ORGANIC GARDENING METHODS: GOURD (AND PUMPKIN)

For soup, jam and pie making, gourds and pumpkins give a huge return for trouble expended. They are grown in the manner of their close relative the vegetable marrow; requirements are rich soil (old manure or decaying green refuse), plenty of sun, and water in dry weather.

Varieties include Mammoth (mixed colours), Veitch’s Giant (up to 100 lb. in weight), Large Yellow; the smaller, ornamental gourds are not for eating.

A small packet of seed will provide more plants than are likely to be required. Germination takes from three to twelve days, according to temperature.

Ready for Use. July and onwards. Can be stored for winter.

Soil Preparation.

A heap of decaying garden refuse covered with 1 ft. of soil, in full sun, with plenty of space for the growths to ramble, will produce a big crop of fruit. Where soil is sandy, or quick-drying, better results come from planting in holes, 3 ft. apart, containing a few inches of old manure or leaf-mould covered with about 4 in. of good soil, with a 4-in. depression, 1 ft. in diameter, for watering. If no animal manure is used, mix superphosphate of lime with the surface soil, 2 ounces to the square yard.

When and How to Sow.

Plants for setting out in late May or early June are secured by sowing seed singly, 1 in. deep and on edge, in 3-in. or 4-in. pots filled with soil and sifted leafmould in equal parts, in April, in a temperature of 55 degrees (greenhouse or hotbed frame). Kept close up to the glass, seedlings of pumpkin or gourd make strong, rapid growth.

Or seed may be sown outdoors, where the plants are to remain in prepared places, in late May; two seeds 1 in. apart, the weaker seedling to be removed. Cover with sheets of glass, giving little ventilation for about a fortnight.

Planting Out.

Indoor-raised plants should be slowly accustomed to outdoor conditions by hardening off in a cold frame for a few days; or they may be stood out under a sunny fence or wall for a week, covered with a box or other protection at night, previous to planting out in late May or early June. Day protection also may be necessary if weather is not warm. Plant as deep as the lowest leaves, 3 ft. apart, and water in at once.

Watering, Feeding. It is almost impossible to give these plants too much water in dry weather. Growth is assisted by syringing on warm evenings, or spraying the leaves from a watering can fitted with a fine rose; sun-warmed rain-water is preferable to that straight from a tap.

When fruit is showing they will respond to weekly doses of dried blood, a teaspoonful stirred into each 2 galls, of water.

Training.

If shoots are pegged down to the ground here and there, well spaced out, with bent wire, and covered at the joints with 2 in. of good soil patted down, extra roots will be produced (from the covered joints) and the plants will be so much the stronger. Decaying leaves should be cut away.

In a rainy season, the underside of fruits will be safeguarded against decay or other injury if pieces of board are interposed between them and the ground.

For winter storage purposes, fruit should be cut when they cease to swell and be hung up by the stalk-end anywhere under cover where neither frost nor damp can affect them. Gathered dry and un-bruised, they should remain in good condition for months.

Preparing for Table.

Pare off the skin, cut open, remove pips, and proceed according to recipe requirements. Pumpkins and gourds are palatable and filling.

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