Gourds are related to winter squash and pumpkins, and while most gourds are technically edible, they are usually used for craft projects or for decoration. Hard-shelled gourds can be hollowed out to make birdhouses, bowls or scoops, and some gourds can be dried to make a rattle. Other types of gourds are used whole for autumn-themed table centerpieces. Gourds are relatively low maintenance garden plants, but you should consider the space you have available and your local growing season before buying gourd seeds.
Determine the type of gourd you want to grow. Some gourds varieties are named for their intended purpose, such as birdhouse gourds, dipper gourds or water jug gourds. Other gourds have names that describe their appearance, such as Turk's turban, crown of thorns or speckled swan. Look through the pictures in a seed catalog to find a gourd that suits your fancy. You can also ask other gourd gardeners what they grow.
Consider your garden space. Gourds like to spread out and can cover 10 or more feet in every direction. If you're short on space, look for compact varieties, or grow gourds that have smaller fruit so the vines can be trained up a trellis. Heavy-fruited gourds may break an average trellis or the fruit may snap off the vine.
Calculate your growing season. Gourds usually require a long, hot summer. Some will mature in as little as 100 days, while other varieties may take up to 180 days to mature. Be prepared to start gourd seeds indoors if you live in a cooler climate.
Examine seed catalogs or visit garden centers to find your desired variety of gourd. Any place that sells vegetable seeds should carry some gourd seeds, although selection may be limited. There are also some companies that specialize in decorative gourd seeds. The American Gourd Society can help you find specific varieties of gourds.
Plant the gourd seeds according to the directions on the packet. Gourds should be planted outside after the soil has warmed and the danger of frost has passed, and they may be planted in hills or in rows. Gourds require lots of soil nutrients, and may benefit from applications of compost or fertilizer.