Monday, August 26, 2013
Warty, winged and wonderful… grow your own gourds!
Plants have “personalities”—some seem calming, others are bold and beautiful. But ornamental gourds offer characteristics ranging from FUN to FUNKY, and add a splash of color and whimsy to your autumn décor.
Although I’ve often grown gourds in our home garden, last year I purchased some winged gourds (genus Cucurbita) and saved the seeds for planting this summer. In early June I planted a dozen seeds in our southern exposure garden. Gourds are heavy feeders, so I sprinkled a bit of fertilizer over the seeded area. Soon cotyledons emerged; then leaves formed, and vines developed soon after.
Velvety, vivid yellow-orange blossoms appeared, which were attractive to pollinators, and soon tiny gourds formed. By mid-August I harvested my first winged gourd, but it was still a bit soft around the edges, so I allowed remaining gourds to develop fully and form firm outer shells. (Since I enjoy decorating with gourds through late November, allowing outer shells to mature is preferable. Gourds with soft shells can shrivel and rot prematurely… be patient!)
Gourds and pumpkins (a type of gourd) share the same genus, Cucurbita. Their growing habits are similar also, but the pumpkins I have grown in the past took longer to reach maturity. This summer, the winged gourds were ready to pick in less than 90 days. There are additional gourds developing which should be mature by mid-September—then the vines will be added to our compost bins, while the winged gourds will be enjoyed indoors for the next few months.
NOTE: Gourds and pumpkins will be available soonat Lammscapes! in Jackson. Come visit to find some FUN and FUNKY gourds for your autumn décor. Save the seeds in a dark, dry place and try your hand at growing gourds next season!
M. Lynn Schmid, Certified Master Gardener