The Gourd Tee-Pee – Creative Gardening

I seem to have this problem in my yard. My gardens multiply!

I know one reason is that Theme Gardens fascinate me. I also like change and the unusual.

One year when it was time to start the crops I was again pondering the age old question, “How am I going to support the gourds?” Of course if I just let them spread on the ground I wouldn’t tackle this question year after year.

As I was enjoying the wildlife in the creek the thought of a tee-pee structure popped in my head. This would look great for the smaller ornamental gourds and could be mixed in flower beds and near bushel baskets.

I decided on one large tee-pee and several small ones scattered about the back yard. I like to separate growing the smaller gourds from the larger gourds because I save gourd seeds and don’t want them cross pollinating.

The smaller tee-pees were easy to assemble  using a basic tee-pee structure of wood posts from trees and tying them together at the top. I wasn’t concerned about the weight of the ornamental gourds and thought adding flowers at the base for color and pollination benefits would be wise. I placed the pole ends in a small hole and staked the poles in place. I also planted one rattail seed (a type of radish that grows into a big bush with white flowers and a beanlike pod. They are hot!).

TIP: I plant radishes by cucumber, squash and gourds plants and let them flower. Cucumber beetles do not radishes that flower and go to seed and will stay away. I have used this method for years and have no cucumber beetle damage to my plants.

These tee-pee mini gardens would be colorful, attract bees and add interest to the yard.

The larger tee-pee was more of a project and I talked my nephews into helping. I used six large poles from trees and had holes in the ground dug to place the poles into. They were also staked and tied to make sure wind would not bring them down.They were tied with heavier cord two foot down where they met and crossed. Every two foot I placed a softer cord for the vines to crawl on. After making sure the poles were secure I started planning the rest of the gourd garden.

This garden had a large base and would hold about five different kind of the lighter weight gourds. I would clip the ends of the vines so that the growth would go into the gourd not the vine. I again planted a couple of rattail radish seeds and also added more flowers that bloom at night. The larger gourds get pollinated at night so evening blooming flowers are beneficial.

I was planning on growing Apple gourds, Bottle gourds, Canteen gourds and Dipper gourds on this tee-pee. The larger gourds needed a stronger support and I had the perfect item…. the swingset.

GARDEN TIP: As I start growing larger gourds I have to think about the weight of the gourd on the vine and if it will break the vine. I keep an eye on the gourds and if they start getting big I get out my never ending supply of pantyhose and make a sling to cradle the gourd and the the stem where it’s attached to the vine.  I attach the sling to the poles or cord. This added step will protect the vine and gourd from too much weight.

Overall I grow 25 to 30 different types of gourds. I do try and limit the amount of seeds I plant so that the crop isn’t too big.

Creating a Garden Journal – Altered Book

Gardening is a great way to enjoy the outdoors, get exercise and spend time with family. By keeping gardening simple it can be an enjoyable event.

Keeping a Garden Journal not only records valuable garden information but it is a form of history that can include the entire family.

There are many ways to make a garden journal. The easiest, grab the nearest spiral bound notebook. If you want cover the outside covers, preferably in a waterproof material, for a stonger more  durable journal.

One way I have made a journal before is to take a larger book with a firm hardback cover and remove two pages every other page. Of course you are using an old book, one that is missing pages, or a cheap one from a garage sale. By removing pages you make the book thinner so that you can add items to the pages like a scrap book without the book bulging open.

I have covered some of the pages with ruled line paper so that I have a guide for writing. I have painted some pages  and covered some with thin paper or material. If you chose the right book the images in the back often work in with your scrapbook.

A garden journal like the one I described above is more of an altered book and usually is used for my garden drawings, gourd ideas or photographs. I often bring it out at holidays and those of us in the family that are garden addicted enjoy the information and the rest enjoy the content and family photos.

Gourds – A different Approach to Growing Them.

Most gourds take an extended growing season and really like warm weather.

