Make your own free website on

Kasin's Korner
Submission for April, 2003.
Same header pic and author credits apply.

Welcome back  to Kasin's Korner, the second installment for Through the Gourdvine magazine for gourd enthusiasts.  I made a cup of warm lemon twist, green tea just for you.  There's your cup on the counter.  Have a seat and relax while we chat, won't you?

Have I got a news flash for you!  Through the Gourdvine is a smash hit!  The grape vine, eh-hem, that is gourd vine tells me that the premier edition of TTG was received with only good reviews from you, the reading public.  Now, is that a landmark or what? As TTG's regular columnist, I plan on giving you more of what you want which means I love to hear your feedback and take to heart what you say you find helpful and interesting.

In this edition, I'll be elaborating on these main issues:  more Garden Adventure, planning your workshop, a couple simple gourd crafting projects, and a brand new section called Tech Head trivia, which I hope to keep included in each new column as this year progresses.  So let's get going and growing.

The readers had some nice feedback in regards to the use of newspaper sprout cups.  Since I mentioned them last month, I happened across a tool offered by Seeds of Change that makes paper plant pots. It's similar to a large, hand-held, wooden dowel.  You twist a length of newspaper around it, then pull the dowel back out.  Thinking it through, I still like my old way better. Here's what you do.

Take an old jelly glass, the tiny ones that are approximately 1-1/2 inches to 2 inches in diameter. jelly jar

This will be the diameter of your newspaper cup.  

Scavenge for your daily paper and rip it lengthwise from top to bottom.  With the way that the pulp is laid out in the daily newspaper, it should separate in two even sections with a nice straight tear.  
paper and cup

Take one length and roll it around the juice cup with the cup opening inside.
first roll of paper

Roll around the cup.  Not too firmly, or you won't be able to get the cup out of the paper later on.
rolling paper around cup

Continue rolling around the cup until there is no paper left to roll.  
All paper rolled around cup.

You then twist the leftover paper and tuck it up inside the juice cup.
twist paper on bottom

tuck paper inside jar

Now pull the juice cup out.  
pull out glass

For this little bit of effort, you should have ended up with a nice, biodegradable, paper, planting  cup.
a rolled paper planting cup                  a finished paper planting cup - side view

paper planting cup with glass jelly jar

Place your newspaper planting cups in a spare tray and fill each with compost.  Insert your seed soaked overnight, and water well.  
tray pic 1
tray pic 2

After your gourds or other sprouts have acquired their secondary leaves, transfer to the prepared garden spot. Here, the paper pot will readily decompose into the garden as the plant is watered and grows.  
paper pot in ground

If you want to see this how-to for newspaper sprout cups on line, here's the link:

In the premier edition of Through the Gourdvine, we touched on gourd gardening.  For gourdhead gardeners, there's nothing much more exciting than soaking those precious gourd seeds and seeing their gorgeous green wonderfulness coming up out of the ground.  Giving your new sprouts a warm and welcome gardening bed is the best thing a gardener can do for his sprout children and their future offspring.  Planning for seasonal plantings, knowing about companion planting,  staying away from terminator gene seeds, trellising, and double digging are some of the highlights the experienced and foresighted gardener considers.

Seasonal planting.  
Depending on where you are located, your garden can provide exercise, color, and food across many seasons of the year.  Here, in the southwest, we have four growing seasons - early Spring, Spring, Summer and Fall/Winter.  It is no surprise that plants are like people in that they all prefer and feel more productive depending on the weather.  

Good, early Spring crops, around the middle of February, are beets, carrots, celery, cilantro, garlic, kale, lettuce, onions peas, tomatoes, for example.  Good Spring crops are beans, corn, gourds, herbs, more onions, and summer squashes.  Summer crops could be amaranth, cucumbers, melons, peppers, pumpkins and sunflowers.  Fall to Winter crops planted around September 1 -  February 15th could  be beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, cilantro, kale kohlrabi, lettuces, mustard, more onion sets, radishes, spinach. In general leafy veggies like lettuce spinach carrots, peas and beets are cool weather crops.  Fruiting type veggies like warm weather.  The partial listing on these are melons, tomatoes, peppers, corn, beans, and cucumbers.  That's  a lot of gardening and a lot of reward.  

