How To Grow Gourds
Seeds can be started indoors 2-3 weeks before last frost date. Plant in peat pots as they don't like their roots disturbed and these can be planted directly in the garden later. Make sure the soil temperature is at least 80° to 85°F. Or plant directly into the garden in full sun past the threat of frost (about 1 week) in rich, fertile soil that drains well and has plenty of compost or rotted manure. Soil should be warm (80°) with a pH of at least 6.5. Plant seed ½ -1" deep in hills with about 5 seeds per hill. Hills should be placed about 5' apart. Or plant in rows with the seeds 5" apart (thin later up to 2 seedlings per hill) with the rows 8' apart. Gourd seed can be slow and difficult to get to germinate. Before planting, we recommend soaking seed in water for at least 24 hours. Then very, very carefully crack the outer shell ever so slightly. Another method you can try is weakening the shell by sanding it with sandpaper. Allow at least 10-14 days for germination. Gourds are a vining plant, so make a trellis for support. The fruit will be shaped well with less blemishes. The larger varieties will probably do best sprawling on the ground so that they do not break off the vine if suspended. To protect from slugs and scars on the gourds, you can put a bed of sand under each gourd for protection.
Gourds are ready to harvest when the stem next to the ground is brown, dry, and beginning to shrivel up. Gourds will have firm, hard skin. Just cut off ( do not twist ) the stem close to vine, leaving as much of the stem as possible. It is better to wait too long to harvest than to pick them too soon. The gourds can continue to dry if left in the garden. Handle them carefully to prevent bruising. Wash and dry and keep for 4-6 weeks by hanging gourds in a place with good air circulation.
Saving Gourd Seeds
Store the fully matured, harvested gourd in a cool, dry place. After about 2 weeks, shake the gourd and the seeds will be ready once they are rattling around inside the gourd. Cut off the bottom and shake out the seeds and clean. Spread them out on a newspaper or paper plate to allow them to dry for about 2 weeks. Seed should be viable for 4-6 years if kept cool and dry.
- Cucumber Beetle
Yellow, elongated, ¼" long beetles with black heads and black stripes on their wings. Remedies include mulching heavily with straw, spraying or dusting with Pyrethrins, using floating row covers, scattering onion skins on the soil around the plant, planting white radish seed to repel beetles, or spraying with a mixture of hot peppers, water, and garlic (be sure to spray top and bottom of leaves).
- Downy Mildew
Symptoms include pale green areas on the top of leaves changing to yellow, white/gray color on lower leaves, and leaf edges curling inward. Treat with neem oil, making sure crop has good air circulation, full sun, low humidity and crop rotation.