In the first portion of this tutorial I will explain how to grow gourds as I have been told. In the second, I will update my own gourd growing diary with the hopes that others can learn from my mistakes!!!
Gourds (Cucurbita species) are very closely related to cucumbers, squash and melons. They take anywhere from 120-180 days to grow. Therefore, should be planted as early in the season as possible, as soon as the danger of frost has passed. Soaking the seeds for about 24 hours the night before, will encourage faster germination. Plant the seeds in full sun and thin to a plant about every 12 inches as soon as they are 1 inch tall. Gourd vines will trail and it's best if you plant them near a fence or strong trellis. They will also trail along the ground. However, they will have flat and unsightly water spots if grown this way. Manure and compost added to the soil prior to planting would be the best way to feed your gourds. Pinching off the ends of the vines once they have reached a considerable length will encourage lateral growth. (and more gourds ;-) The vines will begin dieing sometime in the late Fall.
Drying the Gourds
The easiest way to dry your gourds is to simply leave them on the vines and let nature do the work. They are ready to harvest when they are completely brown/tan and the seeds rattle inside.
This is my first try at growing my own gourds. I guess I should begin by telling you how I planted my seeds..................Last Summer and Fall, as I was gourd crafting, I dumpted my seeds out along my back fence rather than throwing them in the trash. Low and behold Spring came and all these baby gourd plants started popping up around my fence. Of course, I have no idea what different types I have growing.........Now, my fence isn't in great shape so I have decided to build a structure for them to grow on. Brian suggested using EMT so, around mid-March when my plants were about 5 leaves tall, he placed (4) 1-1/2" x 6' pieces in the ground. 2 at each end which are connected with plumbing elbows and then we attached a role of wire mesh on the top. For stability we have ropes connected to the top of each end pulling outward and held into the ground using rebar.
in mid-April the vines started growing fast and the wire started sagging a bit so, we decided to place a "T" structure in the ground right in the center. I have now begun cutting the ends off the vines when they appear to be 10 feet long. I am feeding with a lot of Miracle Grow.
April 30th - There are a lot of flowers now. All of them are males though.
May 10th - I am noticing some small female flowers now.
May 15th - The female flowers that have bloomed over the past few days have only stayed open overnight and died the next day. The gourds are not developing and are turning yellow and feel mushy??? I am going to try hand pollinating the next ones with a paint brush. I am hoping this is the problem since I have not been seeing any bees or butterflies hanging around.
Left: The female flower can be identified by the bulb under the bloom. This bulb will become the gourd if it's pollinated.
Right: The male flower only has a small bump under the bloom.
May 23rd - The flower pictured above will be open tonight so I am going to put on my bee suit and see if I can't make a gourd ;-)
I am starting to notice some mistakes I have made!!!!! I left a gap of only 6 inches between my fence and the gourds and I really underestimated the plants! They are trying to go over the fence and I am having to go out twice a day and untwine them to force them to grow only on my side............ I am also afraid that my structure isn't nearly large enough for the 3 or 4 plants that are growing on it!
May 26th - I went out of town for the weekend and was happy to find that my pollination worked!!!! That was so fast! I now have a baby gourd growing. It is some type of bottle gourd. (Makes me a little nervous because one of the bottle gourds I dumpted along the fence was 42" in circum., I don't think my trellis could take many of those......... I will have to be carefull to make sure to use the male flowers from the same vine as the female when I pollinate, as I have no idea if the pollination will work if it occours with a different type of gourd. I may have several different types growing.
Below are some pics I took today. Including one of my new baby gourd. It's about 1-1/2"long.
June 1st - The gourd that was just a baby a few days ago has grown enough to weight itself down now, as you can see below. I am also noticing that one of the vines has what appears to be something other than bottle gourds growing on it. At this point I am still happy with pollinating the gourds myself (since my insecticides are keeping all the bugs away). It appears to be working and though all my friends think I am a big dork because I have to be home every night to catch my flowers opening, it's worth not having a bug problem! This morning I pollinated 6 gourds and used my pantyhose ties to tie up all the runners again. I will probably stop pollinating them myself next week because I am not sure how many more gourds this trellis can withstand once they get big.
These vines are completely out of control! I have to tie up new pieces every day so that I can keep walking under the trellis and the growth is so thick that I have started cutting away leaves just so that I can find the flowers. I am now running a broom stick up the back of the trellis along the fence line every evening to pull the vines down that are trying to grow in my neighbors yard so that she doesn't start pulling them off herself. (She's a bit crabby..........)
I'll have to quickly think of a way to support tons of vines that are taking off to the right (in the picture) of the trellis. They're starting to anchor to the grass and I really don't want gourd vines growing all over my yard. It's already small enough!
Left: My first gourd, now heavy enough to weight itself into a vertical position.
Right: Here is a picture of the trellis on June 1st.
Right: Here is a picture of the trellis on June 10th. It's too late to worry about the vines taking over my grass! As you can see in the pic. they are now running down both fences to the left and the right of the trellis..........
Here are some pics from July 4th
Above:The vines are overtaking everything now!!..........
area of the vines under the trellis where dipper gourds are predominate.
June 16th - So far I have found long & short handled dippers, as well as, bottle gourds. The only gourds that have been succesful are the ones I have pollinated myself (due to the Seven Dust, I am certain). I started treating the vines for leaf spot and aphids yesterday. The vines are not looking too good and some of the older gourds are oozing a red substance. I am treating with a liquid fungicide to try and cure the problem.............In hindsight, I would have started treating with the fungicide earlier. I noticed the leaves being deformed two or three weeks ago. The fungus seems to have traveled half way through each vine. Boy, this is a lot of work (I might leave up to the real farmers next year. I must say, however, that if I do end up with any gourds I will be very happy with all of my efforts!
