Dehradun resident Milan Kumar shares how he grows different varieties of organic gourds at home, and some important things to keep in mind.
A retired public sector executive, Milan Kumar from Dehradun describes himself as an ‘urban gardener’. His journey began around 10 years ago when he retired at the age of 58.
“Our Dehradun house has a wide terrace that I decided to turn into a lush garden with vegetables, fruits, flowers and more. I wanted to eat fresh and healthy food, and have worked towards that over the years,” he tells The Better India.
In this garden, Milan grows seasonal vegetables, as well as tomatoes, okra, brinjal, chillies, mint leaves, spinach and coriander. He also nurtures flowers like jasmine, rose, orchids and marigold, as well as bonsai fruit trees like papaya, mango and orange.
“I also grow radish, garlic, ginger, cowpeas and mustard. I have a habit of measuring the size after harvest. I once harvested cowpeas with a length of upto 22 inches. My wife and I try many interesting recipes with the garden fresh vegetables,” he shares.
The showstopper: Gourds
Among the variety of vegetables he grows are gourds. “They grow in almost all climate zones, but the best in hot climes. During other seasons, it will take a lot of time to produce fruits. From the time of planting the seed to the final harvest — the entire duration is about 180 days. This is due to the vegetable’s long germination process,” explains the gardener.
The varieties he grows include ash gourd, ivy gourd, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, sponge gourd and round gourd. He says it is important to eat these vegetables during the summer, because they hydrate the body and provide necessary nutrients.
In this interview, Milan shares his step-by-step guide to growing gourds at home:
- Selecting the right spot for growing gourds is an important step. Ideally, you should pick a wide vacant space near a wall or pillar.
- Unlike plants that can be easily planted in a pot, gourds are climbers and need trellises to grow.
- A trellis can be built using tight ropes. Grills around the garden can also work.
- While you can grow gourds on pots or the ground, the harvest and shape of the final produce can’t be guaranteed.
- Collect organic gourd seeds from nearby farmers or garden nurseries. You can even use the seeds of a healthy gourd by letting them dry for a few days.
- It is better to scratch the seeds using sandpaper as they have a hard outer shell that can make the germination process longer. Also, try soaking them in water for 24 hours before sowing. Make sure they are dry before planting, as they may rot otherwise.
- Plant the seeds in a grow bag or pot filled with soil (preferably moist and not sandy), cow dung/compost, and any other organic fertilisers of your choice. Not more than two seeds are required in a pot.
- Once the plants sprout and reach a height where they can’t stand still, lightly tie or place them towards the rope of trellis arranged near the pot. Remember that the climbers will take a lot of space above the surface and make necessary arrangements for it.
- Even though they are summer plants, they need to be watered daily and moisture level of the soil has to be ensured. Otherwise, they might dry up easily.
- Add compost soil or fertiliser every two weeks.
- Look closely for pest/worm attack as gourds are prone to those.
- Use diluted neem oil as an effective pesticide.
- The climbers will give fruits within three months. This will last to a period of an additional three months, where you will ideally get fruits on a daily basis.
- The same trellis can be used for the next batch of gourd cultivation.
- Save a few seeds from the earlier batch for a fresh set.
- One trellis can be used to grow multiple gourds.
Health benefits of gourds
- Water content in gourds can help reduce stress and hydrate the body.
- Daily intake can ensure a healthy heart.
- Most nutritionists and dieticians suggest the intake of certain gourd juices to increase protein level and aid weight loss.
- Gourds are an excellent choice for better digestion.
- Gourds can be had on a daily basis to get a glowing skin. They moisturise and remove unwanted toxicities from the skin.
Edited by Divya Sethu; Photo Credits: Milan Kumar