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How to Grow Gourds

Four Parts:Preparing to PlantPropagating the SeedsPlanting Your GourdsHarvesting Your Gourds

Gourds have been used for centuries as decoration as for their usefulness as tools and utensils. Whether you want the crop for artistic purposes or you just like the colorful squash sitting in your field, growing gourds at home is easy.

Part 1
Preparing to Plant

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    Choose a variety of gourd. Gourds come in dozens of species, each with its own unique shape, color, and size. Gourds come in three general types: ornamental gourds (cucurbita), utilitarian gourds (lagenaria), and vegetable sponge gourds (luffa).
    • Ornamental gourds are brightly colored and oddly shaped, typically used as decoration. The have orange and yellow flowers.
    • Utilitarian gourds are green while growing, and then dry a brown shade. These gourds are most often used for tools and utensils because of their tough shell.
    • Vegetable sponge gourds have a shell that can be peeled off, revealing a center that can be used as a sponge. These have yellow flowers while growing.[1]
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    Determine when to plant. Gourds will grow in most climate zones, but they grow the best in hot weather. If you’re in a location that receives freezing temperatures throughout most of the winter, you will have to start your gourds as seeds indoors prior to sewing them outside. Gourds take about 180 days total from planting till they produce ripe fruit, as a result of their extra long germination process. Keep in mind that if you’re in a cold area, you’ll need to start your seeds 6-8 weeks before the last frost of the season.
    • Gourds grow best in temperatures between 75 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Starting gourds indoors simply involves planting the seeds in individual containers and watering on a daily basis.
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    Decide whether or not to use a trellis. Trellises are wood or wire constructs built to hold plants off the ground, and in the case of gourds, are used primarily to encourage unique shapes. You do not need a trellis to grow your gourds, as they will grow fine on the ground. However, gourds that grow on the ground will have a flat side where they lay, while gourds that grow on trellises will maintain their rounded shapes. If you decide to use a trellis, set it up prior to planting your gourds, and then stake the plants to it over time.
    • Large, heavy varieties (like bottle gourds) will require a combination wood and heavy wire trellis in order to support them without falling over.
    • Small gourd varieties can be grown using a large tomato cage as the trellis.
    • Luffa (vegetable sponge gourds) almost always need to be trellised.
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    Select a planting location. Gourds should be planted outdoors in full sunlight, with plenty of space to sprawl. Although they can be grown in pots, this will significantly limit their size and overall production. If you’re planting your gourds without a trellis, choose a space with plenty of square footage for growth. Otherwise, stake your trellis out in a wide area with plenty of sunlight and little shade.
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    Prepare the soil. It isn’t too tricky to get soil under the proper conditions for gourds, making them easy to grow in most locations. They like plenty of moisture with a bit more clay than sand (meaning they may not thrive in sandy soil). Test the pH of your garden plot to see if it is in the best range for gourds; they like acidic soil in the range of 5.8 to 6.4. If your pH is too high, incorporate peat moss to increase the acidity.[2]

Part 2
Propagating the Seeds

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    Scarify the seeds. Gourds are infamous for their tough outer seed shell, which is partly responsible for their extra long germination period. To prevent your seeds/gourds from rotting because they took too long to germinate, you can scarify them to speed the process. Use an emery board (paper nail file) or a smooth sandpaper to scratch up the outer surface of the seeds. This shouldn’t take too long; the rough paper should just roughen the coating of both sides of the seed.
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    Soak the seeds. After the seeds have been scarified, place them in a bowl of lukewarm water and allow them to soak. This should be done for a total of 24 hours, in order to help speed up the germination process.
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    Let the seeds dry. After soaking for 24 hours, remove the seeds from the water and lay them out to dry on a piece of wax paper. Giving them time to completely dry out will prevent them from rotting before even sprouting.
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    Start your seeds. It’s a good idea to give your seeds a head start (even if you’re in a warmer area) by planting them in starter sets indoors. Fill small seed trays with your prepared soil, and place a single seed in each slot. Give daily watering until you’re ready to transplant the sprouts outdoors, typically after the last frost of the winter.