Succeed in your seasonal planting by succession planting.   Simply put, succession planting means following one kind of vegetable with the same or another one that matches the next season in perfect sequence.  This means planning your garden from the get-go.  

Now, you may be asking yourself, what does all these veggies have to do with gourds?  Ask and he shall receive.  Seek balance, Grasshopper. Seek companion planting.

Part of your early planning could include the spacing for companion planting.  If you're a plant lover, this aspect of gardening is pretty much a given.  Although much of companion planting has yet to be proven scientifically, gardeners for years have used this method to better their plant's health.  And, yes, I use companion planting in my own garden.  

Including flowers and herbs with your gourd planting  not only gives your garden diversity and extra eye appeal -- oooh, color!  -- it is really better for the plants as well.  
Companion planting reportedly can (1) help shade tender sprouts, (2) benefit roots, and (3) can even lower pest onslaughts.  Gee. Could you ask for much more?   Some people just seem to get along better together than others. The same thing goes for plants.   Although it's tempting to use the "M" word - monoculture (boo! hisss!) - when it comes to gourd planting (that is planting only one kind of plant), it really is best to diversify your gourd garden. "P" is the word in the gourd garden - POLYCULTURE.  

Roses love garlic.
Only a gardener knows
Why such a lovely flower
Must want such sinky toes!

- kasin hunter

Let's take a look at some plant buddies (companions), starting with the gourd family, the cucurbits.  

The Plant
The Companion(s)
Cucurbits (gourds,
squashes, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, etc.)
bush beans
jimson weed (datura, thorn apple)
morning glories

(beans, cont.)
locust trees

leaf lettuce
red cabbage





Just as some plants do well together, some do not.  Here's a chart on plants that get bad vibes when planted together.  Bad vibes?  Yep, like stunted growth, sharing of diseases and pests and (gasp!) even death of your seeds or sprouts!
Cucurbits (gourds,  squashes, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, etc.)
aromic herbs

onion family (garlic, shallots or chives)

pole beans




If you would like more detail on companion planting, take a look at the following books:  Roses Love Garlic and Carrots Love Tomatoes, both by Louise Riotte.  Another paper readable, Desert Harvest - a Guide to Vegetable Gardening in Arid Lands, gives the low down on Companion Planting on page 19 and offers a nice little companion planting guide on page 20.    The New Seed-Starters Handbook gives information on this planting technique starting on page 83.  In Mel Bartholomew's Square Foot Gardening, he gives a brief overview with pictures of his idea on how to set up companion plants in a square foot garden.  In Bugs,  Slugs & Other Thugs by Rhonda Massingham Hart companion planting is mentioned on twelve pages.   Although not a provable gardening method scientifically as yet, companion planting is adhered to by many avid gardeners who care about their plants.

Terminator genes? Genetic manipulation? Genetic patenting?  Conflicts of interest in biotechnologies?  Transgenic crops? Inadequate testing of gene-altered seeds?  Sounds scary right off, doesn't it.  What are the facts?  What are companies like Monsanto doing to our seeds, our food, our future?  For those of you who are web-enriched, try some of the sites listed below for the low-down.  

The those of you who are interested in buying gourd seeds that will continue to produce generations of successive offspring, buy from organic and heritage seed houses with good reputations.  I've listed some seed sources below for your convenience.  I've not tried all of them, so use your own judgment and ask around.  DEKALB and Asgrow are Monsanto seeds.  I've heard that Birbee and Martha Stewart seeds are also Monsanto engineered seeds.  I stay clear of both.  
The last seeds I purchased were from Ferry-Morse Seed Company established from 1856,   I found their seeds at my local Home Depot store.  

