Spring Arrives

September 1 this week marked the calendar beginning of Spring, and the slight warming of the air is encouraging lots of plants to start their spring growth. It’s time to get those hue/gourd seeds growing! It won’t be warm enough for gourd plants to be out in the garden until October, when all the danger of frost is past, but the seeds can be soaked overnight and then sprouted inside before then.

gourd shoots

The best sprouting place is a warm hot-water cupboard in a container with damp paper towels. just make sure the towels don’t dry out. Your seeds will have little shoots popping out within a few days. As soon as they sprout, get them into some nice clean damp seed-raising mix; one seed per partition (eg in a six-part cell-pack).

sprouting gourds

Within a week, the first two seed-leaves will appear. At this stage, the seedlings need protection from slugs and snails. They need warmth, light and moisture. Too much water will make the stalks rot. Keep them growing inside like this until the true leaves have appeared.Plant out in the garden when the seedling has about 4-6 true leaves

If it’s still too cold where you live, transplant your hue / gourd into a big pot and keep it in a sheltered place.

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Celebration of the Hue Harvest

Kia ora ra,
Greetings to all the growers of hue (gourds) over the 2014-15 growing season. What a dry and challenging summer it was! Hopefully you managed to successfully get some gourds growing in your school and home gardens. Now that the harvesting is complete, it’s time to bring  your best gourds in the Whanganui Regional Museum and show them off to everyone else!
 
We will decide on prizes for all kinds of gourds on Thursday 18 June, between12.30 and 2.30. There will be lots of Puanga activities happening too, so come along and join in the celebration! If you want to bring your gourds in earlier, you are most welcome. Just label them and pack them in a box and deliver to the front desk of the Museum. To make sure you get your precious taonga back (with the prize you deserve, of course!) put a label sticker underneath each hue/ gourd with your name and contact phone number.
 
Please spread this message to anyone else you know who has been growing gourds this year. We hope to see you all there!
 

Flowers appearing

Officially its summer. In reality Whanganui is still experiencing Springtime weather, with sunshine and warmth alternating with cold winds and bursts of rain. The gourd plants are happy, and growing vigorously. Yesterday I found the first gourd flower. If another one opens and the bees do their work (if one is a male and one a female of course), the resulting fruit may get six months to grow and ripen before the first frosts here, so I’ll be lavishing care and attention on that plant! last year I just let the plants grow rampant. This year I plan to judiciously remove some of the young fruit to use as a vegetable, like kamokamo, and let one fruit on a plant grow as large as possible. It will need some extra water and manure.

If you haven’t planted any seeds yet, and you live in the Whanganui region, we have hue (gourd) plants available at Whanganui Regional Museum. Plants are free to schools taking part in the Whanganui Gourd Project, so just call us at the Museum and let us know how many you want.

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Hue / gourd plants available now at Whanganui Regional Museum

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Hailstorms

This morning was even more freezing than the last few days. A hailstorm hit our house and blasted over the normally warm terrace where the gourd seedlings sit and sunbathe.AAARRGGHHH!  I rushed outside to rescue them before their little green leaves were shredded and frozen.  I thought this was going to be the weekend for planting young gourds out into the garden, so they can have as long a growing season as possible.  Impossible!

For anyone out there who hasn’t managed to get some gourd seeds growing yet, don’t worry. You are not too late. Just pop into Whanganui Regional Museum and pick up a packet. Remember to soak them overnight to soften the tough coating, and sprout them somewhere lovely and warm. A hot-water cupboard is perfect if you have one. Seeds need warmth, moisture and air, so don’t drown your seeds by over-watering them, and don’t plant them too deep, where they can’t get any air.

Cold snap hits

A southerly blast has hit Whanganui with freezing rain and great gusts of cold wind, sending us back into the grip of Winter again. I’ve had the gourd seedlings out on a sunny terrace to catch as much light as possible, but these tender seedlings won’t be too happy out in the cold wind, so they’ve been brought inside for the night. Pampered plants!  I’m hoping to get all the larger ones out into a sheltered part of the garden as soon as the warm and calm weather returns.

Schools join the Gourd Project

We have been getting a great response from schools joining in the Whanganui Gourd Project this season. Some grew gourds successfully last summer, others want to try again even though they had no luck with their plants, and still more classes are joining in for the first time. The enthusiasm of all of these children is awesome! 

