Garden Forever
Destined for Decorations
by Carla Allen

For at least the past ten years, Fred Randall has been planting and harvesting a multitude of gourds in North Kemptville, Nova Scotia. He grows them for his wife, Sharon, a woman who has been faithfully decorating the community's United Baptist Church for 35 years. Although she's now retired from this duty, Sharon still enjoys using the colourful, versatile gourds for autumn arrangements on their property or for the local Fire Hall.

A trailor is parked behind the woodpile in back of the Randall garage, its wooden floor covered with roly-poly gourds. There are striped ones, turban-topped, warty, yellow, green, speckled and goose necked specimens. There's easily over 100 gourds here. Mixed in with this bountiful harvest are Jack-be-little pumpkins, adorable palm sized miniatures of their hefty cousins.

Things didn't look too good for the gourds earlier this year. "It was dry and cold for awhile there this spring," said Fred. "Seeds didn't germinate well at first." The crop was sown a bit earlier than normal this year, the third week of May as opposed to the typical first week in June. Once they started popping up out of the ground though they took right off.

Fred's gourd growing area is located at the bottom of his sloping garden. He believes it to be an especially good spot because rich nutrients from manure and fertilizers (10-10- 10 or 6-12-12) likely wash down into the area from the rest of the garden. He limes this area every other year. One small package each of Vesey's assorted gourd seed and Jack-be-Little pumpkins are sown. As summer progresses, the vines reach out and begin to wind their way through the tall grasses surrounding the planting area. Fred doesn't mow the area bordering the garden for this reason.

"You never know what you're going to get in the fall until you pull the vines near the end of September, " Fred describes. This year was a bumper crop with approximately 4 dozen tiny pumpkins, accompanied by a vast majority of gourds. The harvest was hosed off in the trailor and persistent clumps of dirt were scrubbed off with a brush. The Randall's generally don't apply varnish - they find the gourds last a very long time once dried and they know there will likely be another crop next year.

Sharon has painted whimsical faces on several of the gourds and pumpkins this season for the first time. It's a hobby she shows enthusiasm for. Living quite a distance from available classes in this art, she's gained inspiration and techniques from various country craft magazines.

With her gourds and an extensive selection of vibrant natural materials Sharon's joyful arrangements highlight the short-lived beauty of autumn. The long-lasting gourds help extend this season into the winter for the Randall's and the many friends they've shared their harvest with over the years.

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Destined for Decorations is a copyrighted article by the author, Carla Allen, who has kindly given Garden Forever permission to publish it on our website. The use of any part of this publication reproduced, transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, or stored in a retrieval system, without the prior written consent of Carla Allen is strictly forbidden.