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How to grow Long Gourds
by John & Chris Lyons

*Below: All-Time List of largest Long Gourds (2006)

Chris Lyons (left) poses with his 116-5/8" new world record long gourd and his father John (right) with his 111 5/8" entry at the 2005 Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto

The father and son team of John & Chris Lyons have been growing long gourds for many years now. Over those years they are responsible for growing some of the longest ever grown. They have agreed to write this article to help other growers with their quest to grow these incredibly long vegetables and to promote them with other growers of giant vegetables. John & Chris Lyons are both members of the Giant Vegetable Growers of Ontario (GVGO). If you are interested in growing these fascinating looking vegetables, you can contact the GVGO @ gvgo@sympatico.ca or visit our website at www.gvgo.ca. I want to thank Chris & John for taking the time to write up this article. Your continued support of the GVGO is greatly appreciated.

Growing long gourds has become popular with many giant vegetable growers because they provide a great opportunity to grow something quite different in a relatively smaller area with less time and resources. Gourd vines can grow up just about anything, but an overhead trellis is the best way to go if you want to be competitive and have control over the plant & vines. We grow our long gourds on two trellises, which are 10ft tall and are about 10ft x 10ft square on top. They are constructed with 4x 4 main posts and 2x4 framing on the growing sides and top. There are 4x8 sheets of lattice on two sides for the vines to grow up on and a 1x3 cross frame on the top, which allows for easy access to the vines. It is better to build a strong structure that will support the weight of several large gourds. We have found that you will need at least 5 ft of side and top width to train a gourd vine or two plants on a 10 x 10 trellis. You should try to face the vining side of the trellis towards the west to southwest to get the best exposure to the sun and allow the gourds to be grown in the shade underneath the vine and trellis. This will prevent the sun and wind from prematurely hardening off the soft skin that is necessary to grow really long fruit.

Preparing the soil is always an important step. Every spring we mix about 3 wheelbarrow loads of well composted manure into each planting site, which is about 5ft x 5ft and dug to a depth of at least 1ft at the base of each trellis. A PH level of about 7.0 is ideal and we add some peat moss each year to help keep our PH at that level.

Germinating seeds can sometimes be a bit of a challenge, as some seeds can be more difficult to start than others. We soak the seeds for up to 8 hours in a 3% hydrogen peroxide, which is diluted up to 10% in water. After soaking, the seeds are wrapped in damp paper towels and put into sealed plastic bags. They are then placed on a heat tray at about 85 degrees F (30 degrees C.) until germination begins after a few days. The germinating seeds are then planted into 6" pots to prevent the plants from becoming root bound. I have found that most varieties of long gourds are best to be germinated in late April/early May. Gourd plants that are grown under artificial light will be leggy and weak and must be tied to a stake right from the beginning. Plants that are kept in natural sunlight will be stocker and easier to handle, but are slower to start vining.

Early protection includes mini-greenhouses for the Lyons' long gourd plants

We like to transplant to the growing site around mid-May or when conditions permit. I like to plant them at least a foot back from the trellis and protect the plant in a mini greenhouse. A stick is used to guide the vine to the trellis, about 3 ft above the ground. If the plant is already staked in the pot, transplant the plant and stake together. Fertilize with a 10-52-10 water-soluble fertilizer the first few weeks, and then switch to a balanced 10-10-10 or 20-20-20. Don't forget to spray for insects and disease as required. Once the plants get established and begin vining, you can start to prune off excessive side growth and train the main vine over the top of the trellis, allowing it to grow over the top while removing the excessive side vines.

Long gourds generally open in the evening and are done by mid-morning. Look for the white flowers and a 3-4" fruit. Pollinate with a few male flowers, but be careful as the female bloom is fragile and pollinating must be done with a light touch. I have found that not many female blossoms will be successfully open pollinated.

If you want a competitive long gourd you should limit them to 1 or 2 fruits per plant after they reach 18"-24" in length. Try to select ones that are slender and that are the fastest growing. Make sure the gourd's vine is secure and will not pull down through the trellis. You may have to provide extra support for the vine at this area of the plant.

Chris Lyons shows us some of the long gourds under his trellis

This is where good genetics pay off. A seed that is a fast grower will do well, as most growth will be done in 4 weeks. During the peak week of growth, they can gain 5"-6" per day before they start to slow down. At this time you can start to pollinate another batch of gourds. Some long gourds become thick and heavy as they mature and may require extra support. For many years we have skewered heavy gourds with a stainless steel pin, near the top and used cloth strips or soft rope to tie it off or gourd may eventually break off the vine.

