Fall is the time we start to see decorations for sale in preparation for Halloween and Thanksgiving. Among them are gourds.

Gourds are a member of the Cucurbitaceae family and include squashes, melons, cucumbers, pumpkins and luffas. They are mostly tropical/warm weather plants and very sensitive to frost. Gourds are believed to have been used all over the world. Cyndee Newick, an artist who uses the plant to pieces, said gourds are thought to be the earliest domesticated plant, having originated in Asia before being introduced in Africa, Polynesia and America.

“It is speculated that they made their way to America carried across the Bering Strait and by floating on ocean currents,” states her website, www.earthborngourds.com. There is evidence that early man began cultivating gourds for many uses, such as utensils, containers, medicine and musical instruments, among other things. Today, we see them mostly used decoratively as centerpieces and bird houses. But they continue to be used as containers, jewelry, musical instruments, sculptures, etc.

So, can we grow gourds in Central Texas? Betty Kent of the Texas Gourd Society said we can.

Similar to vegetables, gourds need at least six hours of sunlight, plenty of space to grow and/or hang (depending on the type), good seeds, nutrient-rich soil and lots of water to establish them. Some pests to watch for are cucumber beetles, squash bugs, squash vine borer, cut worms, aphids and bacterial wilt.

One reason to plant gourds is that they are diverse, coming in all shapes, sizes, thicknesses and colors. They’re quite useful if you like to make crafts for your home, and they’re definitely unique. Your children and grandchildren will be fascinated by them, as they turn into an almost wood-like structure once they are dried out.

I learned quite a bit about gourds, beginning with the fact that there is a whole population of enthusiasts out there that read, write, research and create crafts centered around gourds. You never know, it might just be the next new (old) fad in gardening.

Darla Menking is a certified Bell County Texas Master Gardener and a Texas Master Naturalist. Email her at darla.menking @gmail.com.

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