Not My Best Crop Ever!

By Cecile Garrison

"What Happened" this year in my gourd arbor and patches? I accept full responsibility for a less than stellar year. I till the soil, I place the soaker hoses, I germinate and plant seedlings and I chase weeds daily. I am the only one to blame for a smaller than usual crop of dippers, canteens and bushels.

I have two patches and one arbor and they all behaved differently! They all had full sun and soaker hoses. One big difference: Patch #2 received very little attention. The seeds came from a thick basket I opened for a project in early April. The seeds cried for a chance to reproduce! I dug a lOO-foot shallow trench near
the studio, threw them in and placed a soaker hose. I stopped watering in mid September due to a leaky soaker hose. That patch is still flourishing in mid-October with nice baskets and many volunteer unknowns getting close to maturity.

The Arbor and Patch #1 are a different story! Many blooms did not open. Many blooms with pepos were not pollinated. About one quarter of the gourds are spindly and misshapen. All those vines were crispy brown and the gourds were ready to be harvested by early October.

• I tried to blame the difference on a short period of overhead watering.

•Perhaps I did not water adequately.

•It might be time to add fertilizer with higher levels of phosphorous and potassium to my usual dressing of composted steer manure to encourage more flower and fruit production.

• I am sure I overplanted! Dense plantings prevent air, nutrients and light from reaching the productive plants.

• Autopsy revealed many spindly, porous roots incapable of carrying plant nutrition.

I had an "a-ha" moment in mid-July! My husband was reading our local paper and casually mentioned we had just gone through thirty-four days of temperatures well over one-hundred degrees. Well, there you have it! Those plants were trying to grow strong roots in oppressive heat. Plants cannot thrive without strong roots! The seedlings I started in February did better than the plants started from seeds in the ground in early April. The seedlings developed strong roots under fluorescent lights for a month and a half before planting.

That still does not explain Patch #1 thriving! I will perform an autopsy on those roots after the vines are brown and crispy and the gourds are harvested.

I had a respectable crop but not as good as expected. I have several manipulated and molded gourds that will be entering the Jim Story contest for years to come! The pictures describe successful knot tying.
Important Points To Remember:

• Do not harvest until the vine is brown and crispy. If you pick a gourd before it is mature it will likely rot.

•Many gourds can be damaged during the harvest and drying process.

• Do not carry heavy gourds by the stem.

• Store them outdoors in a dry location until dry.

• Do not store gourds in living areas.