Growing, Drying, Cleaning, and Crafting Tips For Your Gourd
Growing gourds can be a very exciting and interesting adventure. Meadowbrooke Gourds is located in central Pennsylvania which is in Zone 6 of the United States frost zone. The instructions that follow are based upon our zone and will vary if you live in different parts of the United States. It is best to know what zone you are in when planning to grow gourds.
We begin our gourds inside by planting up to but no more than 2 seeds in a 3" container or pot. When you are finished potting your seeds-THOROUGHLY soak with water until it flows out the bottom of the pot. After the initial watering, water like you would a normal house plant. Soil for gourd seedlings can be on the dry side but do not let it dry out completely. Keep seedlings in sun. The more sun they receive, the stronger the plant you will have. If they receive less light, you may have thin, less hearty plants. You do not need to fertilize seedlings while they are still inside.
Around June 1st or AFTER THE THREAT OF FROST (this is very important, frost will kill your plants), plant outside in full sun leaving an 8' area around each plant. Each plant should have 64 square feet to grow in. Gourd vines will take over fences, trelises, and other plants if left alone. An option is to cut or trim ends back to keep them confined to an area. When watering your plants, avoid getting water on the leaves to avoid the spread of diseases. We suggest you use soaker hoses or drip irrigation. Gourd plants actually like to be a little dry and be watered thoroughly when you start to see the leaves wilting. Overwatering causes disease, large, thin shelled, low quality gourds with lots of vines. Not enough water produces thick shelled, small, high quality gourds. Just enough water produces thick shelled, properly sized, high quality gourds. Check on gourds like you would any other plant that is in your garden. You can fertilize your gourds like you would any other vine crop (cucumber, watermelon, pumpkins, etc.). The optimal choice would be to have a soil test conducted and fertilize accordingly.
Gourds in our zone grow from June to October or until the first hard frost hits. The frost will kill the vine and it will not continue to grow. After the hard frost hits, pick your gourds and let them dry outside over winter, off the ground (skid, picnic table, etc.) if you can. It is okay to place them on the ground-they will just take a little longer to dry. If a gourd has a matured, hard shell a frost will not harm it. If a gourd got a late start and is not mature, the frost will make it rot. A quality gourd will go through a skin decay molding process-this is normal as long as the gourd is still hard and not mushy to the touch. Do not get discouraged if your gourds look terrible and may even smell. Small gourds dry faster than larger ones. Some really large gourds can take up to June the following year to dry completely. Your gourd is completely dried when it weighs only ounces. For most, this is around March or April.
At this point, your gourd is ready to be cleaned and crafted. We recommend putting your gourd out in a good soaking rain for a few days or another option is to weigh down your gourd and completely submerge it in plain water for two days. Afterwards clean skin off with either steel wool or a wire brush. Once you have cleaned your gourds, keep dry and out of the weather until you are ready to craft it.
Very much like a fragile piece of wood-you can do anything to a gourd you can to wood. You can dye, paint, cut, wood burn, etc. your gourd. We have not found any paint, shellac, dye etc. that cannot be used on a gourd. Please remember though, like wood, a gourd will burn so we do not suggest putting a candle or open flame around it.
The most important fact about growing gourds is to know your areas frost dates. Some zones can plant directly outside and eliminate the potting inside if you can plant in May without the fear of frost. Frost will kill your plants. You should only plant after the fear of frost in spring and your growing season ends when the first hard frost hits in the fall. Keep your plant a little dry then thoroughly water, fertilize accordingly and watch your gourds grow. Then stand back and admire your own unique creations!