Growing gourds is a lot like growing squash. The major difference is that you pick squash before they reach maturity and you let gourds stay on the vine until they are fully grown. This means you should be careful where you plant gourds because they will spread out and overtake your garden if you let them.
Gourds like light, fertile, soil. It is a good idea to till up your garden patch and then cover it with up to three inches of compost, then till the compost in. Not everyone can afford to buy that much compost, but any will help loosen up the soil. That makes it easier for the roots to grow deep into the soil. Gourds will grow in a wide variety of soils, but a pH of 5.8-6.2 is ideal.
Diseases like bacterial wilt, anthracnose and mildew strike gourds. They strike gourds that are too crowded and have no air circulation. The cucumber beetle carries bacterial wilt. Keep all weeds and debris out of your garden to help keep your gourds from getting sick. Make sure you plant the gourds far enough apart for them to spread out.
Gourds each have male and female blossoms. Normally, bees go from the male blossoms to the female blossoms and pollinate the gourd flowers. Bees are not as common as they once were. You may have to pollinate your gourds yourself. To do that, you pick a male flower and carefully use a small paint brush to transfer the pollen to the female flowers’. Each male flower pollinates around five female flowers. The female flowers have a baby gourd on the vine just under the flower.
Gourds grow best when the temperature is between 75 and 85 degree F. They take 180 days from planting to maturity. That means you may have to start your gourds inside to allow enough time for the gourd to grow and get ripe before the autumn freeze.
Trellising your gourd vine will keep the gourds from getting a flat spot on the side that lies on the ground. The bigger the gourd, the stouter the trellis must be. Set up the trellis before transplanting the gourd plants you started inside to the garden. Water them in well. Keep the soil moist during the growing season.
If you have trellised your gourds, you will need to string the gourds to the trellis so they can continue to grow without tearing the gourd off the vine.
Leave the gourds on the vine until the vine dies so the gourds cure. This can take several weeks to a month. The gourds will grow lighter and lighter as they cure. When they have cured, bring them in and wash them with soap and water. Set them out to dry.
At this point, your gourds are ready to use in whatever crafts you want.
Article by: Leora Bouyssou/Administrative Assistant, Hunt County | Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service