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We start the seeds indoors in pots in late April.
They need lights to grow well. We harden them off throughout May.
We put them out around Memorial Day, under row-cover bonnets, for extra warmth and protection from cucumber beetles. We give them plenty of space!
The vines take off like crazy... you can almost watch them grow.
Tendrils are amazingly strong, and we use them to encourage the vines upwards.
Unlike other cucurbits, gourd blossoms bloom at night. We hand-pollinate sometimes. This is a female blossom, pollinated.
Each female blossom has a mini version of the fruit that will grow. These tiny fuzzy baby gourds are called "pepos".
"Legendary" bottle gourds, lurking beneath the luscious leaf canopy.
Mid August, all is green. The small gourd pictured is a "Sub-mini", never gets any bigger than that.
The weight of the ball pulls these dipper gourds straight. When they grow on the ground, they are curly.
In September the vines start to die away. We leave the gourds on the vine as long as there is any life in the plant.
As the water leaves the gourd, the skin starts to mold. Inexperienced gourd growers sometimes panic at this stage. Don't worry! If it had plenty of time to mature, it won't rot. The mold will leave beautiful marks on the surface of the gourd.
Gourds can stay out all winter long, they'll dry just fine. Mice might get into a few of the weaker ones. Don't bring them in your house at this stage!
Banana gourds, all dried and ready to be washed!
You can plant the seeds, but if they grew near different gourds, the offspring will be hybrids.
We grow many varieties of gourds at Gourdlandia, with interesting names: Mini Chinese Bottle, Sennari, Tobacco Box, Four Inch Round, Extra Long-Handled Dipper, 100 Plus, etc. We also buy some from Amish gourd farmers in southern Pennsylvania.
The photo captions here contain
growing tips. You can get more information from the American Gourd Society.
Want to get your gourds off to a great start? Graham will be teaching a class through Atlas Obscura this Winter! Gourds Gone Wild: Growing and Crafting Gourds with Gourdlandia. Four sessions, Wednesday evenings starting 1/10/2024. Please join us!
The Free Seed Giveaway!
In 2024 the seed giveaway will be different.... all of the seeds hold potential mystery gourds! Gourds from these seeds might look like the photos, or they might not. But they will definitely be hard-shell gourds!
Do you want seeds sooner, or want a better selection? Or more apt to be true to type? Inexpensive gourd seeds can be found at any of my favorite seed sources:
If you've never grown gourds before, I highly recommend you read the growing tips in the slideshow above, and seed-starting tips here, before sending for seeds. Gourds require LOTS of space, good rich soil, and as much time on the vine as possible. Gourds look nasty and moldy when they're drying... DON'T THROW THEM AWAY!!!
This is how it works: I don't sell them, I give them away.
Please Note: I only send seeds to people in the US, very sorry about that!
Timeline: I'll start sending seeds in late March. Envelopes received before then will be safely stored until then. Envelopes received after mid-April will be safely saved until Spring 2024!
Send me a self-addressed stamped envelope, A regular business size is best, with a note saying which seeds you'd like; choose 2 or three types (see below). I'll send your envelope back with the seeds! Just a few, because I want lots of people to get some. Please order seeds for yourself only, not friends and relatives. Just one envelope, please.
My address can be found here.
Free Seeds Available Spring 2024
These are all "mystery gourds," not true to type. What you see will most likely not be what you get... but it will be something good!
Why are all the seeds "Mystery Seeds" this year? It's a bit of a story...
We have limited room to grow gourds at Gourdlandia, so we haven't been rotating our crop. Our soil is very healthy nutritionally, but because we haven't rotated, we've developed a nasty fungal pathogen: anthracnose. This organism can be seed-borne, and extra precautions are needed with possibly infected seeds. I decided to completely avoid the possibility of spreading this disease; "mystery seeds" are preferable to potentially infected seeds! So, we got some great gourds from Smucker's Gourd Farm in Pennsylvania (my favorite place to buy gourds), and are harvesting those seeds. There has likely been some cross-pollination in these gourds, but no disease.
Moral of the story? Rotate! Plant your gourds in a new place every year, until 3-4 years have passed.