Grit Blogs > As My Garden Grows

Pumpkins, Gourds and Squash

By Debbie Nowicki

Tags: gardening, plants, gourds, pumpkins, fall, harvest, jack-o'-lantern, Halloween, vegetables, family,

For the past month the pumpkin farms near and far are in full swing! Carnival rides, petting zoos, haunted houses, apple cider and homemade fudge … fall fun at its best! The many different varieties of pumpkins – miniature, white and striped, to name a few – are quite different from what I remember growing up. We would shop for our one pumpkin (maybe two) and the family would make an event of carving the design and roasting the seeds. In recent years, I have enjoyed painting designs on the pumpkins and have expanded my designs to include a few gourds. This year I approached the pumpkin farm differently.

Ideas abound

This time around, I was looking for unique pumpkins to grow next year in the garden, and I found a few.

Unique looks for next year

Healthy fall pumpkin 

I also became quite fascinated with gourds and more so now that I actually have some drying.

Various gourds

The drying time differs with each individual gourd based on the size and thickness of the skin. I did end up with one swan gourd from my own garden and also purchased two others along with apple gourds, a huge bushel gourd and a handful of miniature ornamental gourds. I have several books on the subject of gourds and after the drying takes place, they have to be cleaned and made ready to work into pieces of art; in my case it will be a bowl or vase. As I patiently wait for them to dry, I am brushing up on my painting skills so I can apply some impressive techniques. The American Gourd Society has chapters in most states and membership along with a wealth of information about gourds and creating artwork and functional pieces. Another organization, Decorative Painters, is dedicated to painting skills and teaching techniques.

Luffa, also known as the sponge gourd, is not a true gourd. It is currently in the final stages of drying on the vines in the garden from earlier this year.

Sponge gourd

I had quite a successful crop last summer and made luffa soap for Christmas gifts and will do the same this year, since I am receiving requests for it already! Once the luffa skin dries, it can be peeled away to reveal the sponge within. The seeds are removed and the sponge is washed, dried and cut into pieces to work with.

Blue luffa 

As for squash in my gardens, zucchini has always been a regular member producing plenty to keep my mind searching for new and interesting recipes! Zucchini is a summer squash and another that did very well in the garden this past season was yellow scallop squash.

Yellow scallop squash

The summer squash has a thinner skin and can be eaten raw, whereas, winter squash has a much harder skin and should be baked or steamed in the microwave. Winter squash lasts longer than summer squash and can keep up to several months in a cool cellar to be eaten all winter long. Discovering new varieties of winter squash is presently occupying my time as I browse around for gourds and pumpkins. So far delicata squash is my favorite and I made sure to purchase enough to cook up and take to our Thanksgiving dinner so the whole family can experience a new and different dish!

Delicata squash 

Sweet mama buttercup was the chosen squash to try this weekend along with butternut.

Delicata, butternut, and sweet mama buttercup squash

We did pick up three more types, and those that I really enjoy I will be saving the seed and growing next year. Delicata is definitely a winner!

Gold nugget, hubbard, and sweet dumpling

Pumpkins, gourds and squash need a large space of the garden to grow. Some varieties grow in a bush manner, but most develop vines, and the vines can reach many feet in length. A trellis or some type of support is recommended for those that don’t become too heavy as they grow. Regular watering and a watchful eye for pests is about all that is needed to grow a successful crop.

11/10/2008 2:18:10 PM

We are still having fun finding and eating winter squash - next year it will be from our own garden! Cindy, I did notice the larger the patti-pan were the tougher they were to eat - so smaller is definitely better. I have seen the Turk's Tuban in catalogs Lori, not sure if I missed them in the stores - I will pay closer attention and grab one if I see one! Thanks!!!

11/6/2008 3:44:46 PM

Hi Debbie! We started planting pumpkins and gourds last year. I love having them. I am like a child when it comes time to pick them, running through the field saying things like,"look at this one", or "look at the cool colors on that one". It's kinda like being on a treasure hunt. We plant a lot of the varieties you've named here. We had the We Be Little and birdhouse gourds. We also had the Bush Delicata,Hubbard, and Sweet Dumpling. Have you ever seen the Turk's Turbans? They are very neat looking, and I'm sure you would love them. They have very bright colors, and make great fall decorations!

cindy murphy
10/27/2008 7:05:58 AM

Hi, Debbie. One of the things I enjoy in Autumn is all the pumpkins and gourds about at farm markets, and pumpkin patches. There is something so enticing when seeing those wonderful orbs of orange, and gourds in all different colors and textures. I can't seem to resist them, tend to go overboard when picking the quintessential pumpkin, and end up with more than I intended on getting.....which of course, leads to spending way more time carving them than I intended too. All the guts, out-of-season gourds that have finished their fall decorating usefulness end up in the compost pile, and because squash and gourds readily cross pollinate, I never know what oddity we'll end up the following year when vines inevitably sprout from the pile. This year we got a nice crop of mixed mini white, and orange pumpkins. In the garden we grew those yellow patti-pan summer squash you have pictured, instead of the zucchini we usually grow. The patti-pans are fun to stuff, and because like zucchini, we ended up with so many, I stuffed them with everything imaginable. A note on this type of squash: bigger is not better; the skins get really tough, and almost inedible. Have a gourd day. Get it? That's a "pun"kin.