The good news.................The vines have tripled the number of female flowers they are producing! It seems that the more I trim the vines, the more runners come off and they produce more of the females than males. I had mentioned before that I wasn't sure whether or not the flower that pollinated the female was important as to which type gourd it is..........I have had several pollinations fail so far and they all seem to be the ones that the vines were intertwined and I wasn't sure if the male flower I was using was from the same vine as the female or not. I do believe now that it does matter and that the flower should be from the same vine or at least the same type of gourd. This may seem silly to someone that is an experienced gourd farmer, but, I have had no idea what I am doing from the beginning of this experience.
July 20 - Well, above is a pic of what my trellis currently looks like (with my son standing underneath). As you can see, the vines have completely taken over my back yard..............I am noticing more moths and flying insects now and seeing some gourds hiding that I did not pollinate myself. On given days the vines are growing up to 3 feet long or more. I am no longer spraying them with anything.
August 8 - I have received so many wonderful emails from all of you!!!! I hate to report that my nasty neighbor (which I mentioned earlier in this diary) sprayed my gourd vines and everything else in my backyard with grass killer!!!!! It has taken me several days to be able to write here again............I have been watching them die slowly and don't have much hope of salvaging any of the vines.
I will continue to try to save what's left so don't give up on me..............Keep checking back ;)
August 22- Well, I am so happy to report that my gourd plants are coming back with twice as much gusto as before (which is quite incredible)! I have 5 new gourds just from the past week. Not only that...........When all the vines started dying the large gourds started just dropping to the ground. Assuming they were too immature and that they were going to rot, I just stacked them on the ground under my trellis. They all seem to be drying just fine. Not even one of them is rotting! I guess I have an angel watching down over me ;) They rains are really bad right now, almost every day. I'm in Houston, Texas. So, the bugs are a problem right now. However, I am just too thankfull that I have atleast salvaged 20 or more gourds to complain too much about that! I will add more pics in a few weeks.
August 26- My goodness. I am producing more flowers than ever! I have pollinated several flowers each night over the past several days! I have noticed a huge moth( This thing is the size of a humming bird, and I'm not exagerating!) on my plants each night also. The thing must be blind because it flys into me everytime I get close to the vines. It has pollinated a few flowers that I didn't even notice this week.
I am taking great care to not let the vines go over my fence! One of my NICE neighbors called me over to see that they have a few gourds hanging on their side. They were happy to know that they could keep them ;)
Also.....one of the gourds that had fallen off the vine when my neighbor sprayed me with the grass killer is almost dry already. The rest are doing good still and I don't seem to have any rotting yet. Some are still fallen off. I think I have about ten that have fallen so far.
September 23- I am still producing gourds, though the weather is cooling down and I can see that some of the vines are beginning to slow growth. The tropical storm we had a few weeks ago got the vines flowering again and I can see 20 or 30 babies. However, I don't think many of them will have time to mature. Out of the 10 gourds I had laying under the trellis which had fallen off the vines, I believe 2 of them rotted. Other than that they all seem to be drying well, with 2 already completely dry. My vines have a lot of worms on them. I am not spraying with bug killer, just walking them in the evenings picking off the ones I find. They are causing some damage but, it's late enough in the season now that I'm not worried about it.
The main stalk from my dominate vine ended up to be almost the size of my wrist and the growth (so far) extends 60 ft or so. It's amazing to wonder just how much they would have grown if the hadn't almost been completely killed back only a short time ago! I don't think I'll do this again until I have a few acres of my own :)
October 5- A bunch of the gourds that were just babies last week are almost big enough to survive now. My Luna Moth is still coming at night so I haven't been hand pollinating at all.
The weather is still warm. We're averaging 90 during the day and around 70 at night. A cold front will pass this weekend. Surely the vines will die off soon. I cut down more gourds that had brown stems and they seem to be drying just fine. I think I have around 20 on the ground now and maybe 30 still on the vines. That doesn't include the 10 or so that have pollinated this week (as, I'm not sure if they will have time to mature). I couldn't resist and cut open one of the gourds that had dried just to see how thick it was. It was OK, though, not as thick as I was hoping. I do hope the bottle gourds are thicker! The one I cut was a dipper
I have had a few e-mails about whether or not holes should be drilled in the bottom of the gourds to help them dry. I have not done this and am having a great success rate........However, I am not sure if it would help if the gourds are really thick or in different regions where the weather differs from mine.
October 12- I now have 27 gourds drying under my trellis - some of them are even completely dry now (see the pic below)
I am finding that most of them aren't staying on the vine long enough to dry completely. As the vines and stems are turning brown the weight of the gourd is too heavy and it falls to the ground. So, I am now cutting them off and placing them on wood under my trellis when I see the stems browning.
The weather finally started cooling down this week and the cold front passing through this weekend will most definately assure that we won't see many more 90 degree days ;)
All of the gourds that pollinated a couple of weeks ago that were less that 1" long already have died. So, I think what I have now will be all I end up with! Here are my most recent pics........
The Decorated Gourd
Perhaps my favorite gourd book! Many gourd projects with step-by-step instructions and some pretty neat techniques using crayons, hot glue, and other items from around the house
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