Good Gourd!

Yes, I know it’s a terrible pun. I was told I had to use it as a title under pain of no cups of tea in the morning, a far too horrible reality to comprehend so I complied without hesitation.

As you may have guessed, I planted some gourd seeds. 24 to be precise, of four different varieties:

  • Russian Doll (cucurbita pepo)
  • Snake (cucurbita pepo)
  • Speckled Swan (cucurbita pepo)
  • Dinosaur (cucurbita lagenaria)

These were a bit of an impulse buy for Rob’s birthday. When we visited Hong Kong last year, he was really taken by the water canteens made from gourds but we couldn’t find one to bring back. “Aha!” I thought, “I’ll grow him one!”. And then those seeds (russian doll) were in a multibuy pack with the speckled swan and the snakes, and I couldn’t pass up the one called “Dinosaur” (who could?), so I got all four varieties. All the seeds look very similar so I’ll just show you the russian doll gourd seeds for brevity:


I planted them pointed end up in 3″ pots, six to a pot expecting about two or three to germinate, and put them in a heated propagator.


8 days later (last Tuesday), after seeing nothing poking above the soil that morning, by the time I got home the snake gourd pot suddenly had 6 shoots pulling themselves out of the soil! One shoot was visible in the speckled swan pot too.



Those pictures were taken when I got home from work, about 6pm. By 11pm, one snake gourd shoot had completely freed itself from the soil, and there was also a shoot visible in the russian doll pot. They grow SO FAST.



Yesterday I read up on growing gourds (a little late I realise), and found that I’d made a large gourd growing mistake. Really, I should have only planted at most three seeds per pot, and even then of those three only two should be allowed to reach gourd-dom (I had at least planted them the right way up by a fluke). When I got home yesterday evening, they had grown further with 5 out of 6 fully emerged from the soil.


Drastic action was required and soon, before all the roots become so tangled that separation was an impossibility, so after a fortifying cup of green tea (Twinings) I did something you should never do to the six snake gourd seedlings at this stage of growth. I (very carefully) tipped them out of their too small pot. Just look how long the roots are already!


I then (very carefully) pulled them apart into six separate plants.




I found six pots the same size as the original pot. I compared these pots to the seedlings’ root systems, and then went and got six much larger pots. Now I faced a dilemma – what soil to use? The seeds started off in a basic seed and cutting compost (a sterilised, low nutrient compost that is very fine so the roots can push through it easily). However, because of the speed of growth, I’d have had to put them in multipurpose compost in a proper pot fairly soon anyway. In the end I compromised and filled the bottom and one side of the pot with multipurpose compost, and then layered seed compost on the same side as the multipurpose. I then lay the pot on its side and (very carefully) lay the seedling (with the help of a long, flat BBQ spoon) on top of the seed compost.


I then (very carefully) filled around the seedling with more seed compost, gently firming it around the roots to try to avoid any air pockets, and finally packed down the last remaining gap with more multipurpose compost. I’m hoping that any roots that reach the multipurpose stuff will be advanced enough to withstand any bacteria and harsh nutrients, but we’ll see if they survive. Here are the six seedlings, each in their own home, standing in shallow water overnight to moisten the compost.


And what were the other gourd varieties doing whilst all this was going on? That’s right, growing. Look, a dinosaur shoot has appeared! And another two russian dolls!


I’ve probably got to repeat this whole process again for the remaining three sets of seedlings over the weekend. Not looking forward to that at all – my nerves are wrecked what with trying so hard not to damage any of the fragile roots. At least the stems and leaves are pretty sturdy. The next big problem will be finding somewhere to plant them. I want to grow one of each variety if I can, but they really do take up a lot of space. Even then, I’ll have potentially 20 plants surplus to requirements. Next year I’m sowing far fewer seeds and trusting them to germinate!

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