The Q&A Archives: Growing Decorative Gourds

Question: I would like to plant gourds for craft projects. Can you give me some of the basics, such as how to prepare the soil, what time of year to plant, and what varieties are best suited for this purpose?

Answer: Gourds are both fun and practical to grow. Gourds are divided into two categories--hard-shelled and thin-shelled varieties. Hard-shelled fruits are produced by white-flowered plants (Lagenaria siceraria). Thin-shelled gourds are produced by yellow-flowered Cucurbita pepo cultivars.

Provide a deeply worked, well drained soil to which you've added one heaping shovelful of compost per plant. Large gourds can take up to 140 days to mature. You may have to start the seeds indoors so they're ready to plant when the weather warms. Direct seed the smaller types. Place about 5 seeds in each hill and thin to one strong plant. Gourds will flatten on the side in contact with the ground; avoid this by training the plants up a fence or trellis.

To harvest, let the gourds ripen on the vine until the stems turn brown. Then allow them to dry fully on a rack with good air circulation. You can wax, varnish, or shellac them when they're completely dry.

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