Growing Gourds can be a rewarding experience. Though the starting and sprouting of the gourd seeds, planting in the pots, transplanting in the garden after danger of frost is over, the taking care of the gourd plants by making sure they are no insects and diseases and finally waiting for the harvest in the fall.
STEP 1: SPACE The first thing about growing gourds that you have enough room for the plants and its vines. Gourd vines can be very vigorous and take as much room as pumpkins.
STEP 2: WHAT KIND There are over 30 different types and varieties of hardshell gourds (the larger types), another 10 or so of the ornamental gourds (the smaller types) and finally the luffa gourds (sponge gourds).
STEP 3: BUYING & ORDERING Many gourd seeds can be found at local garden centers but if you want more varieties, then you may have to order from the various mail order seed companies and for the very special types, there are gourd seed supplies on the internet and one list is at http://www.foothillsfarm.com/gourdchannel/gourdseedssuppliers/gourdseedsuppliers.htm
STEP 4: GERMINATION At Foothills Farm, we start our seeds using a safe heating pad covered with waterproof plastic, put gourd seeds in moist paper towels on the covered heating pad with the gourd seeds in the moist paper towels covered with a old towel to retain heat. This method helps to have a higher germination rate for the gourd seeds. Check after several days to see if the seeds have sprouted. If the gourd seeds have not sprouted, some gourd growers will also clip near the narrow end of the gourd seeds with a fingernail clip. This seems to help germinated the gourd seeds. Heating Pads that are safe to use are available at various garden centers.
STEP 5: POTTING Is to put the germinated seeds in small pots filled with potting soil or some growers use the Jiffy Pot© types. Within several days, the gourd plant will start to grow in the small pots. Again at Foothills Farm, we start our gourd plants inside. For a average backyard gardeners, their gourd plants can be placed in south facing window sills. Gourd plant normally have a very long growing season (110 to 135 days) and by starting inside, helps to gain a advantage in the late spring. At Foothills Farm, in March or April, we will place these gourd plants in our greenhouses. If the gourd plants grow too large for the small pots, they are transplanted into larger containers.
STEP 6: PLANTING Is the planting of the gourd plant in the garden. In central Ohio, we recommend waiting until at least May 15 or later to make that there is no danger of frost. Any frost at all will damage your gourd plants. Some growers will direct seed the gourd seed bypassing the transplanting stages above. If this is the case, make sure that the soil temperatures is warm enough to ensure germination. This method is normally used for the smaller gourds such as the ornamentals. Make sure that your soil is fertile enough and within the proper PH range.
STEP 7: TAKING CARE OF THE GOURD PLANT Gourd plants are very susceptible to disease and insects. A lot of the newer gourd growers will start to have healthy plants and midway through the season suffer loss all or part of their gourd vines. This generally because of various insects such as the cucumber beetle biting the stems and infecting the gourd plant with a virus. It is the virus that eventfully kills the gourd plant. Through the growing season, it is important to monitor your gourd patch and use either organic or standard methods of disease and insect control. In addition, after transplanting, make sure that your gourd method have enough water to survive in the early stages. At Foothills Farm, we do not normally irrigate unless is a very dry summer. In order to have new gourds in the fall, the flowers on the gourd vines need to be pollinated. Some gourd growers will hand pollinated their gourd plants by using a cotton swab. At Foothills Farm, we rely on natural pollination from both honey bees and other types of beneficial insects. It is important, if you are using sprays to control damaging insects not to spray when the honey bees are out. Normally, we spray in the late evening after most of the bees have left. If you are going to use sprays, it is important to have a regular spray schedule throughout the summer. If the gourd vines, start to wilt, it may be to late to control the disease. Very important, use only approved insecticides and fungicides. Contact your local county agricultural extension agent for more information.
STEP 8: LATE FALL With the onset of late summer and early fall, you will notice in the gourd patch many new gourds within the vines. They might be hard to see since when they are growing, they are almost the same color as the gourd vines. Be careful when walking though the gourd patch not to step on the gourd vines and the gourds. In mid-September, because of the shorter days, it is not uncommon for some of the gourd vines to start to wither. This is not always because of any problems with the gourd vines but a natural process going into the fall. If you using spray to control insects, it is still important to continue doing this so the insects will not bore holes into the green gourds.
STEP 9: HARVESTING This can be the most enjoying part of growing gourds. At Foothills Farm, we normally wait until after frost and the gourd vines have died. After this, it is very easy to find and harvest the gourds. If you want, you check the gourd patch before frost and see if any gourds have already started to dry on the vine. It is okay to harvest these before frost.
STEP 10: DRYING We collect all the gourds and place the better ones either on drying racks which is outside or on racks in the greenhouse. The extra gourds we simply place them on black plastic mulch on the ground where they can receive plenty of sunshine to aid in the drying process. The amount of time to dry gourds on when the gourd was dried on the vine, size of the gourd, type of gourd, thickest of the gourd and the weather through the fall, winter and early spring months. On a hot dry growing season, you may have a few gourds already dry in the fall, we normally start to have gourds to dry for sale by February or March. However, we always have some that may not dry until following May. During the drying period, it helps to check on your gourds if they are outside and make sure that they are not rotting, if so then throw them away. A few growers will also dry the gourds inside where it is warming. This does help, especially if you have a warm dry room. If you place the green gourds in a dark cool place, you may lose them due to rot. If you are drying gourds inside, wipe off any mold with weak bleach as needed.
STEP 11: CLEANING THE GOURDS If you are going to use the gourds for crafts, they have to be cleaned. Cleaning gourds is not hard but it may take some time. If you have a washtub, just put some warm water in it, place the gourds in the tub with soap and scrub the gourds with the brushes. This may take some “elbow grease” to clean them. After they are cleaned, then let them dry.