Taking the high ground.
The low down on high ground, or how to get those cucurbits off the ground.  

Quick!  In your mind picture the difference between a trellis, an arbor and a pergola.  The differences are small and easily remembered.  A trellis typically has one vertical surface supported by poles and fencing fabric or wooden slats.  An arbor is typically curved, forming an arch or roof and has four corner poles or poles.  A pergola is arched or roofed  like an arbor but has a consecutive row of more than four corner poles or posts. A pergola is used in a long run, like in an Italian grape garden.  It comes down to vertical gardening and using the space over your garden as well as in it.  For those with limited garden space and for those who want to grow those snake and siphon gourds straight as an arrow, any of these three support structures will work like a charm.  But not all trellises, arbors, or pergolas look a like.

Here's a peak of one gourd arbor owned by Judy Iwata-Smith of Rising Star Ranch in Arizona. (Email:
old gourd arbor

And here's her new and improved arbor (pergola):
new gourd arbor

So you see, your vertical gardening structure can be as large or as small as you need.   A simple cylinder of garden fencing may be all you need to trellis your peas, a nice companion plant to gourds.
Wire cylinder for peas

A pole trellis is easy to make. Just put together three or more leftover sunflower stalks or other garden poles, secure at top, and you have a cheap vertical structure for climbing beans or miniature gourds.
pyramidal pole trellis

Yard fencing can be used as is, or if you have extra, a simple fenced trellis like this can hold several gourds.  Just make sure you match the fence fabric weight with the gourds you intend to grow on it.
fencing fabric for a trellis

pH, why it's important and what gourds like.

The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14. At pH 7, the half way point, we see a balance between acidity and alkalinity. This is neutral, neither too acid nor too alkaline.  Water is neutral.

Why do we even need to bother about pH levels, you might ask.  Plants have preferences.  You could think of it like this.  Consider the following fun example.  You have three cups of liquids in front of you.  One is labeled, "Lemon Juice" (very acid.)  One is labeled, "Plain Water" (neutral.)  One is labeled, "Baking Soda Water" (yech.) Which would you readily drink?  Plants have their own preferences as well. Some go for the "lemon juice" drink; or in other words, they like a more acidic soil.  Some go for a more neutral, a more base soil, like what can be found in plain water.  Some prefer a more alkaline soil.

If the solution has excess acid, the balance is shifted so that scale reads a number lower than 7. –the greater the acid strength, the lower the pH value.

Similarly, a solution that is alkaline has a pH that is higher than 7, and the greater the alkali strength, the higher the pH value –up to 14. (1)


How do find out what the pH level is in your soil?  Do you need a Master Gardener to show the way?  Nope.  pH soil meters are one handy tool in determining your soil pH.  Some meters have digital readouts.  Others are simple gauges  attached to prongs that you insert into the ground.
There are also soil strips that when dipped into water, soils, foods, etc. change color.  You match the color to their chart and right away, you know the PH level in your soil.  Soil Analyzers can be found at most garden shops and many suppliers on-line.  Prices range from $5.00 on up. 

So now you know your pH level in your soil.  Now what do your gourds like - acid, alkaline or neutral soil?  
Gourds grow best on well-drained, sandy loam soils with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.5 - slightly acid, almost neutral.  If grown on more acidic soil, lower than 6.0, the gourd will display yellow leaves and have less flowers.

How do you get your soil "just right" for your plants' consumption?  In the East, where the soils are high acid,  they use lime and wood ashes to raise their soil pH.  Doing that in desert regions would spell disaster.  We here in the southwest want to lower our pH levels (because we are high alkaline) with compost, hay, straw, grass clippings, soil sulfur, sphagnum peat moss,
and manures.   Delish!

Your plants will thank you.


Amendments - the smart way.

Speaking of compost and straw, let's talk soil amendments.  There's a grand potpourri of amendments available for feeding and balancing your soil.   The first and most important ingredient for your soil, in my humble opinion is compost.  

