Most gardening lovers have tried their hand at growing zucchini and mainly use their crops for food, but there aren’t many people out there who know how to plant gourds.
They also don’t realize how many different ways that ornamental gourds are used to make household items and decorations. The birdhouse gourd plant and luffa gourd are both plants that may surprise you with their versatility.
Before you can make anything out of a gourd, you must understand the methods for planting gourd seeds and raising them to maturity. Gourd vines, also called Lagenaria siceraria spp., are from the Cucurbita family.
Cucurbits include veggies like squash, and if you can grow one, growing the rest is simple. You don’t have to already be a master gardener to grow birdhouse gourds in your garden. However, it does take you a big step closer to becoming one.
People enjoy learning how to plant gourds and become good at growing zucchini and decorative gourds because they have an appreciation for their unique, lumpy appearance. Most of us think of a gourd plant and imagine fall decorations. There is more you can create with these plants.
Shell gourds and the birdhouse gourd plants are hard-shell cultivars and are large enough to turn into musical instruments. A Dipper and Bottle gourd have long enough bodies to turn into eating utensils.
Sponge gourds, or luffa gourds, are cultivated and harvested to give us a natural loofah that we use in the bath. While not many home growers plant gourds for food, they are growing gourds for more practical reasons.
Planting gourds is easier if you live in USDA hardiness zones three through ten. Some species originate in southern Africa and Asia, with others cultivated earlier than 13,000 B.C.
The American gourds that we are used to are an Asian subspecies. All gourds fall under the categories of hard-shell gourds or sponge gourds.
Hard-shell gourds usually produce beautiful white blossoms that grow on long vines and produce fruits. They come in a decent range of shapes, textures, and sizes.
This category includes the Speckled Swan, Bottle, Penguin, Dipper, and Powderhorn gourd varieties. These plants are dried after harvest and only edible when immature.
Once dried, they are kept indefinitely and used for crafts like birdhouses, bottles, bowls, and maracas.
Sponge gourds have much softer bodies and have closer relations to edible fruits like squash and pumpkins. They have colorful fruits and flowers that are visually stunning throughout the growing season.
Information on Planting Gourds
Learning how to plant gourds is a fun challenge you should try if you’re sick of the same old fruits and vegetables every year. Grab a few different types of gourds and plant them simultaneously since they all require the same growing conditions. It’s quite similar to growing pumpkins.
How to Plant Gourds
Planting gourds is possible either from gourd seeds or transplants. If using seeds, you’ll have to propagate them yourself. We think this is the easiest option.
The best way to plant gourds is to wait until after the last frost of the spring after the cold weather has started to warm. The danger of frost won’t always kill your plants, but it isn’t ideal for them and could prevent germination.
If you prefer to have a bit of a head start on the season, like when growing cucumbers from seeds, start them indoors in peat pots. Gourds like to grow in hills of dirt to ensure that there is plenty of nutrition for each plant.
Gourds are heavy feeders, and the mounds maximize the airflow and minimize excessive humidity that prevents the spread of diseases like powdery mildew.
Knowing how far apart to plant gourds is another crucial aspect of the way to grow gourds. Gourd plant spacing should be two inches deep with four seeds in a mound and each one being at least five feet apart.
Keep the row spacing at about eight feet. Thin the seedlings so there are only two or three per hill after their true leaves emerge.
Plant gourd seeds with the edge facing down to keep water running down the seeds’ sides and reduce the risk of rot. Most gourds germinate in less than ten to 21 days after being sown in the ground.
Make sure a trellis is nearby to support the vines as they mature. Trellises should be placed in the ground before sowing seeds to ensure that you don’t disturb the roots.
Smaller gourd varieties may be suitable as window box plants but larger ones require more room.
Caring for the Birdhouse Gourd Plant
The Birdhouse gourd plant is one of the most popular ornamental plants to grow, and they have the same basic needs as nearly all other gourd varieties. Gourds love the sun and do best in a location with full sun and lots of soil drainage. These are hungry plants.
Guarantee that the soil is rich in the area you choose. It doesn’t hurt to add a generous amount of manure or compost to the planting site.
Some people throw in a few handfuls of organic fertilizer at the beginning and middle of the growing season. Avoid using fertilizers high in nitrogen because it makes them focus on vine growth instead of fruit growth.
Gourds are not the best at attracting essential pollinators. If you don’t have a lot of production, try to achieve pollination by hand.
Go outside with a couple of cotton swabs, take the pollen from the male flowers, and rub them on the center of the female flowers. To protect the pollinated plants from competition, add a thick layer of mulch to the planting area to keep weeds away.
Pests that Come with Planting Gourds
Although gourds are incredibly hardy, they are still prone to pest issues. Squash bugs like aphids, squash vine borers, and cucumber beetles are all bugs that you might find hanging out on your gourd plants. These bugs are also responsible for when the inside of a zucchini goes bad.
The easiest way to keep these insects away from your garden is to utilize floating row covers or insecticides. For issues with bacterial wilt, only use clean soil and keep the conditions from becoming too soggy.
How to Harvest Gourds
It is a waiting game that you have to play before harvesting gourds. It’s not really possible to leave a gourd attached to the vine for too long. If they are picked too early, they might shrivel up and rot.
After planting gourds in your garden, it takes 100 to 180 days before you can pick them. They should feel light due to the water inside evaporating.
Cut the gourd with a few inches of stem still intact. Wash your shears in bleach water before using them on plants to prevent the spread of disease.
Store harvested gourds in a well-ventilated area between 55°F and 61°F. Wait six months for the gourds to dry before using them for your next craft.
Wipe your dried gourd clean with a damp cloth and allow it to dry fully. Turn on your glue gun and, when hot, draw a design onto the outside of the gourd with the hot glue. Don’t stress if it isn’t perfect; imperfection makes it as beautiful as the gourd itself.
Allow the glue to dry completely. Grab some spray paint in the color of your choice. Hold the gourd from the stem and paint the outside in a well-ventilated area. Let the coat dry and repeat the painting two more times before displaying the gourd around your house.
Gourds don’t seem like they have many uses, but that is because you haven’t found out all the ways to turn them into new objects yet. When you take a leap of faith and learn to grow a birdhouse gourd plant, you’d be surprised how far your creativity takes you.
If learning how to plant gourds has made you more crafty, share these tips on planting gourds on Facebook and Pinterest.