When you begin planting your gourd crop, you should plan for a pest and disease control plan throughout the growing season. Certain major pests that may attack your gourd plants include: insects, primarily squash bugs, squash vine borers and cucumber beetles, diseases like powdery mildew, mosaic viruses and bacteria wilt, and large critters like squirrels, deer, groundhogs, etc. Pesticides, repellants and cultural control and physical barrier methods are used to control these gourd pests. Use several methods, sprays and techniques from the above categories in concert with one another to provide your gourd crop with effective pest and disease control.
Pesticides, such as insecticides and fungicides are sprayed on plants to control, kill and eliminate harmful insects and diseases, respectively. It’s best to use a combination of multiple insecticides and fungicides to target insects and diseases. This author recommends the use of non-toxic contact spray insecticides such as Diatomaceous Earth and Neem Oil that offer good protection and are derived from safe, natural sources. Squash bugs and cucumber beetles will readily attack both hard shell gourds (Lagenaria) and ornamental gourds (Cucurbita), however cucumber beetles show a preference to hard shell gourds and Squash vine borers will only target ornamental gourds (not hard shell gourds).
To protect gourd plants from diseases its best to use safer copper or sulfur based fungicides along with biological fungicides. Diseases such as powdery mildew and mosaic viruses can be controlled as the gourd plants are sprayed with fungicides on a regular timing schedule as a preventative measure. Bacteria wilt which is always deadly to plants is spread by cucumber beetles, and control is dependent on controlling cucumber beetles. Root Shield and Companion are two biological fungicides that can be used to boost plant health and control soil and seed borne diseases such as Fusarium Foot Rot. Fusarium Foot Rot is only a concern for ornamental (Cucurbita) gourds as well as other pumpkin and winter squash varieties. To combat diseases it’s necessary to start early on a preventative basis as it is much easier to prevent a disease from taking up residence on your plants than to eliminate it after it has appeared.
Repellants are sprayed either directly on or around gourd plants as a means to repel deer, groundhogs and insect pests. Garlic and egg based sprays, such as Repels All, can be purchased at local garden centers are nasal irritants to these animal pests and can work quite effectively. Garlic based insect repellants like Garlic Barrier also provides good control of squash bugs and cucumber beetles.
Utilizing cultural controls and proper crop sanitation is a good way to combat insect pests and diseases prior to the beginning of the growing season. Barrier protection of crops from pests is also quite effective. Insect pests can be restricted from access to plants by covering them with an insect resisting row cover that should of course be removed temporarily during pollination time. The use of wildlife netting around gourd plants and fruit as well as garden fencing can prove to be a useful method to reduce deer and ground hog damage.
Although it can be a pain, and not the most enjoyable part of your experience in growing gourds, controlling insect and large pests along with diseases on your gourds plants is a must. Plan to learn constantly so you can use better, more effective and safer methods to provide the best pest and disease control for your gourd crop.
RESOURCES / REFERENCES:
Grassbaugh, Elaine, Metzger, Susan & Riofrio, Marianne. Growing and Curing Gourds in the Home Garden, HYG-1630-96. Ohio State University Extension Fact Sheet, Horticulture and Crop Science. Retrieved from: http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1630.html
Thomas A. Zitter, Department of Plant Pathology, Cornell University. Fact Sheet Page: 733.00, Date: 1-1998. Fusarium Diseases of Cucurbits, Cooperative Extension, New York State, Cornell University. Retrieved from: http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/factsheets/Cucurbits_Fusarium.htm