We Have a Question...

corunum z6 CT(6)November 10, 2012

A fellow NE forum member has encouraged me for 2 days now to post this photo and ask if anyone here has ever grown gourds, small pumpkins, or any other annual fruit/flower overhead to form a summer walkway or perhaps on a pergola, and if so, what was your experience?

I received this photo via email and the best info I can find about it is that I think it came from Wild Gardening on facebook, and is perhaps a Japanese creation. That is the only origin I could find. But, this photo has created hauntingly delicious inspiration for new beginnings next year. So, does anyone have any experience with this type of growing? And, is anyone now hooked a little after seeing the picture? Thanks for your interest.


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molie(z6 CT)

Very, very cool, Jane. That's the steroid version of "beans grown on a tripod"!

Don't know where it came from, but those colorful orbs are planted on a long hoop with some sort of ground cover below -- probably to prevent weeds from sprouting up and spoiling the visual affect. In time I image more of the vines will grow over the white grass cloth, but the grower could always walk inside and trim those back.

I'd love to find the source and also to see it from another angle ---- and to know the sun's orientation. Thanks so much for posting this zany idea.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 2:36PM
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I've tried to grow pumpkins, pumpkin gourds, butternut and acorn squash. In all 4 instances, I only got 1 or 2 fruits per vine. So I'm just wondering what they did to get so many fruits.

But it is a totally cool idea. Puts my flowering teepee to shame.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 4:40PM
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What an inspiration! And I'm planning a new arbor to replace the one
Sandy just stole. . .think I'll skip the roses and clematis for a season and
experiment with this totally wild concept for a year. . .but the arbor stands
over a portion of the cement drive - will I have any success with large pots, or maybe half barrels, as planting containers?


    Bookmark   November 10, 2012 at 11:48PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

That is really a fun idea, Jane. It is a beautiful example of well grown pumpkin and gourd vines. I have no experience with the small pumpkins or gourds, but just pumpkins on the ground, which we all have had experience with I imagine.

I would think this arbor had been pampered during the growing season, with a perfect watering schedule and regular fertilizing. The only drawback I can think of, is when they start to mature and the vines die back or end up with mildew at that point, which does happen with pumpkin vines sometimes, and you would have to leave it up until the 'fruits' ripen. It might be pretty unattractive for awhile.

I wonder if it has to have full sun? I did google images and they all seem to be growing in full sun.

PIxie Lou, I'm also wondering how they have SO many and it has to be a lot of fertilizer, is all I can think of.

I'm glad you still have your enthusiasm for next year's growing season, Carl!

Here is a link that might be useful: Gourd Arbor in an English Garden

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 6:19AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I don't know how I posted twice. Now this is a perfect example of a time when 'editing' on GW would be useful. The ability to delete an entire post would be nice. Sorry. :-)

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 6:22AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

That's a wonderful photo, Jane! I went looking but couldn't find it per se, but did find a lot of sites talking about growing gourds on pergolas.

eHow has a video giving directions on How to Plant Gourds.

Martha Stewart has a video on
How To Grow Gourds in a Pergola for Thanksgiving.

And another site shows a
Gourd Garden Tour.

If I had a spare pergola I might try it.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 10:20AM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

Thinking about it, I can imagine harvesting the gourds, drying them out, and rehanging them for decoration for the winter. Maybe add some solar lighting...


    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 10:24AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Well done, PM2 and Claire! Wonderful videos! Carl's enthusiasm has me thinking that I might be able to do this on a smaller scale on my deck. I have 5 Earth boxes on my deck to which I have previously affixed flat metal arbors for indeterminate tomatoes to climb on. Perhaps by using maybe 6' tall by 3' wide hoops, or a pre-made metal arch which could be secured with strong flat caging wire, I think an arched arbor the length of the Earth box could work. Long way around to say, Carl, Earth boxes work, are 28" long x 15" wide, and provide a constant water reservoir (as long as you fill it) and esthetically, are uniform.

Not only do I love to be in an outdoor green 'cathedral' ...guess mine would be more like a mini portable church on the run...but, after a half-century plus of trying to grow wonderful things (sometimes it works), I'm ready to try new ideas, new-to-me plants, all of which have to be fairly easy to maintain which means growing plants in containers nearby and mostly self-caring flowering shrubs or conifers. Learning to manage and plan ahead for 'an aging gardener' isn't the easiest thing to learn (never been here before) but it does require more ingenuity and thus, can lead to even more interesting adventures in gardening. Like this morning, I was sitting on the garage steps mixing potting soil with lime and sand to make my new adventure in lavender-growing work...hopefully. Christened 'Monsieur Provence', this new lavender craze started with heating lavender oil for cervical arthritis. One thing led to another and now I have a small lavender tree to take care of - indoors. So, a homemade arch to support pendulous gourds which will make a fun scoop or funky mandolin to play, I say, why not? Go Carl, GO!


