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.
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.