Shenot Crown of Thorns Gourd
There are three types of gourds, ornamental types, hard shelled types, and luffa. All types produce vigorous vines and are members of the Cucurbit (Cucurbitacea) family.
- Ornamental gourds are classified as Cucurbita pepo and are closely related to Summer Squash. They produce small gourds in a range of colors, shapes, and sizes. They are primarily used for decorating and have a shorter shelf life than hard shelled types
- Hard shelled gourds are classified as Lagenaria siceraria. They produce hard-shelled fruit in various shapes. Hard shelled gourds can last for many years and are commonly used for a range of craft projects from dippers to birdhouses and containers.
- Luffa gourds are classified as Luffa species, and their fruit has has sponge-like interiors. They are sometimes called vegetable sponge or dishcloth gourd.
How to Grow
All types of gourds can be sown indoors 3 to 4 weeks before the last spring frost with seed planted an inch deep. Nick the edge of the seed of hard shelled types and soak the seed overnight before planting. Gourds can also be direct sown in the garden in spring after the danger of frost has passed.
Gourds can be planted in rows with 18 to 24 inches between plants and 5 to 6 feet between rows. They can also be planted in hills spaced 5 to 6 feet apart, sowing 5 or 6 seeds and thinning to the 3 strongest plants. Smaller sized gourds can be grown on a fence or trellis.
Plant in full sun in fertile, well-drained soil. All gourds are heat-loving plants that appreciate a long growing season, and this is especially true for large-fruited hardshell varieties.
Harvest gourds in fall when stems die back, but before frost. Cut the fruit from the plants leaving a few inches of stem attached. the curing process varies based on the type of gourd.
- Ornamental types - keep the gourds in a cool, well ventillated area spaced so they are not touching each other. Allow to dry for 2 to 4 weeks. After drying, they can be polished with a light coating of vegetable oil or furniture wax to extend their shelf life.
- Hard shelled types - when mature they are not harmed by frost. They can be left in the garden or elevated on a pallet or outdoor shelf. It is normal for the gourds to mold during curing, so they should not be kept indoors during this time. The gourds will have fully dried and cured by spring. Clean the gourds by soaking them in water for about 30 minutes and use a fine scouring pad to remove the outer skin and all mold. Wear rubber gloves while cleaning.
- Luffa - harvest when the outer skin is dry and the seeds rattle. Cut off the stem end and remove the seeds, then soak in warm water until the skin is soft enough to remove. Soak the fibrous interiors in a 10% bleach solution to lighten the color, if desired, rinse with water, then allow to dry thoroughly.
Gourds are heavy feeders that benefit from regular fertilization. Use full rates of ALGOplus All Purpose 6-6-6 liquid fertilizer or Neptune Fish & Seaweed Fertilizer 2-3-1.
Gourds are generally free of serious problems. Aphids, squash bugs, squash vine borers, and cucumber beetles sometimes attack plants. Diseases including powdery mildew and leaf spot are occasional problems. Use Captain Jack's Deadbug Brew to treat insect outbreaks and 70% neem oil to protect plants from disease infection.
Other annual plants used for decorating include ornamental corn and pumpkin.
Weed Control Porous Film Mulch 3' x 50' can be used to control weeds and warm the soil. Trellis Netting (53282) can be used to support vines. Plantable 3 Inch Round Jiffy Peat Pots can be used when starting seed indoors to reduce transplant stress.
Hard shelled gourds and luffa are edible when the fruit is young and immature and are commonly eaten as a vegetable in Asia.