    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 1:04PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA


Your description of your deck and the Earthboxes, reminded me of a photo I saved to my hard drive once. Although I don't have a deck, I thought if I did have one at some point, I might like to do something like this....

I know in the photo, it is not actually an arbor, but maybe this will give you an idea of how to adapt it to create an arbor....

I believe the description explained that there were mandevilla vines in the windowboxes that cover the trellis over the summer, creating a lot of privacy.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 5:28PM
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What a beautiful photo! It makes me think of those lovely paper or silk lanterns.

I have grown squash and melons up flat trellises, but not ones that arch over (which give a far more decorative effect.) The melons I had to put in slings so that they didn't fall to the ground, but the squash I didn't need to support at all, even when they were 4 inches in diameter and a yard long. Gravity helps them grow straight if they are the long kind.

I definitely need to think about where I might be able to use this idea in my garden. Thanks for sharing it.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2012 at 10:22PM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

PM2 - lovely structures and the mandevilla would be beautiful. Those arches look custom made - very nice. I use primitive methods (read cheap)to create privacy and grow annuals, but again, not arching. The problem that I see increasing is the summer temps on my deck. So noteworthy that I put up a thermometer to check, and sure enough -see below. The climate change has created, for at least the past few years, a lengthening bout with higher than norm temperatures which, combined with the loss of trees from strong storms/winds, a need to put up a 10' cantilevered umbrella (portable) to shade my garden window and veggies midday. I do want to try growing squash (not all male like last year)on an arched structure to help partially shade itself and keep the fruit off a hot deck.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 8:57AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

I LOVE that box with your decorations on it....and useful too..lol! Yankee practicality. Is that a wooden trellis behind the box and is the box on the floor of the deck or higher on a table? Does the trellis extend further on the sides out of the photo frame?

I agree the arches in my photo do look custom made. Something I would also be too frugal to do.

So you want to use a structure of some kind to grow the squash on and to shade the deck and a garden window on the back of the house? Would that replace the umbrella or be in addition to it?

Wanting an 'arch' structure...I can't think of a way to work something out yourself. I would think you would have to buy something that was in an arch shape. One idea I could toss out there....We used to have a metal/canvas screenhouse in the yard. Overtime of course, it became unusable for many reasons. I kept the metal frame and used it as a structure to grow on over a small patio. It won't last forever because the legs will rust through in the next few years, perhaps, but I can imagine being able to grow squash or other heavy crops on it. The top is more open than you would want for squash, but I'm sure you could adapt that to your needs. Not an arch, but a 10x10 'roof' instead. If you could find an old frame or old screenhouse on Freecycle, that might work for you.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 9:39AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

PM2 - I'm sorry if I provided too narrow a perspective; I was focusing on the temperature rather than the structure. The 'veggie bin' I had built 20 years ago is 5 feet long - basically a raised bed on castors - I have 2 of them. I think it's the deck railing that perhaps looks like a trellis to you. Maybe this picture will provide a better perspective. Earth boxes are to the right. No, one could make a simple arch using rebar and caging wire - then hope things grow quickly to cover it, and no, the umbrella is truly necessary when the temps hit above 90 in strong sunlight - don't have a picture of that setup at this time.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 10:19AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

That does make a difference. I thought the container was much smaller than that and yes, the wood trim on the railing looked like a trellis. Nice job on the boxes! Castors were a great idea.

Yes, rebar is always an option. I wonder if you could use pvc piping OVER the rebar, to disguise the rebar? Just slide it over it like a sleeve? Maybe not, because I don't think they will curve. You'd have to use elbows and that would make it rectangular. That way you wouldn't have to wait for the structure to be covered.

I see your Garden Window there. Must be nice for houseplants and seed starting. I also like the way you've put your deck boards on the diagonal and trimmed the top of the railing with wood.

I look forward to seeing what you end up with next year. :-)

    Bookmark   November 12, 2012 at 11:08AM
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Wow! It's awesome.

It looks like they used netting, which would really help with coverage, instead of just growing the vines on the frame. It also looks like this might be a hoop house, with the cover removed. Maybe they removed the cover after they heated up the soil inside? That would allow them to get the vines planted ahead of time, I guess.

PM2, good point about mildew and vines dying back! I wouldn't have thought of that, but it's sure to be a problem. Most of my squashes look somewhat tattered by the time the fruits are gaining their color.

