Birdhouse gourds grow on long sprawling vines that can easily spread across a very large area. In city gardens, space is often very limited but this doesn’t need to stop urban gardeners from growing birdhouse gourds. It is possible to have a thriving gourd vine even in small urban gardens.
There are two main characteristics that make gourd vines so adaptable for any garden including small space urban gardens
- Gourd vines can be grown either vertically or sprawling freely across the ground.
- Gourd vines can be vigorously trimmed to fit your space.
Growing Gourds Up – Vertical Gardening
Gourd vines have strong tendrils that tightly grab on to anything around them making it easy to securely grow gourds using vertical space. The gourd vines are extremely fast growing with large dramatic leaves and beautiful white flowers making it a great addition even to decorative gardens.
I have grown gourds vertically on fences, a trellis, my front porch, in trees, and even with a tomato cage (with LOTS of trimming). Anything that the tendrils can grab onto and is sufficiently secure will do.
How Will Gourds Grown Vertically Differ From Horizontally Grown Gourds?
When gourds are grown vertically instead of horizontally the gourds end up hanging on the vine instead of sitting on the ground. This prevents the gourds from having a flat spot where they were sitting on the ground. They tend to be more teardrop shaped with a straight neck and rounded bottom.
With vertical gourd growing, especially in small spaces, the vines are more managed than when grown horizontally in a field. This means the vines tend to have fewer gourds but the ones that do grow tend to be bigger, stronger, and ready earlier. This is because as the vine is trimmed, fewer gourds will be allowed to develop and often the ends of the vine will be trimmed preventing any late-season gourds from starting. Consequently, the vine gets to put more energy into the first few gourds that were allowed to develop.
How To: Gourd Vine In Small Gardens
- Plan your support system (trellis, fence, tree, etc).
- Plant the gourd seeds or starter plant near your support system.
- As the vine grows you may need to guide it towards your support system. Often the tendrils can be gently wrapped around the support where you want them or you can very gently tie them in place.
- Regularly trim the vine to keep it confined to the space you want it. It grows very quickly and can easily take over a yard if not keep in check. The vine does not mind being trimmed often. I suggest trimming it about once a week in really tight gardens, especially after a good rain. It is a good idea to sanitize your trimmers with a mild bleach solution between uses to prevent infecting your vine with any fungus or bacteria.
CAUTION: Carefully Choose Your Growing Location
Gourd vines do have two negatives for small urban gardens that should be considered. First they kinda stink and second, they grow FAST and grab onto anything around.
Gourd vines have a strange musty smell. It reminds me a bit of a very mild cat spray but the smell only comes alive if you handle the vine. It smells strong if it is run over by a lawnmower (which may happen if it travels into the lawn) or if it is being handled a lot (like when you rip it out for the season). But you will notice a bit of an odor from brushing up against the plant or trimming it as well. For this reason, you may want to avoid some areas of your garden where the smell is likely to be offensive (like a tight walkway or busy sitting area).
Gourd vines in large open spaces are allowed to sprawl freely, and they take the opportunity. A gourd vine can easily reach 30 feet long and reach out in all directions. And all this growth happens in only one season. Because of the vigor of the gourd vine, it is important to regularly tend to your vine to prevent it from traveling into neighboring yards, swallowing closeby plants, and taking over lawns. It is really amazing how much growth can happen in a short time especially after a good rain.
As I said earlier, gourd vines are ok with lots of trimming so any unruly gourd vine can always be trimmed back at any time in its growth and brought back under control. But regular trimming is definitely less work.
Grow Your Own Urban Birdhouse Gourds
Gourds are a beautiful amazing plant and should be enjoyed by all gardeners. I hope you can find a spot in your garden, no matter what size it is, to grow your own birdhouse gourds.