Growing and Saving the Seed Of Gourds
Useful, decorative, and sometimes delicious, gourds are a thick-skinned relative of cucumbers and pumpkins. The productive vines have a wild and untamed quality to them that makes a really fantastic statement in the garden. Try growing long gourd vines up a trellis or pergola — unusual and beautiful! Other cucurbit relatives are sometimes mistaken for gourds. True gourds have large seeds and white flowers that bloom at night.
Before the development of metals and plastics, gourds were an integral part of primitive society, serving as bowls, bottles, musical instruments, tribal garb and so much more. Native American tribes used bottle gourd birdhouses to attract purple martins, which would eat bugs considered agricultural pests.
- In longer-season areas, you can sow seeds directly in the garden once soil has warmed to about 70 degrees.
- Growers with a shorter growing season should start seeds indoors three weeks before last frost.
- Ideal germination temperature is 75-90 F.
- Sow seeds 1 inch deep.
- Gourds can have spotty germination; be sure to plant seeds in good soil with plenty of organic matter.
- Be patient; seeds can sometimes take up to three weeks to germinate!
- Set plants out into good, well-drained soil after frost has passed.
- Set plants 24 inches apart; they will climb and trail, so be prepared for a garden takeover!
- Keep plants well-watered.
- Gourds are grown much like squash, and thanks to their tough skin, they are often better at fighting off pests than other cucurbits.
- A thick layer of mulch is absolutely crucial; the vines will be very difficult to keep weeded once they start trailing. Mulch will help to keep weeds down and retain moisture.
- Although they are better at fending off pests than other squash relatives, gourds can be susceptible to a virus called cucumber mosaic virus, which is spread by cucumber beetle damage. To avoid the virus, keep cucumber beetles off of your plants.
- Kaolin clay is an organic method for deterring cucumber beetles.
- Beneficials like ladybugs and beneficial nematodes will also help to keep the pests at bay.
- Gourds are easily cross-pollinated, so it is advisable to isolate different seed-saving varieties up to 1⁄2 mile to ensure seed purity.
- A minimum of 15 plants of each variety should be grown to avoid inbreeding issues. Harvest fruit before it has dried out when it is still green in color but has developed a tough skin.
- Scoop seeds to dry; they will remain viable for about 4 years when stored properly in a sealed container in the refrigerator.