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Fall decor can be interesting with gourds

They are fun to grow for gardeners of all ages.

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Gourds can be used as centerpieces indoors or for decoration outside in containers.<br/><br/>
John Zvirovski / The Jamestown Sun
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They are grown in our gardens for ornamental purposes. They come in odd shapes and color combinations. They are rarely consumed as food and they are found everywhere during the fall season. What is it that makes these items so common among most people?

 

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John Zvirovski, Jamestown Sun garden editor
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Gourds are these unique items that seem to draw the attention of many due to their interesting characteristics. Not only are they interesting to look at, but they are also fun to grow for gardeners of all ages.

 

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They look similar to melons but have uses beyond our imagination that goes back for centuries. Typically we grow them for their interesting shapes and colors. Most enjoy using them for decorative purposes and some even use them in crafts and certain types of displays. The great thing about the gourd is that it can be preserved and used from year to year with the proper care and handling.

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Gourds are one of the first plants to be domesticated by society and originated in Africa before being spread around the rest of the world. They were known as nature’s pottery as they were used before clay and stone pottery came into existence.

 

Many used them for containers to hold grains, food and water. Some were used to make instruments that are common in the Caribbean like drums and string-type instruments. They were, and continue to be, a source of decoration also in the home and garden.

History has also shown that some of the thicker gourd shells were used to replace the missing bone areas due to skull surgeries back in the Neolithic era. The material created by the gourd can be quite tough and resilient for so many uses.

Gourds are grown as a vine crop and take anywhere from 100 to 180 days to mature, depending on the variety. They prefer to be grown in full sunlight in well-drained soil high in organic matter for best results.

Depending on the selection planted, mature gourds can be as small as a golf ball to as large as a basketball. Some are covered in numerous bumps while others have a smooth surface. They can be round, oval, pear, goose-necked or star-shaped and are green, white, yellow and orange, striped and bicolored for many different interesting effects.

Some varieties include Warted, Apple, Flat Striped, Crown of Thorns, Turks Turbin, Dipper, Bottle, Caneman’s Club and Luffa.

Yes, the Luffa is a gourd, but not like the Luffa you buy in the market for beauty uses. The thing that is different about this type is that it is grown in the sea underwater very much like the Sea or Squirting Cucumber. It is dehydrated and cut into slices for many uses. The Luffa gourd is a long, zucchini-like item grown on land.

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Once the fruit is mature, it can be picked from the vine and placed in a dry location with good air circulation to avoid mold and rot. Some gourds will dry within a couple of months; larger types can take nearly twice as long. When completely dried, they can be preserved with lacquer, varnish, wax, resin or paint, depending on their final use. Of course, you can use the fresh gourd for decoration also.

During the fall season, gourds are sold in the mass market, farmer’s markets and craft fairs. They can be used in outdoor displays, centerpieces and as home accents. There is a larger variety called the Martin gourd that is even hollowed out and used as a birdhouse.

These birdhouses have been placed in the wild to sustain the life of some bird species that have lost their habitat. Many of these birds rely on dead trees in which to make their homes. In today’s world, old trees are now removed from the forest for lumber and dead trees are removed for firewood. With these houses, they are now finding a new habitat to continue with their way of life. This practice is common in the Southern U.S.
 
Whatever use you may have for these items, you have to admit they are very universal in so many ways. Who would have guessed that so many utilitarian items of the past were created from this wonderful item we grow in our gardens today? It might not be a bad idea to go back to some of those practices and use some of these natural products for various uses. With a little imagination, the uses of this product become unlimited. Gourd cups and bowls on a picnic instead of Styrofoam or plastic might just be a start of less dependence on petroleum products. You never know!

While enjoying a little Halloween festivities in the coming weekends, why not take a little time to check out these items in the displays around us and enjoy the beauty they possess? With gardening, there is always something new and interesting to spark our creativity.

Related Topics: GARDENINGHOME AND GARDEN
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