“I love these gourds, as I did before,
But squirrels and monkeys, love them more”
Gourds are fruiting veggies that have numerous varieties. This page has information relevant to most of the common gourds – snake/padwal, sponge/gilki turai, ridge/turai and smooth/lauki. Click here for info on ivy gourd/tendli and bitter gourd/karela.
SEASONS: Gourds are seasonal veggies that are very well suited for our tropical climate. They will grow through both the summer seasons in Mumbai and will happily survive the monsoons. Sow in early Feb or during the monsoons for planting out and growing through the following seasons.
PROPAGATING: This plant is easily propagated from seed. Buy gourd seeds from your garden shop, or prepare your gourd seeds from scratch. Scoop out the soft center of the fully ripened gourd with its seeds, spread on a rack, and leave to dry, preferably in the hot sun. It may take several days for thorough drying depending on the size and thickness of the seed. During the drying period, brush off dried pulp residue around the seeds. Once the seeds are dry, store in a brown paper bag in a cool, dark place.
GERMINATING: Germinate in February so your plants can produce fruit through summer and the monsoons. You could also germinate seeds and start your crop during the monsoons. Some flowers may be lost to the rains, but enough will survive and grow fruit so in effect, your plant could grow through the second summer, winter and possibly the following summer too. Sow gourd seeds directly in the ground or in germination dishes/seeding baskets. Some gourd seeds are large and hard shelled. In these instances, scarify the seeds (file very gently with a nail file or sand paper) before soaking for 24 hours. Dry them off before sowing in 1/2 inch deep holes in soft, well-composted soil. Water well, and daily, ensuring that the soil does not dry out, until shoots emerge in 7-10 days.
PLANTING OUT: Transplant your gourd seedlings, when they are sturdy in stem after about 2 weeks of growth, or when the first true leaves are formed. Choose acidic, well-composted and rich soil in full sun. These plants are heavy feeders and drinkers, so ensure that you give then good access to nutrients and water, with no competition from weeds or other plants. They also need plenty of space to grow their creepers on, and bars/rope/wire on which to wrap their tendrils to steady their growth , so plant near a trellis, frame or window grill for vertical growth. Sturdier wire or grill trellises are better than rope trellises that sway too much in the wind, making the plant use more energy just holding on. Gourds grow well on open plots and in large containers.
NURTURING: Place mulch around the soil to reduce evaporation and prevent weeds from encroaching on your gourd plant’s resources. Water deeply each day, twice a day in peak summer. As your plant grows, train it to grow on your trellis. Keep pruning dead and yellowing leaves, or diseased portions. Gourds will most often renew themselves with new shoots quite happily even after severe pruning, as long as they keep getting good water and food. Gourd creepers can grow up to 50 feet long, so plan for this.
HARVESTING: Harvest your gourds when they are still tender. Container-grown gourds may not grow too big, especially if nutrients are scarce in your container. Harvest while tender as delay will lead to hard gourds or, as in the case of sponge gourds, a fruit that becomes an inedible loofah! Most gourds are very productive and will give forth fruit through the season. If your gourd plant is flourishing during Mumbai’s first summer, it should survive through the monsoons too. Similarly, if your gourd plant was sown in the monsoons, it should grow through winter and beyond – as long as you feed it well. When productivity begins to decline, uproot your plant, compost, replenish your soil and use that space for growing leafing or rooting veggies.
Pretty yellow and white flowers of the sponge gourd and snake gourd
Snake and sponge gourds are high yielding and will produce up to 40 gourds per season
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