The fruits of Cucurbita are much prized by gardeners and home makers alike.
The plant is a half hardy annual that flowers in the summer and bears fruits of many colours (especially orange and yellow), and shapes (round, pear shaped).
Some of the common names for Cucurbita include Pumpkin, Squash, Zucchini, Gourd and Luffa.
Cucurbita pepo – Courgette/Zucchini by Net_efekt.
Common Names: Squash, Gould, Pumpkin, Zucchini, Courgette, Tennessee Sweet Potato. Squash: Winter; Summer; Butternut; Acorn; Yellow.
Life Cycle: Half hardy annual.
Height: Runners from 7 to 240 inches (75 to 500 cm).
Growing Region: Zones 5 to 10.
Flowers: Late spring to early autumn.
Flower Details: Yellow. Curling.
Foliage: Green. Large. Lobed.
Fruits: Often grown as a food source; fruit can be round, cylindrical or pear shaped.
Sow Outside: 1/4 inch (6mm). A few weeks after last frost, many species need a temperature of 60 to 70°F ( 15 to 21°C) before they will germinate. Spacing: 24 to 120 inches (60 to 300 cm) depending upon species.
Sow Inside: Soak seeds for two days. Peat pots. Germination time: one to four weeks. Temperature 70°F (21°C). Four weeks in advance. Transplant outdoors following the last frost when temperatures reach 70°F (21°C).
Requirements: Full sunlight. Good drainage. Soil pH 5.5 to 7.5. Rich soil. Moist soil. Light poor soils. Provide support. Provide trellis. Insulate fruits from the ground. Regular watering.
Miscellaneous: Usually grown for their fruits; these usually take 80 to 100 days to reach maturity. Many types of pumpkins often reach between 10 and 34lb (4 and 15KG) in weight. A Giant pumpkin has been recorded at over 1800lb (815KG). Members of Cucurbita can cross pollinate, so grow species such as cucumber and squash at a distance to each other if you are planning to harvest seeds.
The seeds of Cucurbita should be sown at a depth of 6 mm about two weeks after the last frost of spring. They like to grow in a sunny area of the garden that has good drainage and a rich soil of pH 6 to 7. Cucurbita plants can also be grown first as seedlings indoors; they should be planted into peat pots about four weeks before transplanting out in the middle of spring. The seedlings of Cucurbita should be spaced at about 60 cm apart when transplanting them outdoors.
As Cucurbita are runners they will require something to grow on such as a trellis or cane; it is very important to keep the fruits off the ground, so tie up strongly to prevent the fruits from rotting. You will know that they are ready for picking when the fruit does not react to light pressure.
Sponges can be made from luffa by soaking the ripe luffa fruit in warm water for about three days. The skin can then be easily peeled off. The luffa should then be washed to remove all traces of seeds. Following drying for a week the luffa sponge is ready to be used.
Gourds also make great decorative pieces. The fruit of the gourd should first be cleaned, then dried from three weeks (small) to six months (large) until they rattle. The gourds should then be glazed with wax.