There are tons of books on composting and even more helpful sites on the world wide web.  I won't repeat their offerings.  Suffice it to say that layering kitchen wastes, garden leavings, leaves and other organic matter with animal manure will give you a bounty of beautiful helpful microbes and rich, dark soil that your plants crave.  I put my  compost directly on the ground to channel earth energies and earthworms up into the stack.  I keep the leavings small in size so they decompose easily.  I keep my compost pile moist, not soggy.  I turn it once a week or so.  By the way, onion skins are fine for compost piles but not for your worm bin.  Keep it natural.  No plastic.  No glass.  You get the idea.  On a personal note, my mother brings over her kitchen wastes once a week and dumps them in my compost pile.  Thanks, mom!  Neighbors may have wastes that you see potential for as well and will gladly let you haul them away.  You can return the favor come harvest time with a bountiful offering of gourds, radishes and tomatoes.  (big smile)
Now, that's neighborly, for you.

Let's say you have 400 square feet of land that could be encouraged into garden space. But your compost pile will never cover that much footage.  Hey! Good news!  It doesn't have to.  After a long discourse with your significant other and your long enduring back muscles, you realize you only want to plant 1/3 of that space for fast growing Spring.   You'll keep a third more for slow-growing Spring crops.  The last third you'll keep reserved for late summer crops.  In warmer areas, you can plant for four seasons.  In colder areas, for two seasons.

However you devide up your garden space among the season, the good news is that your much admired compost can go a long ways.

Instead of covering the entire 200-400 square feet with your Black Gold, keep the earhly treasure for only the rows or even only the spots where each plant row or each individual plant will set its roots.  For example my early bean and pea plants went like this.  With a soup spoon, I dug a start hole for the bean seeds I was sprouting.  Into each hole, I added a couple heaping tablespoons of compost. Into the holes and only in the holes.  No compost was dribbled in the trench nor on the row deviders.  The compost was targeted directly for the roots of each plant.  I watered with a seaweed tea.  The beans are going gang busters.

Section Two - I love my workshop!

Now, I realize that the garden shed is something that most women shun.  But for my lady readers, take heart.  Taking care of your garden tools is really not that hard.  No, I'm not leading up the garden path.  You can do this!  First, keep your tool inventory small.  Have only what you need and use what you have.  This year, I re-evaluated my tools and found that three of them were no longer keepers.  They made their way to the yard sale stack.  Let's list the tools you might need.

pick Let's start with a pick (maddock)  for breaking up tough, new ground.  Find one with the right length handle and not too heavy, because, believe me, a tool you use over and over for an hour at a time will be heavy enough.  But again, if it's too light, it will simple bounce off the caliche, if that's what you have, and never make a dent.  Again, the rule of "just right" comes into play here, too.


Next, select a pitchfork, one of those tough tine kind that will turn straw and turns clods of dirt, both just as easy.  

breaker or caliche bar

And a soil (breaker/caliche) bar.  This look like a long metal toothpick with a pointy end on one end and a flat spade-like end on the other.  If you live in the southwest, this is a gift from God when breaking into new ground. Amen.

hand spade Hand spades are handy. I keep two of these around because I like different sizes for different jobs.

If you are going to use the soil turn method of Double Digging (see below), you'll need a foot spade as well.

flat-bladed shovel  flat bladed close Get a flat-bladed and a pointed shovel.  Why both?  The pointed shovels   are great for scooping up those loads of soggy soil when you're clearing your twelve-inch trenches.  They can dig right into the ground under a heavy foot tread.  The flat-bladed shovel is good for scraping off flat expanses of ground and squaring off holes, if you're so inclined.  
pointed shovel close pointed shovel