Part 3
Planting Your Gourds

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    Dig your rows/holes. In the location you’ve selected for your garden plot, use a small trowel or shovel to prepare the holes for the gourd seedlings. If you’re planting many gourds at once, space your rows so that they are at least 5 feet (1.5 m) apart, and so that there is 2 feet (0.6 m) of space between each gourd in a single row.
    • Keep your rows near your trellis if you’re using one.
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    Plant the gourds. Place each small seedling or seed into its own individual hole; don’t group several in the same space. Cover up the seeds with ½ inch of dirt, and cover seedlings to the base of the new growth.
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    Care for your newly planted gourds. At planting, water the gourd seeds heavily so as to reduce the risk of transplant shock. Gourds like plenty of moisture, so make sure the soil is damp by adding water on a daily basis if necessary. Remove weeds as they sprout, as these will steal valuable nutrients and growing space from the gourds. If you’re using a trellis, as the gourds grow in size you can use a bit of string to secure them to the posts and give them plenty of room for growth.
    • Add a layer of mulch to the garden plot to lock in moisture and block out new weeds.
    • Consider incorporating an equal-part fertilizer (like a 10-10-10 mixture) to the soil every few months.
    • Give your gourds extra water when the weather is particularly dry or hot, to maintain a high level of moisture in the soil
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    Consider training ornamental gourds. If you’re growing ornamental gourds, it is common for growers to train them into interesting shapes and structures. There are two general ways to train the shape of a gourd: bending over time, and by giving it a mold. You can slowly bend parts of a gourd as it grows, if you want a winding snake-like gourd in the end. You can also create a mold for your gourd by placing the small fruit inside a breakable vessel of some sort (like a vase). When the gourd has grown, it will fill the container and match its shape; you simply have to break the mold to remove it when done.[3]

Part 4
Harvesting Your Gourds

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    Leave the gourds to cure on the vine. When your gourds have reached their full size, the vine they’re growing on will start to die off on its own. At this point your gourds are ready for harvesting, but you’ll make the job a lot easier on yourself if you leave them to cure on the vine. Give them several weeks to a month for the curing process to occur; as you check in on them, you’ll notice them getting lighter and lighter. Unless you notice animals and bugs eating the gourds, there’s no fear of rotting or going bad.
    • If you have to cut the gourds early, wait till the vine at the top of the gourd has turned completely brown and dry.
    • Turn the gourds occasionally and move them around to keep them from touching.
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    Remove the gourds. The curing time varies from gourd to gourd depending on its size (and therefore water content). Check the gourds on a weekly basis to tell if they’re ready. Feel the skin and check the firmness of the gourds; if they are at all soft or squishy, they are rotten and should be thrown out. When the skin feels hard and slightly waxy to the touch, they are likely ready to be cut. Shake the gourd as the final test to see if they are fully cured; if they are ready, they’ll sound like a rattle with the seeds banging around on the inside. Use a pair of scissors or shears to cut the gourds from the vine.
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    Treat the shell of the gourd. Although it is not required, you can treat the shell of the gourd to change its appearance and to help it last longer. Wash the gourd with a bit of dish detergent and warm water to kill off any bacteria. You can then use a bit of sandpaper or steel wool to shine the outside of the gourd, and add a layer of wax or shellac to finish off the shine. You can decorate gourds by painting the outsides as well.
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    Consider saving the seeds. Your gourd will last for many years with the seeds inside, but if you would like to save the seeds for the next year’s planting, you may do so. Cut the gourd open to remove the seeds from the inside. Follow the same process of propagating the seeds (as aforementioned) to help speed up their growth. You can keep the shell of the old gourd, and you’ll have the seeds to create plenty of new gourds as well.[4]


  • The process of treating a luffa (vegetable sponge) gourd is slightly different than ornamental and utilitarian gourds. To remove the shell you will have to soak it for 24 hours after curing. A malleable sponge will be found in the center when the shell is peeled away.

Things You'll Need

  • Gourd seeds
  • Nail file or emery board
  • Bowl
  • Water
  • Peat pot or toilet paper roll
  • Seed-starting mix
  • Hand shovel
  • Compost
  • Watering can and water
  • Wooden trellis
  • Detergent

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