Gourds are a crop that vines like watermelons or cucumbers and so they should be grown in a large open space. This open space can be achieved by growing gourd plants completely on the ground surface or by using a gourd trellis. Gourd plant spacing is dependent on the types of gourds grown and will determine how much space is needed. In general, as a rule of thumb it is naturally assumed that the larger the gourds the more space is required. A hill of small ornamental gourds, such as Jack Be Little or Crown of Thorns, could be grown on the ground in as little as 30 square feet per hill (about 2 plants) but up to twice the amount of space is desirable if feasible. Larger hard shell gourds, like Bottle or Bushel can grow quite large and on the ground surface it’s best to give them at least 100 – 120 square feet per hill (about 2 plants) if possible.
While not always possible to provide the above mentioned amount of gourd plant spacing, it possible to use a fraction of the space to plant gourd seeds and seedlings in to the ground and then let the vines grow upward on trellises. Many different items can be used as a gourd trellis to support gourd vines including: chain link fences, wood fences, lattice frame wood structures such as used for grape vines, vertical suspended ropes or wires, or any other type of support structure plant tendrils (tiny vine like portions that grow off plant vines to secure the plant) can grab a hold of that allows plenty of sunlight to reach the plant. Another advantage to using a gourd trellis is there is much less issue with weeds growing along the plant except at the base of the plant or if weeds vine like the gourd plants. Pest damage to gourd fruit from large critters like deer and ground hogs may also be less simply because critters might not be able to reach fruit growing if it is high enough off the ground. Trellising vines like this is also great way to save space in a garden and for smaller, ornamental gourds like Bicolor pear gourds, Baby Boos or Tiger Striped gourds do not need additional support for the fruit which will be a few feet above the ground. Hard shell gourds like Swan neck or Birdhouse gourds might possibly need some support if of sufficient size, it’s best however to monitor gourd fruit growth and observe vine and fruit stem condition to see if fruit support is necessary.
Planting gourds on the ground surface, while it does consume more garden space does offer its own advantages. Growing gourds along the ground surface will allow gourd vines to put down secondary roots to feed the plant in addition to the main root system at the stump. Gourd plants on the ground are also easily positioned with regards to the main and secondary vines. These gourd plants will grow a long main vine and typically shorter secondary vines so it’s a good idea to place the hills (seedling planting locations) in a rectangular plot with the seedling set close to the far end of the plot to allow room for growth of the plant into the open space. You want to direct the growth of the plant by setting the main and secondary vines in the desired directions allowing them plenty of space and securing them by holding down tendrils with clumps of soil or small stones. These tendrils will naturally “grab hold” of anything they can on the ground as their purpose is to secure the plant safely to the ground to reduce or avoid damage from wind. Growing gourds along the ground surface will also leave no concern if you wish to hand pollinate fruits (which is safer on the ground), support heavier gourd fruit or when applying foliar fertilizers to gourd plants.
RESOURCES / REFERENCES:
Jessie Newberry, Information from member, Idaho Gourd Society, Growing Gourds
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