Bottle gourd is a warm-season vine that bears nutritious fruits. Learn how to grow Bottle Gourd in Container in this post!
Botanical Name: Lagenaria siceraria
USDA Zones: 10-12
Common Names: Calabash, Loki, White-flowered gourd, Long melon, Birdhouse gourd, Tasmania bean, Dudi, New guinea bean
Calabash or Bottle gourd is a nutritious fruit having white green skin and seedy white flesh. It’s low in calories, rich in fiber, and a must-have fruit for weight loss and overall health. This vining annual is easy to grow and does not require much care. Here is all you need to know about growing Bottle gourd in Container.
How to Grow Bottle Gourd in Container
Choose a large pot (14-18 inches) with drainage holes at the bottom. It requires well-draining soil rich in compost and organic matter. For proper growth, 6-8 hours of direct sunlight is required. Pick at the interval of every 2-3 days after the fruit is ready for harvest.
Interesting fact about Calabash; it’s among one of the oldest vegetables cultivated by humans; it’s so old that its history is untraceable.
Also Read: How to Grow Bitter Melon in Container
Propagating Bottle Gourd
Get the seeds from a nearby garden center or any trusted online vendor. Late spring is the ideal time to sow seeds when all danger of frost has passed. Indoors you can sow bottle gourd seeds four weeks before the last expected frost date in seed starter trays or biodegradable coco peat pots. Soil temperature must remain above 65 degrees F for successful germination.
- Cut the pointed tip of the seeds to reveal the seed inside using sharp clippers.
- Soak seeds in cold water for 24 hours to soften the outer shell.
- Plant the seeds half-inch deep by pressing them vertically downwards in moist potting mix and tap lightly.
- Water once or twice a week, ensuring the mix remains moist.
- Seeds will germinate in around a week, after which thin out the seedlings keeping only healthy ones.
- Transplant the healthy seeding to a larger container once it’s 6 inches long.
Choosing the Container
Bitter gourd vines grow very long and require sufficient room for roots to grow. Choose a container at least 14-18 inches in depth and diameter. Good quality Grow bag or large paint buckets and tubs will also work well. Remember, the bigger the pot, the better! Ensure that pot has drainage holes at the bottom to prevent waterlogging.
Choose a spot that receives 6-8 hours of direct sunlight for adequate growth. Choose a spot not shaded by a tree, large shrub, or anything that obstructs sunlight. A well-lit balcony is also a good option as you can train the vines to the roof. The open terrace is another such location!
Well-draining soil rich in the organic matter does wonder for Calabash’s growth. Add aged compost or manure to increase the organic content and improve drainage. Mix two parts of potting soil, one part coco peat/peat moss, and one part vermicompost to make your potting mix.
Water thoroughly and let the excess water drain out from the bottom of the pot. Keep the mix consistently moist, but don’t let it become waterlogged. The rule of thumb is to water when the soil becomes dry and an inch below the surface.
Bottle gourd thrives in warmth and will not survive cold so wait for the last frost to pass. Temperatures ranging from 65 to 90 degrees F provide the ideal condition for growth. Soil temperature must be 65 degrees F or above for successful germination.
Calabash Vine Care in Pot
As bottle gourd is a vigorously growing vine, it requires support structure to grow. Install a sturdy wooden or PVC trellis that can support the weight of vines and fruits.
Go for a well-balanced granular or liquid fertilizer and apply twice a month during the growing season. Add aged compost, vermicompost, or manure to the mix to raise fertility organically.
NOTE: Too much nitrogen affects fruiting adversely and leads to leafy growth, so don’t overdo fertilization.
Pruning the bottle gourd is essential to keep the growth in check and encourage fruiting. Cut back from the end when the vine grows more than 8 feet in length. Only trim to 2-3 inches in length at a time!
If bees and moths are present in abundance, they’ll pollinate the plant naturally. In the scarcity of such insects, manually pollinate by collecting pollens on a paintbrush from white male flowers. Transfer these pollens to female flowers, which grow on short stems.
Cucumber beetles, aphids, and Squash vine borer are some pests that cause damage to Calabash. Applying neem oil solution or soap solution will eliminate these pests in no time. Powdery mildew is another problem it faces in hot humid conditions. Remove the infected leaves and improve air circulation by training branches far apart. Also, apply liquid fungicide such as copper oxychloride over the foliage!
Depending on the variety, it usually takes the Bottle gourd 55 to 75 days to be ready for harvest. You’ll know that the gourd is ready for harvest when the outer skin starts to change color or turn yellowish. Harvest tender and medium Calabash for consumption; don’t wait too long as, with time, the outer surface hardens. Harvesting season continues for 6-8 weeks but finish picking before the hard freeze.