I live in Zone 5 and have a unpredictable spring so I have learned that certain crops are more challenging for me and gourds are one. But I love them!

Bushel , Canteen,  Swan,  Kettle, Dippers, and the other larger gourds can easily require a growing season over 100 days. For me to grow gourds successfully I need to use methods to get them going faster.

Gourd seeds can also take up to three weeks to germinate. So, one day while experimenting I tried spouting the seeds using styro foam cups and paper towels. The results were amazing!

I took a few seeds of each of my bigger gourds and wrote the name on the outside of the styrofoam cup. I put a damp paper towel in the bottom and placed the seeds on top of that. Then I placed another damp paper towel on top of that and set them on the counter.

I would check the paper towels every time I went by to see if they were still damp. If they were drying out I sprinkled the towels with water from a bottle mister.

In less than three days these seeds were beginning to sprout.

Many people say that gourd seedlings shouldn’t be moved  but I have had good luck doing so.

As soon as the seedlings are showing signs of roots, usually in five days I transplant them individually into homemade biodegradeable paper pots. Using compost from my compost pile and a little fertilizer to give them an extra boost.

In a week I will move them into hot frames and then into cold frames. I usually keep the gourd section of the garden covered too at first until I know the gourds are transplanted and happy.

I have used this method for about six years. They grow well and produce well.

I like growing the bushel gourds and want them as large as possible so that I can make end tables and storage boxes out of them. I also like the long handled dippers to grow long. I make instruments out of them and sometimes will take them when they are young and flexible and tie a knot into the handle. It gives them a unique artistic look. Yes, I break a few while doing this but I know I will so I plant twice the plants I think I will need.

Dishrag Gourds – More Garden Humor

Dishrag Gourds are also know as Luffah Sponge Gourds. They are one of the few gourds that can be eaten and are considered a special treat by many. I tried one once but the gourd in its mature stage interests me more. To me the gourd tasted somewhat like a cucumber.

The gourd earned its name by being used as dishrags for dishes many years ago and as the sponges that are put on handles and used in showers and baths. I have even seen a craft recipe where the luffah gourds are cut into sections and covered with soap to make a specialty gift item.

The Luffah gourd is different than most gourds to grow. Its a very delicate gourd plant. It starts slowly and grows slowly, at least here in NW PA.

The first year I grew the Luffah I was disappointed. The plants looked sickly and stayed the same size. Summer was flying by the the Luffahs were not growing. I was about to write the adventure off as a flop but all of a sudden they took off.  They were all vine! Again disappointment set in. I just watered and fertilized them and pretty much ignored them.

One day I saw small gourds hiding under leaves. I was going to have a crop after all!

My first crop was small, 12 or so Luffah Gourds that were nine to 15 inches long.

It was now time to cure the gourds.

This was an adventure!

The yellow luffahs are more mature and the skin is tougher and I peeled the skin off.

The green luffahs had a softer skin and I read they needed to be soaked for four to five days in water and the skin would peel off leaving the sponge exposed. The sponges also stay  softer if they are harvested green.

I had no place to soak the gourds so they ended up in two buckets in the dining room. I had to put boards on top of the gourds to hold them under the water. Being rather pourous the gourds did not want to be submerged in water.  Day three, the gourds were getting rather slimy and discusting. I tried to shove one stubborn gourd under the water.

Suddenly it popped out of the water and acted like a rocket. It was airborn and headed 15 foot away into the livingroom where the family was. I was in shock and had no time to warn them.

To this day, I have not lived this down.

I just recently read online that others have removed the skins by freezing the gourd, putting the gourd in hot water for 15 minutes and some have cooked them. It’s really a “try a method” and see what works for you.

The Luffah Sponge Crop

I ended up with about nine luffah sponges. You need to bleach them, clean them and remove the seeds. It’s a crop that takes a lot of work but I continue to grow them. I now soak them in the greenhouse!

Page 178 of 180