Celebrate Fall in your garden! Here are 5 great tips to growing gourds in your garden, brought to us by regular contributor, Megan Wild.
Growing Gourds – Celebrate Fall In Your Garden
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Tips for Growing Gourds
You’ve probably started seeing them in fall décor, and in the spring you might have seen them put out for birds to nest in. You don’t need to shell out money for these decorative staples: Did you know you can grow your own ornamental gourds as a fun project with your children, or just to have a surplus for decorating next season? While they have a long growing period before the gourds can be harvested, they are very easy to start from seeds.
Here’s how you can grow your own gourds and enjoy them from season to season.
Getting to Know Your Gourds
Gourds are a vining fruit that actually includes watermelons, pumpkins, squash, melons and cucumbers. There are three basic types of gourds that are grown for decoration or for crafts and utensils.
- Vegetable sponge gourds (luffa) have an exterior shell that is removed after they are harvested. It is the center of the gourd that is used as a sponge. Once dried, the luffa sponge can be used as an exfoliating scrub when bathing. If you make your own soap, you can also slice a luffa and pour your homemade soap over it in a mold to make an exfoliating bar.
- Ornamental gourds are typically the ones used in decorating. They can be unusually shaped and brightly colored. Small ornamental gourds can be dried and preserved, but large ornamental gourds will not be suitable for drying.
- Utilitarian gourds will be green while they grow, but will dry to a brown color with a tough shell. These can be used for bird houses, crafts and if left to grow on the ground with a flat side, can also be cut in half to use for bowls.
Constructing Your Garden
Since gourds are big sun lovers, you should select an area in your yard that gets full sun with well-drained soil. You may also want to enrich the soil with compost or organic material. If you intend to use your gourds for decoration, you should construct a trellis that will support your growing gourds, unless you are planning to grow utilitarian gourds for bowls.
Preparing the Seeds
Gourd seeds can have a hard outer shell, which can cause them to take an extra-long time to germinate. To help speed up the process, you can scarify them by roughing up the surface with sandpaper or a nail file. You will need to gently rough up both sides of the seed. After you have done that, soak them in a bowl of lukewarm water for 24 hours, and then let them completely dry so they won’t rot before they sprout.
Caring for Your Plants
If you have a long winter, you can start your seeds indoors. Be sure to wait until all danger of frost is gone before planting them in your garden. Since gourds are a vine, they will need plenty of room in the garden if you will be letting them grow on the ground. If you will be using a trellis, make sure it will support the weight of your growing crop.
While they can be resistant to pests and disease, they don’t like weeds, so be sure to weed your garden regularly. If you are growing in a climate that tends to be extremely hot and dry, you will want to make sure your gourds get plenty of TLC and water.
Gathering Your Harvest
If you plan on drying, or curing, your gourds, you should start by leaving them on the vine as long as possible. Check them every few days to make sure they haven’t started to rot or have become a snack for wildlife. A good indication that your gourd is ready to cut is when the vine has turned brown. Curing gourds can take a while, so be patient and don’t try to rush them. You may want to plan on using your dried gourds the year following the harvest to give them sufficient time to dry.
If you are growing gourds for decoration, don’t seal them with any kind of varnish or shellac, since that will seal in moisture and cause them to rot. If you want them to appear polished, you can use a liquid floor wax instead.
Growing gourds for decoration and crafting can become a fun hobby for novice gardeners, bird lovers and children. It can also become a lucrative business depending on your creative skills and imagination. With so many different uses for gourds, as well as their various colors and sizes, the only limit to what you can make with them is what you don’t think of.
See what Lorelai does with her pumpkins. Click HERE!
Visit Megan at her blog, Your Wild Home!
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