L-R: bowl gourds, birdhouse gourds and dipper gourds
Nearly four weeks into summer and the the cool, coastal cloudiness we call “June Gloom” is long gone. The days are long and consistently in the mid-80’s and getting hotter, while nights only dip into the 60s. For a lot of spring plantings the heat of mid-summer is their end, but for the gourds (and the beds they shade) it’s only the beginning.
The gourd garden in June and today
Here in the dry, desert west, vegetable garden staples like squash and tomatoes will ride out the hottest part of summer by pausing on new flowers and fruits. Others like basil and sweet peppers will keep going, but need some shade to keep from getting a sunburn. Herbs and leafy greens such as lettuces, dill, cucumbers and cilantro simply aren’t an option.
Gourds, on the other hand, love the heat and thrive in it. Better yet, since they flower at night and are pollinated by moths, they’ll continued fruit throughout the summer and well into autumn. As you can see from the photos, this year’s gourds have wasted no time climbing to the top of the trellises and are doing a great job of shading the western-most raised bed, keeping temperatures as much as 10 degrees cooler than those in the sun. As a result, we’re still harvesting loose leaf lettuce and onions, and will soon be swapping those for broccoli and some cos lettuce.
I’m growing four varieties of gourds: dipper, luffa, bowl and birdhouse (or bottle). With the exception of the luffas, which have just started to flower, all the rest are fruiting like crazy. Here’s a few photos of them right now.
The gourds right now
Bowl gourds growing on the vines
A dipper gourd on the vine in the hanging gourd garden
Birdhouse (aka bottle) gourds
While the gourd canopy is still a little thin, it’s filling in quickly and will soon be a cool, shady retreat from the mid-summer heat. Plus, it’ll be filled with hanging gourds giving the area a kind of exotic “jungle” feeling.