How to Grow Bottle Gourds
Bottle gourds (also Calabash) are both nutritional and quite easy to grow. If you have ever grown vines, then you're probably \aware that most vines can only be grown by germinating from seed. The same goes for Bottle Gourds too.
These vegetables are called bottle gourds, because of their bottle-like shape. Similar to bitter gourds, these can be grown in a container and do not require much space. With only a square meter of growing bed space in your backyard or a suitable container, you can grow a whole month’s supply of bottle gourds.
Bottle Gourds are popular across numerous regions. The vegetable may have begun its spread across the world from the Far East, where contextual records go back about 8000 years. The plant is now primarily grown in tropical and sub-tropical regions across the world, and young gourds are consumed in a variety of ways across numerous dishes. The young gourds can have a bitter taste when juiced, so avoid preparing it this way. Older gourds are primarily dried and shaped into vessels.
Incredibly, bottle gourds (through the long historical process of domestication) have a diverse range of usage, a popular one being as a liquid container. Some of the most common bottle gourd verities today, are cylindrically shaped with thick walls. When dried, these can be used as water (and other liquid) storage containers.
Welcome to this GaiaTree Eco article, in which we'll explain how to grow bottle gourds in your backyard, homestead or farm. But first, let's take a quick peek at the properties of Bottle Gourds.
Properties of Bottle Gourds
- Genus: Lagenaria
- Plant type: Lagenaria siceraria (Calabash)
- Height: 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.5 m) - grows as a vine
- Width: 2 to 3 feet (0.6 to 0.9 m)
- Leaves: 1.5 to 4.75 in (4 to 12 cm) - simple round leaves
- Flowers: Small white and yellow
- Cotyledon: First 2 leaves emerge after ~2 weeks (also known as false leaves)
- Propagation: Grow from seeds-only
- Water requirement: 2 to 3 in (5 to 7 cm) of water twice weekly
- Harvest Time: 55 to 75 days from sowing
Nutritional value of bottle gourds
Stress relieving: Consuming bottle gourds can have positive effects on one’s mental stress levels. The vegetable has mild sedative properties that help relax the body (more on this).
Good for the heart: Bottle gourd contains vitamin C, K and calcium. This can lower bad cholesterol levels and aid in maintaining a healthy heart.
Weight loss properties: If you are someone who has tried everything to lose those excess weight, then bottle gourds could be just the vegetable to be included as part of your regularly consumed diet. These veggies are filled with Potassium, Iron, and Vitamins, and contain high fiber and water content. This delivers lower calorie density while providing essential minerals.
Healthy digestion: Being rich in fibers and alkali content, bottle gourds can aid with stomach acidity issues.
Grow a Rewarding Bottle Gourd Crop
Step 1: Preparing the ground
To prepare the sowing ground for your bottle gourds, the very first thing you need to do is find a spot that gets enough sunlight during the day. 4 to 6 hours of daily sunlight is the minimum requirement to grow a healthy harvest of bottle gourds. Once you have decided on where your growing bed needs to be located, you can prepare the soil by mixing in some organic compost in it. This will provide essential nutrition for your crop.
Step 2: Season
The best time to grow bottle gourds is during summer, when there's plenty of sunshine. You can however, always grow bottle gourd crops throughout the year, although summer and monsoon (in tropical regions) seasons, are ideal.
Step 3: Sowing method
Dig a 2 to 4 inch (5 to 10 cm) deep hole in the ground and insert bottle-gourd seeds in the holes. After that, water the ground and cover with 1 inch (2.5 cm) of organic compost. The seeds should germinate within 7 to 10 days after sowing. Always remember to procure organic or heirloom bottle gourd seeds when you're ready to get started.
Step 4: Feeding and plant care
A strong base and trellis support will help the bottle gourd vines to grow faster and yield larger fruit. Although, if you are short on space and growing the crop in a container, then allowing the vines to climb up a wall to the roof of a house would do just as well. This might require drawing wire or twine from rafters to the base of established bottle gourd plants, along which the vines can climb.
Step 5: Watering
One of the primary tasks you will need to pay attention to, is watering the vines regularly. Unless these are watered at least twice a week, the plants will yield a weak and low quality crops. Remember to not ever let the soil bed go completely dry.
Step 6: Insect & Disease prevention
One of the major/common diseases that bottle gourds get is anthracnose (during a rainy season) and powdery mildew (during summer). To prevent anthracnose from affecting your crop, ensure your growing bed is well drained and do not let water settle or puddle around vines. On the other hand, during the summer, you'll need to ensure that the soil does not become day, to prevent powdery mildew from taking hold.
Step 7: Harvesting
Bottle gourd vines should yield harvestable produce within 3 to 4 months from sowing. The vine will continue to yield bottle gourds for an additional 2 to 3 months after first harvest.
You can make sure that your gourds are ready for harvest, by gently pushing a blunt knife (like a butter knife) or fork into a gourd. If it feels soft and has a smooth surface, it is ready for harvest. Use a sharp knife or agricultural scissors to cut off the gourd from the vine.
Step 8: Storage
Bottle gourds can be consumed right after harvesting (best had fresh). If you need to keep them stored later for later consumption, then pack the gourds in an airtight container and place them in a refrigerator. For a large farm harvest, bottle gourds can be stored in a dark cold enclosure, to keep them fresh until they're ready to be sent to market.
Whether you're a farmer, have a homestead or have a productive home garden, growing bottle gourds can be super fun since the plants don’t require any exceptional care. The vines are beautiful and grow white flowers that could attract beautiful butterflies and other pollinators.