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Long Gourds 101

By By Jim Kilbert - February 2002

Want to try something different? Is your growing area too limited for Atlantic Giants? Try growing a long gourd!

While I'm no "seasoned" expert, using good basic growing practices, I grew them last year for my first time, and ended up with several in the 70"range, and one that measured 89"! A tall trellis (10-12') is a must, for gravity is what makes these gourds so long. If a gourd is allowed to reach the ground, it will curl. Pick a planting area that gets as much full sun as possible. Dig a hole, (at least 2'x2'x2') and fill with aged manure and/or compost. A bigger area may be better, but this size worked for me. The better the soil, the better the results.

I recommend a soil test, a ph of around 6.8 is ideal. The trellis MUST be sturdy, the vine, leaves, and fruit will end up being quite heavy. This year, I plan on using 2 4x4's planted in the ground, and spanned by trellis,( I've recently seen this in the stores in plastic p.v.c., which should hold up well for years!)

I start my seeds indoors in early May in peat pots and pro-mix, just like my AG's. Before transplanting outside, I use a balanced fertilizer, such as 10-10-10 in the planting zone. Transplanting when the plant is several inches long, space them at least 3-4' apart. I surround the young plant with several stakes, around which I wrap saran wrap. On cool nights, I cover with a blanket. I fertilize and spray for insects every 7-10 days. Miracle grow works fine, I also use kelp meal, and fish/seaweed mix. The plants need to be pruned, I remove any excess vines, and any "stray" growth that finds its way off the trellis. Tie the vine loosely onto the trellis as it grows , with pieces of women's hose.

The plant is "night flowering" (by late-night bees?) so better results can be had by hand pollinating. You will want to cull some fruits, keep a few that look good, and are as near the top of your trellis as possible. Actually fruit growth occurs in 20-30 days, and if you're not paying attention, seems like overnight. Avoid handling fruits any more than necessary. Be extremely careful when removing them from the vine, they are quite fragile! To transport a gourd, I duct tape it in several places, to a long 2x4.

The last I've heard is that the long gourd will be included starting this year at the G.P.C. weigh-offs. In the case of a long, curved fruit, measurement will be taken on the "outside curve" of the fruit, resulting in the longest measurement. Happy growing!

-- Updated 4/4/2002 --

It now appears that long gourd will be a "ribbon only" entry this year in the G.P.C. Rather than measuring the "outside curve" of the gourd as I previously posted, a measurement will be taken from the top to the bottom, in a straight line. Thus, any growth once a gourd curves, will not be counted. Long gourds must be long, and not coiled like a snake!

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