By Michelle Domocol
Back to Inflourish: Cebu Blog
This past May, I introduced some growing strategies for delicious and versatile gourds like kalabasa (squash), sikwa (luffa), kalabasang puti (kalubay/bottle gourd) and ampalaya (bitter gourd/bittermelon).
Now that it’s October, you can start planting more of these delicious, vining vegetables again. Plus, sayote (chayote) is another option that thrives in October’s weather.
Check out “Gourd-geous” Garden to review the basic growing strategies for gourds. In this post, I’ll explain the beneifts and techniques of gourd trellising. For detailed gourd garden designs, order my new Kitchen Garden design book.
Gifts of Gourd Trellising
Is trellising really worth it? Can we just let the gourds spread on the ground naturally? That is an option but here are some very important benefits to consider:
- Save Space in Small Gardens. Some gourd vines can grow to 20 feet. With trellising, you can have a modest amount of space and still grow grow multiple varieties of gourds. Since they grow vertically along a fence, arch, trellis, or pergola (Photo 1 & 2), you cover less ground and occupy less garden space.
- Keep that Gourd-geous Figure. When gourds hang on a trellis or vertical structure, they retain the shape of the vegetable (Photo 3). If ampalaya, sikwa, or young kalabasa develop on the ground, then can alter, flatten, or curl their natural shape.
- Happy Harvesting. It is much easier to harvest gourds hanging from trained vines. Mature gourds on the ground can be harder to see under massive vines on the ground. You don’t want to accidently miss a mature gourd hiding under leaves. This can easily rot and attract pests to your garden.
- Simple to Support. Trellising and vertical vines make it easier to support and maintain growing gourds. When they are grown vertically, this improves ventilation and reduces fungal growth. You can easily detect and remove dead leaves. The vines are also easier to control and prune. On the ground, gourd vines can wrap around and smother other vegetables and herbs.
- Functional Beauty. Imagine a beautiful fence with graceful ampalaya or sayote vines. Or picture a bamboo archway with mature sikwa and kalabasa hanging like christmas ornaments. Clearly, this is nature’s beauty. But you can also use gourds to create a functional screen that blocks unpleasant views. So if your neighbor has an unkempt backyard, a gourd wall might help.
So here are some tips and tricks to trellising.
- Strong & Sturdy. Remember to make or purchase a vertical structure are strong enough to carry the weight of your mature gourds. Photo 1 shows different options for vertical structures. Each type of trellis, fence, arch or pergola can be strengthen with braces, bolts, and/or concrete footing. If you’re unsure, consult a professional to install your vertical structure.
- Tying Vines. Gourds develop long tendrils as they mature (Photo 4). These tendrils naturally wrap around and climb vertical structures. As they grow older, you can guide the vines and tie the thicker tendrils and stems to the trellis or other structures (Photo 4). You can use
- strong pisi (box twine/abaca string),
- nylon string,
- pantyhose fabric,
- ribbons of soft cloth, or
- plastic coated wire
to gently and loosely tie the stems to the structure.
- Vegetable Hammocks. Once you notice vegetables developing on your gourd vines, you may want to add support. Heavy gourds can tug or pull down vines. If you observe this extra weight, add some hammocks. Use strips cloth, mesh netting or pantyhose. Tie the fabric to the vertical structure, then put the young vegetable into hammock (Photo 5).
- Patient Pruning. Monitor your precious growing gourds. Feel free to prune or cut the side shoots of sprawling vines. You can even trim the vines when the start outgrowing the trellis. Trimming some of the leaf growth can divert energy and nutrients to vegetable growth.
Hope you enjoyed this mini-exploration into gourd-geous trellising. Until next post, happy gardening!