Differing in color, shape, and size, every gourd looks unique. Easy to grow, gourds thrive in long, warm growing seasons and large spaces. Don’t have space for a large garden? No problem. Plant gourds at the base of a fence panel and let them grow up the side of the structure. Celebrate the bounty of autumn by bringing your favorite gourds indoors to use as fall decor.
Gourd Care Must-Knows
Like many vegetables, gourds grow best in full sun and well-drained soil. Plant them in an area where they will receive at least 8 hours of bright sunlight a day. A trellis, fence, or teepee is also helpful for preventing plants from rambling great lengths and sprawling through the garden or lawn. Erect a sturdy trellis; gourds are heavy when mature. Informal compost heaps are popular locations for growing gourds. Simply plant gourd seeds in the compost pile.
Gourds require a long, warm growing season. In Zones 4 and below, consider starting seeds indoors several weeks before the last frost to get an early start on the season. Sow seeds in individual pots filled with potting mix. Sow seeds 1 inch deep—2 seeds per pot. Keep pots warm and moist and provide a strong light source. When seedlings are well-established and outside temperatures are above 50°F, acclimate plants to outdoor conditions. Snip the stem of the smallest plant so there is one plant per pot.
In areas with a long growing season, plant gourds directly in the garden. Plant seeds after night temperatures are regularly above 50°F. In full sun, sow seeds 1 inch deep and 6 inches apart in rows 4 feet apart. Thin seedlings to a final spacing of 1 foot apart.
Harvest ornamental and hard-shell gourds when vines begin to dry and the shells have hardened, leaving 1 to 2 inches of stem attached. Wash any dirt off the surface, then cure the shells by storing gourds in a warm, dry location for one to two weeks. Continue curing the gourds until the interior dries, too. This will take several weeks for ornamental gourds and up to six months for hard-shell gourds. Discard any that begin to mold or rot. Get creative with the rest in your fall decor.
Harvest luffa gourds when the fruit is lightweight and seeds rattle inside. After drying luffa gourds, cut off the stem end and shake out the seeds. Remove the skin and bleach the spongy flesh in a solution of one part bleach to nine parts water. Rinse and dry before using as a bathing sponge.
More Varieties of Gourd
Luffa spp. bears long, cylindrical fruits on a vigorous vine. The spongy, dried interior is used a bath sponge.
This type of Lagenaria spp. is characterized by its long, narrow neck and swollen base. After drying, cut it in half lengthwise to make a dipper.
Lagenaria spp. is also called birdhouse gourd, because dried fruits may be made into birdhouses. In its immature stage, it is eaten as a vegetable, which is known as calabash.
This Cucurbita spp. selection is actually a type of gourd. Use it in fall decorations.