Many people don’t realize that gourds are very closely related to cucumbers, squash and melons. They have been grown for both ornamental and utility purposes for centuries. Their history can be traced back to Babylon and Egypt through artwork on buildings, walls and caves.
Gourds have tough skins and the smaller gourds bright colorful patterns. They come across as a hardy plant but they are actually tender annuals that thrive in climates where the temperature is 70 to 85°F. It takes about 100 to 180 days for most gourd varieties to mature. Starting seedlings in containers will lengthen the season and improve quality for the long season types (mostly Lagenaria).
I live in a very cool Zone 5 and I have learned to start my gourds early and transplant them outdoors. I originally started them in the garden but I ended up with a smaller crop. If you practice cold frame and mini hothouse techniques you can still plant them in the garden in a cooler zone.
Different varieties of gourds vary widely in the size of fruit and vine. This means their spacing and trellising requirements will also vary. The small ornamental gourds such as bicolor pear and Dinosaur Eggs can be spaced 18 to 24 inches apart provided they are trellised vertically 6 to 8 ft.The larger types, such as dipper and water bottle, will require wider spacing and a very substantial trellis to hold the weight of the fruit. Gourds may also be grown on an arbor consisting of posts and several overhead crosspieces or my favorite a swing set. Gourd fruit hang underneath the vines. You will also need to provide a sling for the heavier gourds to keep them from damaging the vine and gourd where they are attached. I use pantyhose. They allow the sun and air to get to the gourd and. I place the pantyhose like a sling around the gourd and attach to the trellis to take the weight off the vine.
There are many different varieties of gourds, some more unusual and rare. Gourds can be broken into two different categories. Below are the more popular varieties that are grown.
Cucurbita Gourds (Yellow Flowered)
- Crown of Thorns
- Flat Striped
- Malaher Melon
- Pear (Bi-color)
- Turks Turbin
The smaller ornamental gourds offer more variety and you never know what you are going to get. This is why I enjoy growing them. I use them for crafting and display.
Lagenaria Gourds (White Flowered)
- Bottle (Giant, Miniature, Siphon)
- Calabash (Penguin, Powderhorn)
- Carsican Flat
- Dolphin (Maranka)
- Italian Edible
- Martin (Birdhouse)
I use the Martin gourd for making birdhouses. The Carsican, Bottle and Dipper I make instruments out of. The other gourds just see, to call to me and turn into many different items.
- Luffa (Dishrag)
- Serpent Gourd
- Tennessee Spinner
- Teasel (Squirting cucumber)
There are many more gourd varieties. These are usually the ones you see the most.
I have grown gourds since I was 12. They continue to amaze me every year. I do a lot of crafting and design with them. I have carved, painted, and decoupage them. My favorite projects are making furniture out of the larger bushel gourds and instruments out of other varieties.