This is my first year growing gourds and I would like to know when the best time is to pick the gourds from their vine. A friend gave me an apple gourd last year and I planted them but not sure when to pick them. Could you please let me know? I live in Chatsworth, GA. Thanks!
Answer: Congratulations on your gourds! Your process is just beginning…
Apple Gourds have a 90-100 day germination season, a fairly long season by Midwestern standards but great for Georgia. Beginning with the onset of autumn you will want to decrease any additional watering you might be doing and let the vines begin to die. Leave your gourds on the vines until there has been a light frost or the stems turn brown. When you pick the Apple Gourds the skin should be firm to the touch, and leave at least an inch or more of the stem. Once harvested, clean them with some soapy water, with a small amount of chlorine bleach added to help control mold. Allow them to dry in a warm place with good air circulation, such as a barn. Gourds that become soft or begin to rot should be removed, but you can save their seeds. As the gourds dry, mold will develop on the outer skin and this is normal. For this reason you should not dry them inside your home. The odor could also be offensive, so pick somewhere not usually frequented. They can also be left out in the garden on the vines to dry as they would naturally. Gourds can take 3-6 months to completely dry, depending on their size. They are done and ready for decoration when they are light in weight and rattle when you shake them.
There are several sites online dedicated to gourd growing and decoration and there is even the American Gourd Society, as well as several state and local societies that can provide a wealth of additional information.
Good luck and I hope you have lots of beautiful gourds for your holiday decorations!