After the gourd has stopped growing for several days, we carefully cut them down and store them in the basement. They will last for months like this and become harder and less likely to be broken. Sometimes we tape a long board to the gourd even before we cut it down, to make sure it doesn't break while we are moving it. Especially, if it's a long one.

Watering is always a little subjective due to soil and weather conditions, but there is a guideline. In the early season we keep them damp, usually watering 2-3 times a week about the way the pumpkins are watered and during the hot weather every other day and sometimes every day when the gourds are running. We frequently test the soil's moisture level with a soil probe as we do with the pumpkins. When the gourds growth slows up then the watering must be reduced as well with less water per watering. Gourds like to be kept damp but not too wet. Usually they receive 4 gals of water per plant a day during peak growth but that need can vary in different soil and weather conditions.

Over time you will find there are many ways to fine-tune your own techniques and therefore improving your results. Competitive long gourd seeds can be obtained through some seed distributors listed on the links page of the GVGO web site (www.gvgo.ca). They will also be available to all members of the GVGO and to other growers through the GVGO directly. Email us at gvgo@sympatico.ca or you can contact us by mail at:

GVGO
C/o Phil Hunt
4376 Hwy 35 N
Cameron, Ontario
K0M 1G0

All-Time List of largest Long Gourds (get MS Excel version)
Length Grower St/Pr Yr. Stat. Female Male Comments
126.50 Jutras RI 2006 104 Eaton 05 82 El Kassis 05 World Record 2006
123.75 Wallis ON 2006 DMG 109 Eaton 05 114 Wallis 04
122.00 Eaton ON 2005 DMG 88.5 Eaton 03 sib #1 Dean Myers toronto
121.50 Kline QUE 2006 116.63 Lyons 05 88.5 Eaton 03 #1 Barrie ON
121.00 Emmons WA 2005 DMG 114 Wallis 04 Self
120.00 Wallis ON 2006 UOL 109 Eaton 05 114 Wallis 05
118.50 Eaton ON 2006 109 Eaton 05 self #1 Port Elgin 
118.00 Lyons ON 2006 88.5 Eaton 03 sibbed #2 Port Elgin
117.75 Timm ON 2006 107.50 Timm 05 122 Eaton 05 #1 Pembroke ON
117.38 Eaton ON 2006 109 Eaton 05 122 Eaton 05 #2 Barrie ON
116.63 Lyons ON 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 114 Wallis 04 2005 World Record 
115.00 Hain ON 2006 107 Timm 05 101.5 Hain 05 #3 Port Elgin
115.00 Duffy MA 2006 EXH unknown unknown Topsfield MA
114.75 McGregor NS 2004 72.5 McGregor 98 self 2004 World Record
114.00 Wallis ON 2004 88.5 Eaton 03 self #2 GPC
113.63 Timm ON 2006 107.5 Timm 05 122 Eaton 05 #3 Barrie
113.50 Hain ON 2006 101.5 Hain 05 107 Timm 05 #4 Port Elgin
112.63 Kennedy ON 2006 88.5 Eaton 03 selfed #1 Toronto-Dean Myers ON 
112.38 Checkon PA 2006 88.50 Eaton 03 self #1 Altoona
111.63 Lyons ON 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 96 Lyons 02 #1 Port Elgin  ON
111.00 Timm ON 2006 EXH 107.5 Timm 05 116.63 Lyons 05
111.00 Paton ENG 2006 98 gipe 05 self
111.00 Wallis ON 2005 114 Wallis 04 self
110.88 Kennedy ON 2006 111.63 Lyons 05 self #2 Pembroke ON
110.63 Waterman NY 1994 World Record 1994-2004
110.50 Duffy MA 2006 122 Eaton 05 open #1 Topsfield
110.50 Timm ON 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 106 Eaton 04 #1 Ottawa
110.00 Dettweiler ON 2006 #5 Port Elgin
109.00 Eaton ON 2005 95 Seca 00 88.5 Eaton 03 #2 Ottawa
108.50 Yohe PA 2004 74 Razo 02 Self #1 Altoona 
