Think Gourds for Halloween
Boo! It's not a pumpkin, but a gourd.
It's over this year for growing your own gourds, but you can be ready next year.
This year try and search out some gourds from your local farmer's market and decorate and craft them for the spookiest season of the year - Halloween.
Gourds are probably the oldest cultivated plants here on earth and have been associated with man since 3300 BC.
No wonder they are popular. There are over 5,000 members in the gourd society. That's a lot of gourdies celebrating its use.
The gourd has a million uses and is a snap to grow. They are members of the CUEURBITACEAE family. Other members of this family are pumpkins, watermelons, cantaloupes, squash and cucumber.
Gourds are fascinating. The Aztecs fashioned them into musical instruments and in Haiti, it was the official currency.
Basically gourds are divided into three groups. (1) Ornamentals, (2) Hard-shelled, and (3) Luffas (sponge gourds).
The ornamentals have yellow flowers as in squash and crown of thorns. The hard-shelled gourds have white flowers and open at night. These are the birdhouse gourds, the penguins, and the dippers. The luffas or 'dishrag' gourds are like cucumbers with bones.
Growing gourds is relatively easy. They are heavy feeders so plenty of compost can be used as preparation in a hill or bed, even a trellis, or the base of a tree. Full sun is a must. And, tons of water will benefit the plant. Mulch it or leave it alone. It may not even matter.
It may be important to prune the vine once it is about ten feet long. This will be the primary vine. The male flowers will be evident on the primary vine, but it is the female flowers that are on the lateral vines that will produce the fruit.
The fun begins when the gourd actually begins to form. Here one can start shaping the gourd in forms or between boards. Knot them and twist them. See what develops.
Gourds require a long growing season, about 100 to 180 days. The growing potential will be killed by frost. Space the seeds about 18 inches apart. You may want to use a side dressing of 10-10-10, or 8-8-8, maybe some water soluble fertilizer. But, do not over fertilize - this will produce more vine than fruit.
Diseases are rare, but be aware anthracnose (mosaic effect) and powdery mildew may appear if there is a lot of moisture present. A fungicide may be used, but the wonders of the design on the shell is beautiful.
It is time to pick gourds when the stems are brown and crusty for the ornamental gourds. The hard-shelled gourds can go until frost, and the luffas can be picked when the fruit turns brown.
When harvesting gourds, try to leave a couple of inches to the stem. A test to see if the gourd is mature enough to pick is by pushing the bottom of the gourd. It should be firm. Trim. It is ready.
The curing process may take several weeks to many months - maybe even a year. Store the gourds in a cool, dry, spot. Handle them with care. Turn them every so often - this will prevent rotting.
Washing in a mild solution of bleach and water will help to eliminate mildew and dirt. Scrubbing will clean up the outer skin.
Once the gourd is ready to be used - only your imagination is your limit.
For future reading, try any of Ginger Summit's books on gourds. They are just absolutely wonderful!
You also might want to look at The Pumpkin Nook