Thursday, September 13, 2018

Colorful and Curious Gourds Provide Fall Interest by Joyce Agostino

Photo by Joyce D'Agostino

Every year when I plan my garden, I try to add a few items such as gourds, pumpkins and ornamental corn that will add some end of the season color and fun. Gourds are easy to grow and can be functional as well as decorative.

Gourds fall into several types, such as the hard shell gourds that are grown to make dippers, birdhouses, baskets and bowls. These gourds have very durable shells and can be carved or cut into a variety of functional shapes. Luffa, which are often used as bath sponges, are also a gourd and there are a variety of other gourds of all shapes, sizes and colors that belong to the Cucurbita family. 

If you have grown pumpkins, squash and cucumbers then you will find growing gourds very similar. Since some are related to the pumpkin and cucumber genus, they will attract the same type of pest such as the squash vine borer and can also develop diseases such as powdery mildew. 

This time of year, gourds are completing their growth and can be harvested soon. The ornamental Cucurbita pepo variety can be harvested when they stems turn brown, the foliage is dying back and the tendrils next to the gourd have dried.  Luffa can be left on the vine until they and the vine are completely dry. Hard shell gourds usually require a longer time to reach full maturity extends past the summer growing season and well into fall. These gourds may start feeling a little lighter as they lose moisture and you can shake them to hear the seeds rattle inside.

If you didn’t grow gourds this season, try it next season. You will find that when other things in the garden are winding down, gourds will provide color and texture.

If your gourds developed powdery mildew, check out PlantTalk’s publication Powdery Mildew on Vegetables. 

This fact sheet gives general information on growing, pests and diseases for gourds in the Curcurbita family. 

For more information on growing gourds, you can visit The American Gourd Society site which specializes in information and other great facts about growing gourds of all varieties.