The Q&A Archives: Gourds

Question: I tried last year to grow gourds but couldn't get the seeds to germinate. I tried placing them in water but that didn't work. I read that they should have been cut slightly to allow for easier germination. Is that true? If so, how should they be cut? I'm hoping to grow bird house, mixed and bushel gourds. When is the best time to plant the seeds?

Answer: A great Gourd crop begins with large vigorous healthy seedlings 4 to 6 weeks old, grown in 4" or larger growing pots. Growing your own seedlings insure quality and varieties not commercially available. Gourd seedling are seldom found commercially.

The seeds should be started about 4 to 6 weeks before your average last frost date in your zone, or your planned transplant date. Make sure the seed starting mix is a light sterile soil mix with a liberal portion of Perlite or Vermiculite to maintain moisture. Before planting the gourd seeds take a fingernail file and lightly nick the pointed end of the seeds. This procedure will produce better germination ratios.

Gourd seed are sometime very hard to germinate without using this procedure. Sow 3 seeds per 4"pot about ?" to 1" deep in pre-moistened growing mix. I always plant twice and as many seedlings as I will need. The extras are given away to friends. During the day, keep the seedling next to a sunny window after they have germinated. Move to top of the water heater or refrigerator at night if you do not have a greenhouse. I also use supplemental overhead fluorescent lighting. Never allow your lights to burn more than 16 hours per day. A cheap electrical timer is the key to success here. Seedlings must be allowed to have a period of rest from light to grow properly. Hang your lights 1? inches above the tops of the seedlings. This will prevent the seedling from becoming leggy. Raise the lights suspended by a chain as the plants grow. Do not allow the soil to dry out.

I feed my newly emerged seedling every other watering cycle. I prefer feeding my young seedlings with Fish Emulsion or liquid seaweed. After they have grown to 3" I use a fertilizer high in phosphorus like Scott's or Peters Professional 9-45-15 plant starter. Two weeks after seedlings have emerged clip off (at the soil line) the smallest of the 3 seedlings with scissors. Seeds can also be started by directly sowing into your prepared wide row beds. Plant 4 seed ?" to 1" deep and water gently. Two weeks after seedling have emerged thin the seedlings to 2 seedling per hill. Clip the smallest 2 of the 4 at ground level with scissors.

By the time your seedlings are large enough to be planted outdoors, the weather should be warm enough to plant them outside.

Best wishes with your gourds!

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