My first set of seeds have germinated  after more than two weeks of sitting near the fireplace inside. I’m putting them out into the sun each day to get some sunshine. If you have a hard frost, as we did here a couple of days ago, have a good look around your garden and find a spot that is protected from the frost. If there is room for vines to grow there, and it gets plenty of sun, consider setting that part of your garden aside for your gourds.

Get the ground ready now, by adding plenty of rotted compost to the ground. Cover it over to stop weed seedlings from growing, until it is time to transplant your gourds outside.  In Whanganui it is not yet warm enough for gourds to go into the garden. 

 

 

Winter Chills

Whanganui is in the grip of a bitter cold snap right now, and it feels as if Springtime, which was well on its way a week or two ago, has paused, waiting for the Wintry blast to leave. The earth is still cold, and in places, soggy from so much rain. It’s not the best time for gourds to grow outside yet.

Even though the weather is still cold, you can get your gourd seeds planted. Soak them overnight to soften the tough outer coating, and plant them, one seed per pot, in a nice warm sunny and sheltered spot. Hopefully in about a week, the shoots will appear. My first set of seeds have been slow to germinate; no sprouts yet. When the temperature gets to 20 degrees, I’m sure they will wake up from sleep and begin to grow.

If you haven’t got hold of your seeds yet, come on down to the Whanganui Regional Museum in Watt Street, Whanganui and pick up a packet! You’ll get a handy illustrated pamphlet, with guidelines for seed-sowing, and useful information for gourd growing.

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Drying the gourds

Gourds from the 2014 Autumn harvest are now well on their way to their dry state, with seeds rattling around inside. Larger gourds will take a little longer than smaller ones. Some gourds dry perfectly, with an intact outer skin and no sign of mould. Others dry with an interesting pattern of mould, but no risk of rotting.If your gourd is wet underneath, make sure it is lifted, and has air circulating on all sides. If the outside surface begins to go mouldy, don’t give up and throw your gourd away.

Just get an old cotton rag, dip it in methylated spirits (or white spirits) and wipe the mould off the surface. The alcohol will kill the mould spores. Keep checking the gourds and wiping them if you need to. the outer skin may go soggy and rub off, but the inner hard-shell of the gourd will remain intact, and you will end up with a beautiful dried gourd.

Festering mould on gourd

Festering mould on gourd

Gourd cleaned with white spirits

 

Winter Begins to Wane

Winter came late to Whanganui, with mild autumn weather until late in May, when the first frost arrived. This should have killed off all the remaining gourd plants, however some in sheltered spots, some continued to grow right through until early in June. Winter is a time of rest in the garden, giving the ground a chance to sit undisturbed. Old plants rot and become valuable rich organic matter for the next season’s growth.

Now it is August and Winter is retreating. Days are lengthening, and despite the occasional frost or gust of bitter wind, temperatures are again becoming warm and mild around Whanganui. It’s time to get those gardens ready for a new season of gourd growing! It’s always a good idea to clear away any weeds before they flower and drop seeds, pile on some compost, and cover it with a thick layer of mulch to stop any new weeds coming up.

It’s still too cold to plant gourd seeds outside; they need a temperature of around 20 degrees to germinate. Now is a good time to start the seeds inside, in a sunny spot, like a window-sill, or a sunny sheltered deck or patio. You can refer back to last year’s blog for step-by-step instructions for seed sowing.

So come in to Whanganui Regional Museum in Watt Street, Whanganui; pick up a packet of gourd seeds, and get growing!

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Garden bed cleared of weeds and covered with compost

 

Gourds Keep on Growing

Whanganui is having such a mild Autumn,  after a long dry summer, that some gourd plants are not dying off as expected. Many gourd growers around the region have picked their gourds and are beginning the drying process. I’ve been out to the gourd garden this evening, checking on the gourds and the plants. Most of the vines have died off, and the gourds are all outside to dry, where there is plenty of air around them.

Five very persistent plants are still growing, with new leaves, flowers and even tiny fruit setting. Although these late fruit are shrivelling and rotting on the vines, the plants just keep on growing. There are large, mature fruit on the growing vines, which will be left until the vines have died and withered. During these final weeks, any large ripe gourds will  be growing thicker shells.

Gourds that are harvested too soon will shrink and wrinkle as they dry, instead of keeping their shape and size. So be patient!

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Immature gourd shrivelling as it dries

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Gourds picked too early become sunken and misshaped as they dry