Gourds need about a 5-square-foot area in your backyard per plant to grow, as they will pull a lot of nutrients from the soil in their rapid growth. Large gourds are often a staple of fall-themed Halloween or Thanksgiving decorations, and are useful as birdhouses, vases, bowls and whatever else you can imagine. There are a few things you can do to grow amazing large gourds.
Start the gourd seeds indoors about a month before the normal planting date. Gourds are like squashes and cucumbers in that they need warm weather and soil to grow. Plant your gourd seeds in 8-ounce plant pots filled with potting soil, about an inch deep into the soil. Water the soil and place in a warm and well-lit area where they can germinate. The soil must stay moist and warm for the seeds to sprout. Keep them under lights for 12 hours a day.
Prepare the garden bed where you plan to grow the gourds. Measure out a 5- by 5-foot area and dig up the soil to about a foot deep. Work in about three wheelbarrows of well-rotted compost to each area. If you turn the soil over with a shovel, it should mix the compost in thoroughly.
Check the pH of the soil to make sure it is around 7.0. If it is too acidic, add 1 cubic foot of peat moss to add more plant material to the mix. Moisten it first in a wheelbarrow before you add it to the ground. Rake it smooth when you have finished mixing in the additions.
Plant your seedlings in the middle of the worked patch. Keep the plants at the same depth as they were indoors and try to keep the soil intact around the roots. Make sure you have waited until the ground is warm, usually around mid-May.
Water the gourd plants every couple of days with 5 gallons per plant. Fertilize with a 10:52:10 fertilizer every week for the first month after planting. Switch to a more balanced 10:10:10 mixture after that until the gourds have stopped growing. Always mix the fertilizer with water before applying it.
Prune off side shoots on the plant after it has been growing for a while. You want to form one main stem so that you force all the energy of the plant into the gourds. Limit the number of fruits per plant to two or three if you are planning to enter competitions with them.
Place a trellis near the plant while it is young so it can grow up and stay off the ground. Gourds grown on the ground will still grow large but tend to be misshapen and prone to pests. Make sure your trellis is strong enough to hold the weight of several large gourds even under windy conditions, and high enough to hold the large vine off the ground.
Control any bugs or pests with any bug killers that you would normally use for cucumbers. Harvest the gourds just a few days after you notice they are not growing anymore and before the cold weather strikes. Cut the stem about an inch up from the gourd. Place them in a dark and dry spot where they can dry out.