I live in zone 5 and right now is the time to start thinking about the growing season, especially if you want to grow hardshell gourds.
The first and most important part of the growing season is finding good gourd seeds. You can and will find seeds at your local garden shop or supermarket but the quality of those seed are mediocre at best. The best place I have found to get my seeds are from my own, previous grown gourds. If you have never grown your own gourds and are getting started then I would reccommend getting them from someone who sells gourds them self. There are local growers which can be found in your states local garden/gourd club. There are also on line dealers as well.
The next step is planting, so get yourself a garden journal and make a rough sketch of where you want to grow. Keep in mind a single gourd plant requires a minimum of 3ft x 3ft space per plant to get proper fruit development. These plants will also grow up or along anything, not just the ground. I am talking trees, fences, trellis, house siding, porch rails and so on. Another good point to make in this situation is once the fruits or gourds start growing they will become heavy and can damage whatever they grown on. Gourds require lots of sun, well drained soil and a pH of between 5.8 and 6.2.
Getting started growing is your next thought, since I live in zone 5 it is a short summer so it is almost a must to start seeds indoors. Not totally nessessarry, but you will bennefit from a better and healthier crop with starting indoors. I normally start my seedlings some where late feruary to mid march. Now you can get away with direct sowing but the cold wet starts usually ruin most seeds, at least that has been my experience. My set up is something like this: Growing mat, seed trays with tops, grow lights, and small fan for circulation. Now I start the seeds in small peat pods and once the plant starts to get its first true leaves I will plant the pods in larger pots until May when they will be planted in the garden location I have prepped.
Prepping and maintaining the garden site is the third and final steps. As I stated already I try to plant in May on or directly after mothers day. Sometimes you just have to battle old man frost for the win. Prep is simple for me, I don't get too complicated but I want to be sure my garden is weed free, a good tilling and turnover, manure spreading and weed prevention has been done. After planting and weed maintenence with my handy soil knife and weed plucker plus good general pest prevention I am ready for planting. I don't usually use pestiside except when it comes to gourds it is almost a must, gourd pests are very unforgiving and can ruin your crop in a couple days time so I usually pre treat to be on the safe side. That is basically it, enjoy tending your gourds and watching the surprises develope. We will talk more maintenence and harvest later in the season.
I hope if your reading this in some small way I have helpped or inspired you. I have been growing gourds for all of 17 years or more. So I am full of info to share and probably could write a book on my experiences. Happy Growing
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