You have decided what types of gourds to grow, when, and where, now you just need to get the gourd seeds planted. To plant gourds you can choose one of two methods: directly sowing the seeds into the ground or starting seeds in small pots to be transplanted later. If you opt to directly sow, be cautious of nearby birds and squirrels which may find and make a meal your seeds. Placing a napkin over the hill of newly planted gourd seeds with soil around its edges to hold it down creates an effective barrier to birds and once seedlings emerge, remove the napkin allowing the seedling to grow as birds will lose interest.
Squirrels seem to like larger seeds, such as with the hard shell gourds and birds will target the smaller seeds of the ornamental gourds. Whichever type of gourd you are growing, plan to provide some protection for seeds from these critters.
If you choose to transplant, begin by starting your gourd seeds in small pots (preferably new or ones that have been sterilized) with rich soil (bagged potting soil is a good choice), make sure the soil is not soaked but moist, let the pots remain in the sun and don’t allow the soil temperature exceed 85 degrees Fahrenheit. If pots are kept in miniature greenhouses, you may have to move pots in to the shade periodically to avoid high temperatures but try to keep them warm. In 7 to 10 days once gourd seedlings have emerged, you can transplant the seedlings into the ground. Letting gourd seedlings grow another week is also acceptable and will allow the seedling to grow stronger and let them become slightly root bound making it easier to plant causing less harm to roots. Always be gentle with gourd seedlings as transplanting can be quite a shock for them. Try to thoroughly wet the roots once you get the seedlings placed with soil around it. You may also try to loosen roots up, very carefully and place them as you are planting but this is not absolutely necessary.
Be sure to plant gourds on a surface that is fairly flat with only maybe a slight downward slope, there should be no depressions or mounds. Planting in soil depressions could leave your gourd plants sitting (drowning) in water for hours after a heavy rain. Planting in an actual raised mound, will lead to problems watering later in the season where when you apply water it will simply run off the mound and go elsewhere away from gourd plants, this can a big problem especially with a dried, hardened, and clayey soil.
Which ever method you choose to plant the gourd seeds, be sure to plant backups. Try as you may to avoid problems, they can have a way of finding you and your crop, whether its damage from birds or squirrels, germination failure, seeds getting too hot and losing viability, seedlings drowning from too much rain, early damage from cucumber beetles (an insect pest that loves to feed on gourd plants) or you name it. It just wise to plant double what you intend to grow for the season so you don’t lose time replanting if you have plant casualties. And if you have very few plant casualties, you get the option after several weeks to choose the best and strongest plants to leave in your garden, while removing weaker and less healthy plants if you choose to. Of course plant casualties can happen throughout the growing season, they are just more common early in the season.
RESOURCES / REFERENCES:
Betty Kent, President, Texas Gourd Society, The Southern Garden, Growing Gourds
Jessie Newberry, Information from member, Idaho Gourd Society, Growing Gourds
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