While you may already know when to plant pumpkins (and the pros behind this winter squash), the benefits of gourds are less well-known. Despite being used decoratively over Halloween, this plant is, in some ways, less synonymous with the season than its pumpkin counterpart. But its benefits stretch far beyond its aesthetic value. From their forgiving nature to their impressive resilience, gourds are much more than an easy no-carve pumpkin idea. Here’s why you should bring them into your garden.

Why grow gourds?

‘Gourds are a great addition to any garden because they are so versatile,’ Melody Estes, Landscape Design Gardening Supervisor at the Project Girl (opens in new tab).  The reference to versatility can be seen in two ways. Firstly because they continue to thrive in a variety of climates – and secondly, because they can undertake a range of roles when they are fully grown. ‘They can be used for decorations, crafts, and even musical instruments. They can also be used as birdhouses or storage containers for small items like seeds or nuts,’ Melody says. Their versatility (paired with the fact that gourds can be grown from seedlings) similarly means they are easy to maintain. ‘They are also easy to store, meaning you won’t have to worry about keeping them alive over the winter months until spring arrives again next year,’ the expert adds.  For more wildlife garden ideas, Lindsey Hyland, an expert from Urban Organic Yield, (opens in new tab) adds that many animals like to eat gourds, so growing them in your garden can attract wildlife to your yard.

Are gourds easy to grow?

Yes, gourds are easy to grow. In fact, they are one of the best plants to choose from if you’re new to gardening (alongside lettuce and peas, which are among the easiest vegetables to grow).  Gourds are famously forgiving, thanks to their ability to grow in almost any condition, including the Arizonan desert – which we explore further below. They will also continue to grow with a lot of care or maintenance, giving you more time to focus on your fall planter ideas. 

Why do farmers grow gourds in Arizona?  

The main reason why farmers grow gourds in Arizona is because of their resistance to drought. However, it’s important to note that the gourds grown in Arizona have been specially bred to withstand the extreme heat and desert conditions. ‘Gourds take up very little water, requiring less irrigation than many other crops, which means they can thrive even in dry conditions,’  Melody explains.  And because gourd shells are so hard, they do not need to be picked individually, meaning the Arizonan farmers can use machinery to harvest entire fields of gourds at once. ‘Gourds are a great food source for birds and other wildlife and help improve soil quality,’ Lindsey adds. 

Can you eat a gourd?

Yes, you can eat gourds, but you do need to follow some preparation measures before they are suitable for consumption. Also, notably, the interior flesh is minimal, so it is unlikely you will get much food from your efforts. If you decide to eat a gourd, you should prepare it in the same way as a pumpkin – by removing the seeds and baking. The gourd may still have some bitter flavor, so it may need seasoning. However, you may be rewarded for your time; as Lyndesy suggests, this plant is a good source of fiber which is important for a healthy diet.