Summer Growing Tips

Information provided courtesy of John Sturgeon of Sunrise Gourds/Seeds 7-2000, Email:, 1562 S. Ballard Ln., Greencastle, IN 46135, Phone 765-653-3893

Weed Control
After the plants are established, mulch can help control weeds.  We used 3 layers of newspaper around the plants for several years.  The paper will rot up by the fall and can be tilled into the ground.  We now get free sawdust bedding from the 4-H fair, let it age over winter, and use it the next spring for mulch.  Hoeing works well, also.  Just do not disturb the gourd near the plant as the roots tend to be shallow.  Chemicals such as Round-up can be used if one is careful.  Putting a bucket over the plant prior to spraying protects the plant. Tilling just prior to transplanting or direct seeding will control the 1st flush of weeds in the spring.  Using a grass herbicide can control grass in growing plants.

Insect Control
Chemicals such as Diazinon can be placed in the planting hole to control over-wintering cucumber beetles.  Seedlings can be killed just a hour or two by cucumber beetles.  Various dusts and sprays are available at Garden stores for control.  A spray mix of soapy water, tobacco juice, and hot peppers is reported to control most bugs on gourds.  After the gourds start to run, most insects cause minor damage.

Diseases of Vine Crops
Please see the two bulletins from the Ohio State University Extension Service for information about bacterial wilt and gummy stem blight and black rot.

Most pollination is completed by insects at night on white flowering gourds [Hard-Shells].  Yellow flowering ornamentals are pollinated during the day by insects.  For pure seed, growing in isolation or hand pollinating from the same plant is required.  To hand pollinate, take the pollen from the male flower and transfer it to the female flower by a small brush or other means.  Then close off the female flower using masking tape, baggies, or other methods.  This keeps the insects from contaminating the pollination with other gourd pollen.

The male flower above has no fruit under the blossom; compare this with the fruit (small bottle gourd) shown under the female blossom at right. The male flower produces the pollen which is transferred with a small paintbursh to the center of the female flower.

Fertilizing Gourds
If you have a good garden soil, little fertility change is needed.  Natural methods include using manure, small fish, or good compost. Low Nitrogen chemical fertilizers with good levels of potash tend to help produce good quality thicker gourds. High nitrogen sources tend to promote lots of vine growth and a low fruit set.

Increasing the fruit set by pruning
The male blossoms tend to be located on the main stem.  When the main stem is 8 to 10 long, pinch the tip out and more lateral stems will form.  These laterals tend to have more female flowers.  This can increase the fruit set on the vine.  Pruning can, also, control spreading of a vine.

Leave the gourds on the vine until frost or the stems turn brown.  Dry the gourd fruit by placing in an area with good air circulation.  When the seeds rattle, the gourd is dry and ready for crafting.  Clean the skin and mold off the gourd by soaking in water for a few minutes and use a stiff brush.

Any finish that is used on wood can be used to finish a gourd.  If you wish to carve, chip, burn, cut, or drill the gourd, The Am. Gourd Society has several books available or attend a class offered during the gourd shows.