Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine, Be Mine

A Valentine from a wonderful friend in North Carolina. The art work on my card is by JK, a student at Arthur Edwards Elementary.The inside of the card gives me this information, an art gallery provides the card stock and envelopes to participating schools for the kids to make valentines. The gallery then displays and sells the cards and gives the money back to the schools to purchase art supplies. Is this not just wonderful!! I have a unique card with a hand written note from my friend and more art supplies are being purchased for the students. A real winning situation.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Small Gourds

If you have only a small space to grow gourds you could consider the ornamental variety. These are the colorful small gourds you see in the stores and markets as fall approaches. They have yellow blossoms that open during the day and they require only ninety days to maturity. They could be grown in a large pot, half barrel or small area with a trellis to climb. The small ornamental gourds are known as soft shell gourds and once cured and placed in water they will soften. Some crafters use this as a way to cut the gourds with scissors and craft knives to make flowers and other crafted creations.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Champion Gourd

The Courier-Journal newspaper in Louisville had sponsored a state wide Biggest Gourd Contest for many years. I didn't consider checking to see what the measurements of other gourd winners were, I just read the requirements for entry. There was only one, you had to share seed with every one that requested them. I sent in my entry and a short time later received a call from Byron Crawford, the man responsible for the contest. He visited and took this photo and wrote an article for the paper. The gourd was the third largest in the contests history at seventy four inches in circumference. That seems small in comparison to the ninety and hundred plus inches that later winners had and maybe one of them was a descendant from my gourd. I received close to fifteen hundred requests for seeds. The counter employees at the post office were kind enough to work with me on the mailings. I took in several envelopes of seed each day for hand canceling. The big gourd cured and was taken with me to craft shows where many people had no idea what it was. I do still have it.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Gourd Twins

The twins were an oddity, they grew from one stem and they measured ninety nine and one half inches around. I really had my fingers crossed and breath held waiting for them to cure. All the gourds on your vines are not going to cure. Usually they have not had enough time on the vine before a hard frost. And remember, the frost is not going to kill a gourd that has matured. Hard shelled gourds needs one hundred and twenty days on the vine to reach maturity. I always planned on losing about twenty five percent of my gourds. I do not worry about cutting gourds from the vine before a frost, they can cure in the field and people that raise acres of gourds allow them to do so. If you have only a few gourds, you can harvest them and place them on pallets for air circulation and leave them outside or inside a barn or shed. The gourd is ninety percent water, as the water evaporates through the shell it hardens and the gourd becomes light in weight and the seeds inside are released and the gourd acquires it's rattle. Sometimes gourds will have a thunk thunk sound when you shake them and this is the result of a seed ball. During the curing process the seed pods inside the gourd pull together and dry into a hard ball. I always cut these gourds and if the shell is thick they can be used as bowls or other containers. I did move the twins to a pallet and waited but they did not cure.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

In And Outs of the Patch

When the gourds are first setting on your vines it is fairly easy to get in and out of the patch as you can see where the vines are growing. You will want to get in and sit up as many gourds as you can so they can grow with a good flat bottom. As time and vines take over this will not be feasible as you can kill a vine by stepping on it and in turn destroy your gourds. The vines will be producing blooms and gourds right up to frost time. Any that don't manage to have a flat bottom will just give a creative burst to some artist or crafter.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Birds n' Bees About Gourds

Gourds have male and female flowers, getting to know them is just part of the fun of growing gourds. The male flowers will arrive on your plants first and sometimes you think there will be no female flowers at all and then one day, viola' there they are. The male flowers are on tall shafts and have small yellow stamen, the female flower will have fat yellow pistils. You can let insects do the pollination or you can help. There is more than one way of course. Some folks take a small soft brush and gently wipe it over the stamen of the male flower and then wipe it over the pistils of the female flower. You can also snap off the male flower, turn it upside down and place it onto the female flower and gently thump the male flower to release the pollen onto the female pistils. If you look closely at the flowers in the photo you will see that under the top center flower is the actual little gourd. This way you will know what your gourd plant is producing as gourds are notorious for cross pollination. Hard shell gourds such as the ones in the photo have white flowers and open their blooms mostly at night and you cannot rely on the bees to pollinate for you. I have seen hummingbird moths at the gourds in the evening and I have never tried to kill all the bugs that are wanting to feed on the gourds, I need some of them in order to have a harvest.

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Piddlin' Patch

A photo showing one half of the piddlin' patch. There are ten gourd plants in this part of the patch. They were planted ten feet apart and given ten feet on each side, yes they do need that much room and would take more if available. Each gourd plant will produce a main vine, you want to pinch this off at the end when it reaches a length of ten feet, this will force the plant to produce lateral vines which in turn will produce more gourds for you. I had a boundary and any vine that went beyond that became fodder for the mower.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Arbor 3

A different angle of the arbors and you can see the gourds are on the outside as well as the inside of the arbors. If you click on the photo to enlarge it you will see that each gourd is sitting on a small platform. These were scrap pieces of particle board from a construction site and I used some old cord to attach them to the arbors. Gourds are ninety percent water and they can be heavy hanging from any structure and risk falling without support, the wire fencing that is supporting them can also cut through the vine. The boards insure that the gourds will have a nice flat bottom for sitting as well.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Arbor 2

The gourd vines have now gone completely over the arbor and it is later into the season as you can see by the vines dying out at the base. This arbor crop was martin house gourds and yes the purple martins have been known to choose gourd houses over a man-built house. As this was my first crop the gourds were smooth, almost blemish free and that is because the cucumber beetles hadn't found us yet. I still have a few of the gourds from this first crop and am always amazed at their beautiful honey color. Another note on the construction of the arbors, we did make them wide enough for the lawn tractor to be driven through.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Arbors 1

This is my first crop of gourds grown on an arbor. These arbors were constructed from the metal packing crates that the John Deere Company used to ship their lawn tractors in. We took them apart and reassembled them into frames then drove them into the ground, and covered them with woven wire fencing. The planting base is made from old railroad ties and strips of aluminum siding were placed on the inside to prevent the gourds from growing into the arbor and also to help keep the weeds out. You can place the plants much closer together when you are growing vertically.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Growing Gourds

It's that time of the year when all gardeners are dreaming of spring and have a stack of seed catalogs next to their favorite chair. Have you thought about growing gourds? They are fun to grow and they are marvelous to craft as they can be painted, carved, wood burned, sculpted, made into lamps, baskets and more. They can be grown on arbors, fences, on the ground, even in a very large pot. Seed can be started indoors during late March or early April and planted outside after the danger of frost is past. There are several gourd societies around the country and you can purchase seed and sometimes plants that are ready to be put into the ground at a gourd show. The Kentucky Gourd Show will be held at Taylorsville the weekend of May 15-16, 2010. More to come on the next post.