Sunday, June 3, 2012

Gourds Are Fun To Grow

 My dad loved to grow bird house gourds.  I tried it a few times with marginal success, but this year they seem to be thriving.  One can not expect a lot of quality gourds per vine but I would be happy to get, 3 or at least two.  Once the female flowers are properly fertilized the fruits grow incredibly fast, but this is not a plant for those wish quick results.  The gourds will grow to a stopping point but will continue to remain green for a long time as the seeds develop.  Growing Gourds requires 100-110 days, fairly regular water, good sun and soil.  And even after the stem turns brown and dies, the picked fruit will require another 100 days to slow cure.  It will be ready for your projects when the seeds rattle inside.  Much more info can be found online.   Some of my vines , like the one above, are almost 20 feet up into the trees...Yes they require a lot of support.   Gourds that do not hang freely will not develop the traditional bird house gourd shape.

  I grow another gourd, a completely different kind.  Not for any purpose than for its ornamental value.  This is the Texas native known as Balsam Gourd ibervillea lindheimeri.  I have this vine growing in several locations and this year they are sporting loads of scarlet red fruit that are a bit smaller than a ping-pong ball.

When I moved here I did not have any and wanted them badly so instead of trying to grow them from seed, I dug up one of the large tubers of this perennial plant.  That turned into a big task as it was growing in Hill Country hard caliche mixed soil and rock.  The tuber was the size of a large potato.  I planted it in a sunny spot with lots of brush for the vines to grow on and Walla!...the next year it grew and produced a few fruit.

  The flower are interesting and showy as well.  For propogation , the fruit must be ripened to the point that it almost is about to rot.  The seeds can be extracted, dried and planted, but all I have done is to merely toss the ripe fruits in various place and allow nature to raise and nourish them.  The plant is extremely drought tolerant and even during 2007-2011 drought I never watered any a single time and they still produced fruits.

  I occasionally find that birds had pecked into them but I do not know which birds those might be. 

  The fruits are not edible, I have tried them, but I do not think they are poisonous either.  Just a neat native to have around Provides summer color even when droughts stifle even the most hardy of wildflowers.
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