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!

Specialty Gardening – My love for Gourds- Art in the Making.

I have always like growing at least one unusual item in my garden. One year I grew ornamental gourds. They were colorful, fun and you never knew what you would get. The perfect item for a garden!

From that moment on I was hooked on gourds. They could be used for decoration and the larger gourds could be used for utensils and often turned into art by painting or carving. They had such a history too, from Egyptian and Biblical times to the American Indian.

A few years later I grew the larger green thick-skinned gourds. Bottleneck, Swan, Rattle, Canteen, Snake, and Bushel Gourd were a few seeds included in the package. Again, I had no idea what I would be getting. Mystery in the garden, it makes gardening an adventure.

I knew gourd plants needed lots of water, fertilizer and room to spread out. They often had runners up to 30 foot. Some people let them ramble on the ground and some people stake them. I decided the garden would be more under control if the gourds grew vertical on a fence.

I designated the lower part of my garden to the Gourds. I placed twice as much fertilizer in the soil as usual and put up metal stakes and large mesh fencing, planted the seeds and waited.

At first the gourds took off slowly, then the area turned into a jungle. I just stood back and watched. It wasn’t long before the weight of the gourds caused the fencing to drastically lean. I jammed old fence posts under the fence and hoped it would all hold until the end of the season.

Weeding was almost impossible in the gourd jungle. I would just remove the most obvious weeds and turned my back on the rest realizing I had to do some serious planning in order to grow gourds before the next season started.

One day while working in the jungle I looked down, screamed and took off running! I saw what looked like the most horrendous huge ugly snake in my life! Logic told me this could not be a snake. I crept slowly back up to the garden and looked cautiously. It was a three-foot long gourd (the snake gourd!).

That summer I harvested 30 or more gourds, all different sizes and shapes. Little did I know the fun was just beginning. After I harvested the crop I looked up how to cure them. The larger gourds can take anywhere from three months to one year to dry, depending on their size.

Drying Gourds

Gourds can be dried outside in warmer climates and some people even leave them outside in cooler climates to freeze and dry later. I feel that makes the gourd skin weaker so I store my gourds indoors.

Finding space for hundreds of gourds can be a challenge. A barn or garage works well. You just have to keep an eye out for mice who like to chew on gourds and damage them. My Uncle hangs them in fishing nets and suspends them in the garage rafters until they are dry.

The barn and garage didn’t work for me so I put them in the spare bedroom upstairs. I had several huge tables and placed them in the center of the room away from the walls. I was afraid the gourds might attract mice.  I was right. One night at 3 am I heard a funny sliding noise then there was this strange banging bouncing noise. It woke everyone up in the house.

A mouse must have decided to pole vault onto the tables and in the process started a chain reaction. The table top slide and all the gourds started bouncing down the stairs. Only a few cracked and after the shock wore off we were all laughing.

I have made gourd art hangings, gourd instruments and bowls. I have had them in Art shows and my one gourd is now hanging in England. My nephews painted the smaller gourds as Christmas ornaments and hung them on the trees the following year. I painted them, carved them and even made one into a velvet lined jewelry box.

Gourds can be fun and they are never boring.

Garden Journals – Tips and Succesful Techniques

Keeping  a Garden Journal is a way to keep track of your successes and even yard and garden history.

You can keep a record of your garden planting layouts to practice crop rotation, evaluate how you use your space and write down your successes and areas where you would like to see improvement. If you found a short cut or valuable growing tip make sure you write it down.

I use a garden planner called

The Properly Dressed Garden – Organic Pest Control Tip

I love growing cabbage; cauliflower and broccoli but the bugs that like these plants drive me crazy!

I found a simple solution and it entertains the neighbors at the same time!

I hit the 50-cent bag sales in the spring and look for pantyhose. (These also make great ties for attaching plants to garden stakes) When the plants are small just put a leg of the pantyhose over the young plants. The cabbage moths cannot lay eggs on the hose and they will give off and head to the neighbors yard.

You will have no bugs on the Broccoli, Cabbage or Cauliflower. It will also deter a pesky rabbit if it decides to head into the garden.

With the panty hose being thin, it permits the sun to get through. I have seen no change in growing habits. And the water still penetrates the hose and the plants appear to be healthy and have good crops,

It also works great for keeping the leaves up around the cauliflower so that it blanches without extra work. The hassle of blanching cauliflower causes many gardeners to consider this plant too much work in the garden.

I joke with my neighbors about color coordinating the pantyhose with garden stakes and garden art.  They always consider my gardens to be unique and unpredictable.

I have used panty hose in the gardens for years now. I would be lost without them.

 

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