108.00 Kline QUE 2006 116.63 Lyons 05 88.5 Eaton 03 #3 Pembroke
108.00 Seiffert  ON 2005 EXH 106 Eaton 04 114 Wallis 04
107.50 Timm ON 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 106 Eaton 04
107.50 Attaway GA 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 Self #1 Altoona
107.25 Vansnick 2005
107.00 Timm ON 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 106 Eaton 04 #4 Ottawa
106.50 Kline QUE 2006 88.5 Eaton 03 116 5/8 Lyons 05 #4 Barrie
106.50 Lyons ON 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 96 Lyons 02 #2 Port Elgin
106.25 Eaton ON 2005 95 Seca 00 88.5 Eaton 03 #5 Ottawa
106.13 Lyons ON 2006 88.5 Eaton 03 sibbed #5 Barrie ON
106.00 Petersen IA 2006 #1 Midwest
106.00 Eaton ON 2004 78 Roberts 03 88.5 Eaton 03
105.63 Checkon PA 2006 88.5 Eaton 03 self #2 Altoona
105.00 Wells MI 2006 EXH      Midwest
105.00 Lyons ON 2003 96 Lyons 02 self 1st GPC
104.50 Timm ON 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 106 Eaton 04
104.00 Eaton  ON 2006 UOL 122 Eaton 05 109 Eaton 05 Richmond ON fair
104.00 Eaton ON 2005 114 Wallis 04 88.5 Eaton 03
103.75 Lovelace NC 2006 107.50 Attaway open #1 Yadkin Valley NC
103.75 Kline QUE 2006 116.63 Lyons 05 88.5 Eaton 03 #1 Windsor
103.25 Bell OH 2003 2nd GPC
103.00 Eaton ON 2005 95 Seca 00 88.5 Eaton 03
102.75 Timm ON 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 106 Eaton 04
102.50 Bilodeau ON 2006 109 Eaton 05 122 Eaton 05 #1 Richmond ON fair
102.50 Manual NS 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 self #1 Windsor
102.50 Kline QUE 2004 96 Lyons 02 79.5 McIntyre 03
102.00 Lovelace NC 2006 107.50 Attaway 05 open
101.50 McCallum ON 2005 114.75 McGregor 04 Self #1  Grey Bruce
101.50 Lyons ON 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 114 Wallis 04
101.50 Hain ON 2005 102.5 Kline 04 open #3 Port Elgin
101.25 Reiss GER 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 114 Wallis 04 Alltime German record
100.00 Manuel NS 2006 122 Eaton 05 selfed #2 Windsor
100.00 Eaton ON 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 95 Seca 00
100.00 Lyons ON 1997 descended from 99 Waterman 90
99.50 Lyons ON 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 114 Wallis 04
99.12 Lyons ON 2001 100 Lyons 97 Self
99.00 Waterman NY 1990
98.63 Leonard ON 2006 87 Eaton 03 122 Eaton 05 #6 Barrie ON
98.50 Timm ON 2005 106 Eaton 04 88.5 Eaton 03
98.50 Yohe PA 2004 #2 Altoona 
98.00 Gipe PA 2005 80 Andrews 03 80 Carlson 97
98.00 Timm ON 2004 88.5 Eaton 03 82.5 Cheam 03
97.50 Lyons ON 2003 100 Lyons 97 self 3rd GPC
97.00 Lovelace NC 2006 107.50 Attaway open #2 Yadkin Valley NC
97.00 Eaton ON 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 95 Seca 00
97.00 Lyons ON 2003 96 Lyons 02 self
97.00 Hicks PA 2000 83 Carlson ?? ???
96.25 Lyons ON 2003 74 Razo 02 96 Lyons 02
96.00 Loos OH 2006 #1 Ohio
96.00 Hatfield IN 2006 UOL 107.50 Attaway 05 open
96.00 Lyons ON 2002 100 Lyons 97 sib
95.75 Carlson IA 2006 #2 Midwest
95.50 Dieffenbaugher OH 2006 #2 Ohio
95.00 Wallis ON 2005
95.00 Lyons ON 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 114 Wallis 04
95.00 Seca ON 2000 unknown unknown Toronto-Italian stock
94.75 El-Kassis ON 2005
94.00 Tancer OH 2006 #3 Ohio
94.00 Rhodenizer NS 2006 101.50 Manuel 05 self #3 Windsor
94.00 Lovelace NC 2006 DMG 107.50 Attaway 05 self
94.00 Corteso ON  2004 unknown unknown Toronto-Italian stock
94.00 Koch WI 2003 DMG 90.5 Carlson 00 89.5 Koch 02
