Give Gourds a Grow!

Donna Fossum

From bird houses to pumpkin pies, there’s no shortage of uses for gourds. They’re surprisingly easy to grow, too, as long as you’ve got fertile soil and a trellis or two.

Fall is here and so is gourd season. Most of the stores in town have a wide selection of them, but the most popular gourd this time of year is the pumpkin.

Grown for ornamental and utility purposes, most of us have likely seen gourds after they’re dried and transformed into arts and crafts objects such as bird houses. Purple martins love to make dried gourds their homes as they migrate through our area.

Many gourds are prized for their interesting shapes; in fact, it’s their curious contours that endears most people to them. Gourds are annuals that thrive in areas where the temperature is 70 to 85 degrees, and they grow best on trellises — they are vines that are closely related to cucumbers, squash and melons.

Gourds are fairly easy to grow, but they do require good fertile soil. While the gourd is growing, you can manipulate its silhouette by tying soft string or bands around young fruit, or just by frequently (and gently) coaxing the fruit into the form you desire. Just be careful not to scratch the fruit.

When the gourds are ready to be harvested, make sure to leave some of the stem and use sharp shears to make clean cuts. This next step is where supreme patience comes in.

After harvesting the gourds, wash them thoroughly and put them in a dry place with good air circulation and out of direct sunlight. You’ll need to leave them for several months until they’re dry and hardened. Try not to go out of your gourd waiting — there are no shortcuts to dry them quickly.

Growing, harvesting, drying and decorating gourds is a fun project to include the whole family, even the little ones. But beware: gourd growing can become addictive.

Follow Garden Style San Antonio’s board Gourds to Fall For from the Garden on Pinterest.

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