Objects of art
Cucurbits grown not so much for food but for their good looks and usefulness are called gourds. Like pumpkins and squash, they grow on a vine over summer to produce an autumn crop of fruit. There are two main types of gourds grown in gardens. The Cucurbita pepo var. ovifera group are the most closely related to pumpkins, producing a range of curiously shaped and highly colourful hard skinned fruits that will last as colourful indoor decoration for many months. They can then be composted and their seed used for a crop the following year. The fun is in the variety of plants and fruits produced.
The second type are ‘bottle gourds’, belonging to the species Lagenaria siceraria. These hard shelled gourds can be dried and cured over winter to be crafted into objects that will last indefinitely. For thousands of years they’ve been used as bottles, bowls, musical instruments, tools and artworks, decorated by scraping, cutting or burning images onto them. Fun to grow and paint, gourds are made into all manner of crafty objects including lamp shades, bird feeders and plant hangers, as a quick visit to pinterest.com will reveal.
Gourds are grown in the same way as pumpkins and can be sown in pots or straight into the soil in early summer. Ideally, place several seeds in a mound or a mounded row and then remove the weakest growing plants. They will sprawl across the ground, but will also grow up a fence which helps keep them clean and dry. Harvest gourds as late as possible in autumn, but before frost.