Maybe gourds aren't so bad in that regard - they tend to be pretty tough compared to pumpkins and squash.

    Bookmark   November 18, 2012 at 5:50PM
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terrene(5b MA)

Totally cool pics on this thread!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2012 at 3:23AM
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molie(z6 CT)

Claire, great information and tips in the video links you provided. Like pumpkins, gourds needs lots of growing room. Two years ago when we planted a few pumpkin vines, they took over the end of our long garden. It was pretty amazing to see all the ground that those three plants covered in their trek towards the river.

PM2 and Jane, thanks for jump-starting my spring gardening ideas! Your posts got me thinking.

Hmmmm, we always grow Mandevilla in a pot on our deck. So why not use several as a screen? Like many of you, we have plenty of downed branches from the recent storms. Jane's technique of a rolling deck box with sticks/branches as uprights, maybe even weaving smaller branches crosswise, is an economical way to replicate the photo you shared.

Another hmmmmm --- PM2, I also loved those iron trellises. Last summer we found some pretty cheap trellises at JobLot. Maybe several of them could be mounted alongside each other together as in your photo?

Thanks all! These are wonderful ways to think about planting in my garden a bit differently next year. In fact, after the holidays I'll browse Seed Savers to see what kinds of heirloom vines they offer.


    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 11:04AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

DtD, my squash vines always look their worst, just as they are ripening fruit. Makes sense though since they are putting all their energy into production. Still, I've never tried gourds or the mini pumpkins. And, I tend to ignore the squash later in the season, so maybe more attention would keep them looking good.

Molie, I really wasn't starting to feel any particular inspiration about the spring garden until I saw that first photo of all those hanging gourds, too! That would certainly be a fun project to look forward to.

And definitely can see it would be easy to adapt the idea of the metal trellises with some inexpensive substitutes to the custom ones.

I was also wondering about Mandevilla vines, I only grew one, once, but I found it to be a slow grower. I have kept my eye out any time I see one in my travels and have never seen one going gangbusters. I can't help wondering if they might be better with a growing partner that could grow faster and create more of a screen, if privacy was a factor. Morning Glory? Dutchman's Pipe, which I thought I remembered pushes out a lot of foliage. I've never tried that one. Or something fragrant!

I am imagining a whole thread of photos of everyone's trellises and vines next summer. lol

    Bookmark   November 20, 2012 at 3:52PM
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molie(z6 CT)

PM2, food for thought for next spring ---- a thread of everyone's trellises and vines. I love that idea!


    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 8:16PM
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The original photo in this thread really captured my fancy, so I've been googling related terms to see what photos I could come up with. I've looked at photos of other veggies and fruit growing on overhead trellises, including passion fruit, squash, luffa, cukes and beans. One source commented that as long as the fruit was smaller than a volleyball, it should be able to support its own weight. (I am not confident that I believe that a volleyball-sized melon wouldn't fall as it ripened.) I have to say that none of them were anywhere near as lovely as this one, I think because they mostly had one color of fruit on them rather than the beautiful mix here.

I did want to share that this isn't a new technique (who knew?!) since I found a 1931 photo of a gourd arbor in WI.

Here is a link that might be useful: Gourd Arbor of Mr. Chas. Stevens of Chicago. Gourd Arbor at Summer Home of Charles A. Stevens, the Chicago Merchant, Lake Delaware, WI

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 5:22PM
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claireplymouth z6b coastal MA

I just ran into a story about a perennial tomato plant at Epcot Center that has so many fruits it has to be supported by a lattice.

Unfortunately we don't have the climate for this, but tomatoes would look great interspersed with gourds.


    Bookmark   January 7, 2013 at 10:32AM
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corunum z6 CT(6)

Well, there certainly is something about this vertical grove of growing that excites the imagination. That 1931 picture nhbabs added is wonderful in B&W and the Epcot tomatoes are striking. I like fruit and veggies in their original shape versus Mickey's ears or the Japanese watermelon grown in a box. Square watermelon? nah...

Has anybody else been thinking about creating a vertical growing wonder this summer? I have and finally figured out how to build a portable vertical structure for my 6' long veggie bin on the deck. Getting pretty excited here. Instead of gourds - for which I'd have no use - I decided to grow small watermelons with nasturtiums interspersed. Already have seeds for Pony Yellow and Golden Crown Watermelon from Pinetree Seeds in Maine. Golden Crown has a yellow skin with red flesh and Pony has a green striped skin with yellow flesh, mostly about 3 lbs. each. Hope it all works and when everyone else is passing out surplus zucchini, I hope to have personal size watermelons to hand out. (even if I got 1, I'd be happy)

    Bookmark   January 7, 2013 at 11:44AM
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