93.75 Neily NS 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 self #2 Windsor
93.00 Eaton ON 2005 88.5 Eaton 03 95 Seca 00
92.50 Neily NS 2006 #4 Windsor
92.50 Attaway GA 2006 109 Eaton 05 116.63 Lyons 05 #3 Altoona
92.50 Cheam ON 2005
92.50 Timm ON 2004 88.5 Eaton 03 82.5 Cheam 03
92.00 Wells MI 2006 #1  Harnica
92.00 Gipe PA 2005 EXH
91.75 Young VT 2006     Vermont
91.50 Barlow WI 2001 95.9 Carlson 00 open WI state record
91.00 Michaud MA 2006 #2 Topsfield
91.00 Seiffert ON 2005 114 Wallis 04 106 Eaton 04
91.00 Wallis ON 2004 96.25 Lyons 03 self
90.50 Neily NS 2006 #5 Windsor
90.50 Keel NS 2006 87 Eaton 03 122 Eaton 05 #6 Windsor
90.50 Carlson IA 2000 80 Carlson 99 self
90.25 McGregor NS 2004 72.5 McGregor 98 self
90.00 Carlson IA 2006 #3 Midwest
90.00 Koch      WI 2003 89.5 Koch 02 90.5 Carlson 00
89.75 Diffenbaugher OH 2004 105 Lyons 03 self #2 Canfield, OH
89.50 Meyer IA 2006 #4 Midwest
89.50 Crowell NS 2005 #3 Windsor
89.50 Attaway GA 2004 88.5 Eaton 03 open #3 Altoona 2004
89.50 Koch WI  2003 90.5 Carlson 00 89.5 Koch 02
89.50 Koch WI 2002 90.5 Carlson 00 self
89.25 Muegge 2005
89.00 Reid NS 2006 122 Eaton 05 self
89.00 Jutras RI 2006 82 El Kassis 05  104 Eaton 05 #4 Topsfield
89.00 Barlow WI 2006 #5 Midwest
89.00 Koch WI 2002 90.5 Carlson 00 ???
88.50 Engle 2003
88.50 Eaton ON 2003 91.5 Barlow 01 83.9 Berenji 02 #1 Ottawa
88.25 Wittenberg WI 2006 #1 Nekoosa
88.25 Hamilton 2004 74 Razo 02 105 Lyons 03
87.75 Lehman PA 2006 #4 Altoona
87.50 Emmons WA 2006 121 Emmons 05 self #1 Central Market WA
87.25 Knauss PA 2001 #1 Altoona
87.00 Hartung 2005
87.00 Eaton ON 2003 91.5 Barlow 01 83.9 Berenji 02 #2 Ottawa
87.00 Checkon PA 2001 #2 Altoona
86.88 Hicks PA 2001 #3 Altoona
86.50 Lehman PA 2003 #1 Altoona
86.00 Lehman PA 2005
85.75 Andrews NY 2006 121 Emmons 05 open #1 Cooperstown
85.00 Alderman 2005
84.00 Wilson 2005
84.00 Kline QUE 2005
84.00 Seiffert ON 2004 80.5 Wallis 03 self
83.90 Berenji SRB 2002 unknown unknown Serbian stock
83.75 Andrews NY 2006 76 Razo open #!1 Connecticut
83.50 Yohe PA 2003 #2 Altoona 
83.25 Jutras RI 2006 82 El Kassis 05  sibbed #3 Conecticut
83.25 Andrews NY 2006 76 Razo open #2  Connecticut
82.50 Cheam ON 2003 74 Razo 02 self
82.00 Hartwig IA 2006 #6  Midwest
82.00 El-Kassis ON 2005 87 Eaton 03 94 Corteso 04
82.00 DiMarco 2005
81.50 DiMarco 2005 EXH
81.25 Barlow WI 2006 #7  Midwest
81.00 Checkon PA 2002 #1 Altoona
80.90 Wallis ON 2003 83.9 Berenji 02 self
80.50 Wallis ON 2003 83.9 Berenji 02 self
80.00 Andrews NY 2003 80 Carlson 99 open
80.00 Carlson IA 1999 95.9 Carlson 00 self
79.50 McIntyre ON 2003 89.5 Koch 02 self
79.50 hicks PA 2002 #2 Altoona
79.13 Sandercock PA 2006 107.50 Attaway 05 open #5  Altoona
78.75 Cheam ON 2003 74 Razo 02 self
78.50 Sherwood WA 2006 122 Eaton 05 open
78.30 Peterson IA 2002 89.5 Carlson 99 self
78.00 Roberts ON 2003 78.3 Peterson 02 89.5 Koch 02
77.50 Olson WI 2006 #2 Nekoosa
77.50 Sandercock PA 2005
76.00 Lehman PA 2001
75.50 Olson WI 2006 #3  Nekoosa
75.00 Knauss PA 2004
74.75 Holder NC 2006 107.50 Attaway open #3 Yadkin Valley NC
74.50 McGregor NS 2004 72.5 McGregor 98 self
74.50 Knauss PA 2003 #3 Altoona
74.00 Hain ON 2005
74.00 Razo OH 2002 xx Berenji 00 open
74.00 Lehman PA 2002 #3 Altoona
72.50 McGregor NS 1998 P&P seeds self
72.00 Dill NS 2006 #7 Windsor
71.50 Helsel 2001
71.00 Box 2002

Thanks to Bob Attaway for compiling the list. (Updated November 2006)

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