogen fertilizer when they start flowering.
It is also important to cut the main stem when they are about 3 m long. Doing it will encourage side stem growth. Therefore, you will have more fruits to harvest.
Harvesting is the best part of growing gourds. When the stem’s color turns brown, you can harvest the fruits. In addition, ready to harvest gourds are usually more light weight. When you are cutting the gourds, be sure that they have long enough stems attach to them. Meanwhile, luffa must be harvested when the stem dry and the skin brown.
Storing and Drying Gourds
After the harvest, you need to store and dry the gourds properly. Perfectly dried hard-shelled gourds can last for years. Some gourds can be left on the plants to dry. However, it only works if you live in warm areas with less rain.
If your environment doesn’t allow you to dry gourds under the sun, you must store them in a dry room with good air circulation, such as garage, barn, and attic. Arrange the decorative squash so that they are not skin to skin.
Moreover, you must turn them periodically so that the whole fruits are dry. It may need 1 to 6 months to dry them. One of the signs that they are completely dry is the rattle sound produced when you shake them.
Growing gourds is an easy thing to do. You don’t need to be an expert to do it. For best result, choose gourd varieties that match the growing season of your area. Therefore, you can grow them more effortlessly.