Growing Gourds – Tennessee Spinning Gourd

Why I have a fascination with gourds is beyond me. It could be they are always a surprise or that they make colorful bright vines that I make interesting garden focal points out of. Or maybe it’s that just when I think I have seen all the gourds available there is one more I must track down and grow.

This is the case with the Tennessee Spinning Gourd or Dancing Gourd. I heard rumors of this gourd but could not find anyone who had grown it. I finally found the seeds after about a year of asking and hunting. They are a little harder to find today and are considered to be a rare heirloom seed but several heirloom seed companies carry them. They are also available on eBay.

The story as I was told is that the Tennessee Spinning Gourd was originally grown in Tennessee. It was grown in rural areas and used as a toy in the 1800’s. After the gourds were dry children would take them to school and use them as tops and have spinning contests during lunch. I also heard that they would have decorating contest to make the most colorful or attractive gourd.

The gourd is only about two inches tall, bottle shaped and is green with white stripes before it is dried. After it’s dried it is a tan color.

When I grew my spinners I grew them on tee-pees far from the other squash and gourds I was growing so that I could save the seeds and not have them pollinate with other squash family member plants. I also grew scarlet runner beans with them for color and a rat-tail radish plant, which is also an heirloom seed. The rat-tail radish can grow up to 4 foot and has small white flowers and bean pods. It’s an attractive plant and I plant radishes near squash because it is a natural repellant for the cucumber beetle.

I put a good supply of manure in the center of my tee-pee to feed the gourds, which love fertilizer. I also put in a plastic 2 liter pop bottle with the bottom cut off and turned upside down to act as a deep watering tool. I would fill this with water and the water would enter the ground without running off and get to the roots where it was needed.

My crop was a success! One small area made a great theme garden and I harvested close to 75 gourds. I used some in their out of the garden state in fall arrangements and put the others aside to dry. They took about 3 ½ months to dry. I let them set until late spring them took paint to them to decorate them in an old-fashioned toy top style of painting. A few were decorated Victorian for Christmas tree decorations.

They were definitely fun to grow and easy to maintain. I grow them about every three years and make sure to set some seed aside for another future crop.

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Denise

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