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Gourds (photo courtesy of Trevor Sims/Garden World Images)
Gourds (photo courtesy of Trevor Sims/Garden World Images)

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Zone
Zones A1-A3, 1-45, H1, H2
Full Sun
Full
Regular Water
Moderate

Gourd

Cucurbitaceae
Annuals, Edible fruit, Vines

Many plants bear the hard-shelled fruits we call gourds. One of the most commonly planted is Cucurbita pepo ovifera, a yellow-flowered vine that produces small ornamental gourds in various shapes and sizes, solid-colored or striped; many of the little gourds you see in stores likely come from this plant. Luffa cylindrica (L. aegyptiaca), called dishcloth gourd or vegetable sponge gourd, is another yellow-flowered plant; it bears cylindrical, 1–2-ft.-long fruits with a fibrous interior that when dried may be used in place of a sponge or cloth for scrubbing or bathing. Lagenaria siceraria (L. vulgaris), a white-flowered gourd, produces fruits from 3 in. to 3 ft. long, in round, crook-necked, coiled, bottle, dumbbell, or spoon shapes.

Plant in fertile, well-drained soil. Gourds need a long growing season; sow seeds as soon as the ground is warm, or start indoors if the growing season is short. Set out transplants or thin seedlings to 2 ft. apart. Vines grow quickly to 10–15 ft., so grow on a trellis, fence, or arbor to hold ripening fruits off the ground. Leave fruits on the vine as long as possible (until they turn yellow or brown), but harvest before heavy frost, which can discolor them. Cut each gourd with some stem attached, so that you can hang it up to dry slowly in a cool, airy spot. When thoroughly dry, preserve them with a coating of paste wax, lacquer, or shellac.

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