Breaking My Own Rules Is Causing A Few Problems

By Cecile Garrison

I smile when lizards scurry and hummingbirds hover as I enter the gourd arbor! They are just two of the beneficials that keep harmful insects at bay! I have only seen four cucumber beetles this year and they were busy pollinating blooms. I had a few aphids but they disappeared in a few days without help from chemicals or me. I do not use manmade chemicals because I cannot take a chance of harming birds, beneficial insects, frogs, lizards and more.

Overhead watering is a no-no!
Every articlelbook I have read or written discourages overhead watering of gourd vines. I was very busy with family matters and thought I would take advantage of my son's overhead lawn sprinkler to water my adjacent arbor. Rain is good so why not
sprinklers? I am convinced when the sprinkler hit blooms getting ready to open they changed their mind. Sort of like a cold shower! I stopped that form of irrigation when I realized the blooms were not opening.

Soil amendments matter!
I think the time has come to amend my soil! My crops have always produced many thick, sturdy gourds. This year is different! There is a small percentage of gourds to lush leaves. Next year I may have to apply a fertilizer with higher levels of phosphorus and potassium to encourage more flower and fruit production. High nitrogen fertilizers tend to promote lots of vine growth and a low fruit set.

Give them room to grow and let there be light!
I over plant every year and allow any volunteer that pops up to grow and prosper. Next February I will start dipper gourd seeds inside.  I will put those seedlings in the ground when no frost is in the forecast. When volunteers show up I plan to yank them all
out! I will plant my seedlings four feet apart and trim all growth of leaves and secondary vines at least three feet up the arbor. I will stop the primary vine at ten feet and the secondary vines at four feet At least six hours of sun is required for healthy plants and fruit. Close plantings prevent air and light from reaching the plants.

When should you harvest?
I wait until the vine is crispy and brown from the gourd to the ground before I harvest. An immature gourd picked early will likely rot. Many gourds are damaged during the harvest and drying process. Do not carry heavy gourds by the stem. Store them in a dry location until dry. Do not store gourds in living areas.

It has not been all bad! I am closing in on last year's record twenty-five knotted gourds! The overhead sprinkling destroyed a lot of the early crop preventing many more knot opportunities. I also have at least ten successful molded gourds growing nicely. We shall see how many make it through the maturing, drying and green cleaning process .

. If you are passing through Visalia, California stop by! We will talk gourds, techniques, tools, paints, embellishments and more!