- March -
It's time to start your gourd seeds indoors or
in a greenhouse. Start in February if you can. Some gardeners soak their
seeds overnight (or longer) to help jump start the germination process.
Simply lay some paper towels out onto a shallow tray or cookie sheet.
Then space your seeds out so that each variety is separate from one
another. Be sure to make a chart of your seeds on a separate sheet of
paper to identify your varieties. I generally put the small seeds next
to the larger ones to help identify them in case any wander in the soaking
process. Drape another paper towel on top and gently water the tray.
Larger seeds can have the shoulders near the point clipped slightly
to encourage germination.
I've experimented with soaking the seeds for up to a week and typically
will put a heating pad underneath to speed things up. I use a gardening
heating pad that is waterproof and stays at 80 degrees. Otherwise on
top of the refrigerator is a good spot.
Don't let your seeds dry out.
After soaking, then pot them up in peat pots or Styrofoam cups with
holes punched in the bottom for drainage. Keep them warm and moist but
don't drown them.
Plant A Seed, Grow An Orchestra.
Once you see sprouts emerge from the soil then place them in a well
lit area. You can place grow lights a few inches over them if you have
the space. You will then have good size seedlings to transplant to your
garden in about 4 or 6 weeks.
Wait until the last frost in your area to transplant. That's generally
the middle of April to early May here in central Virginia.
They like all day sun and plenty of compost.
Amend soil with a neutral (10-10-10) fertilizer when planting, but after
a month or so when the vines start producing gourds, add a low nitrogen
fertilizer like (0-10-10) that is higher in potash and potassium. This
will limit leaf and vine growth while diverting energy to the fruit.
After 10 feet of main vine growth where the males flower,
you can cut the vine to produce side lateral vines where the female
flowers will emerge. The female flowers have a miniature gourd potential
bulge directly under the flower and have three stigma. These now need
to be pollinated by the pollen from the male flower. The male flower
has five stamen and are joined directly to it's stem without any bulge
under the flower.
The Gourd flower
blooms only at night.
Around dusk the flowers start to open and the male flower
can be bent or plucked to tap on the female flower to pollinate. You
can also use a Q-tip or paintbrush to dip pollen from the male and swab
Other pollinators like cucumber beetles will help pollinate
in case you miss some females. If the female flower is not pollinated
then it will shrivel in a day or two. Otherwise if pollination occurred
then you will see immediate growth in the baby gourd.
The Gourd flower will bloom only once.
But you may have several bloom in an evening. Whoa is the garden where
there are no males to pollinate the females.
Cover the emerging female flower with a plastic or paper
bag if you want your gourd seeds to remain pure (true) for next season,
then after pollinating the female, place a bag back over the female
to prevent any cross-pollination from occurring by any other pollinators.
After the flower drops you can remove the bag. A garden miles away could
potentially cross pollinate with your garden by wandering bees, beetles
of Gourds in the Garden
When the stem turns brown, the growing season is over for that gourd.
It's time to cut it free and let it dry. Mold may occur, but be patient
and wipe your gourd with a bleach solution to minimize mold growth.
Some growers in Virginia leave their gourds outside all winter to find
them all cleaned and dried in the spring.
Gourd harvest from 12 crowded gourd plants grown on a bamboo arbor.