Boiled linseed oil is a safe way to enrich your tool handles.  Boiled linseed oil has a faster drying time compared to raw linseed oil because he has had what is called dryers added. After each use, plunge your shovel into a bucket of sand to loosen the stuck-on mud.  Rinse and hang to dry.   Once a season, rub the handles  down with the boiled linseed oil, then let hang to dry.  If your wooden handles are getting splintered and worse, split, you need to sandpaper them down, and oil more frequently.  Boiled linseed oil is not consumable, despite protests of my dog, Hope, to the contrary.  Boiled linseed oil in easily used gallon size and smaller sizes and keeps well in a shaded location like a shed or workshop.  It will darken and leave a slightly glossy tint on your tools. Caution:  if you use rags or brushes to season your tool handles, dispose of them.  Don't keep them around, because this oil can spontaneously combust.  That would be a bad day in Bedrock.

wheelbarrow A wheelbarrow.  Buy a good one, because you'll be surprised how many times it comes in useful.  I prefer metal. Some don't.   Meet your own needs.  

Buckets, pans, newspapers, bins etc.  Actually, most containers you probably have laying around the house can be useful in gardening.     Why spend more money on retail gadgets,
if you can use a little imagination with what you already have at home.  You don't need a special knife to cut around root balls.  Remember that old hunting knife in the tool drawer that your husband hasn't used for the last twelve years?  You don't need a special poker to make holes for seedlings.  Fingers or a stiff stick work just as well, and they're free!  Old cookie sheets, plasticware,  leftover glass jars, and so much more can be used in a myriad of ways by the creative gardener.  So the next time you go to toss out the evening paper, stop and think newspaper sprout cups or at least pay homage to your thriving compost bin.

Did you note that I've been saying hang your tools instead of lean?  Hanging your tools keeps the handles straight.  Simple as that.  

One final tool to mention (ladies, don't get scared) - a mill bastard file.  Okay.  The first time I heard this, I grabbed my local hardware clerk, put on my best "I'm a helpless female" look and got the low-down on the file.  No shame in that, right?  And besides, guys usually love to show us what they know.  (grin)  So once you can recognize what the file looks like, grab your dull shovel begin to stroke the file over the edge at about 45 degrees, working away from the edges.  You only need to sharpen to top side of shovels.    Hoes use the same 45 degree angle and work best when the inside is sharpened, the part you can see when you use it.  

Dig it!

Double dig, really.  This method, double digging, is where you turn up the top soil and part of the sub soil.  It is also known as the French-intensive method and the bio-dynamic method.  Whatever you call, it, the process isn't easy,  very labor intensive, but has benefit for those plants that like rich deep soils.  Here's a WWW site for doing it right:  
  Here's how it works.  

Start with your raw ground.

Work your  first row a spade's width and depth, lifting out the soil and setting it aside into a pile or wheelbarrow.
dd2                                       dd3

Go back this the same dug row and work up the soil another spade depth.  This will turn and aerate the soil.

Figure out about 1/3 the size of soil amendment compared to the ground you relieved from the row, and add that much amendment to the row, spading it in.  
Now, go to your next row, spading its length, and put all your diggings on top of the first row just amended.

 Continue to do this until all rows have been worked.
dd6                                                       dd7


 As I said, it's a lot of work,  but you may, as other gardeners have found, to be of enough benefit that you don't mind the effort.  (Where's the masseuse


Section Three - A simple gourd crafting project.

Whew!  You have worked so hard!  Let's not forget how much fun gourds can be, too.  Put your tea down and select a gourd from one of those on the stump. We're going to make a simple gourd bowl, so, let's see . . .  One of the first three kettle gourds look good for bowl.

gshape1   gshape2   gshape3

Since this will be our first and most simple project, we won't bother with  many steps to a finished product, nor much decoration.  Typically, we'd spend as much time cleaning and prepping the gourd as we would working the final design.  But let's start off simple.  

Let's cut off  the top of the dry raw gourd, the stem portion.  You can do this with just about anything - an Exacto knife, a kitchen paring knife. a utility blade. Whatever works.  Just don't cut yourself too!   If you want, you can wear a mask to keep from breathing the "gourd dust" that will generate with the cutting process. Safety first.

gourd guts

Now with the lid cut off,  you'll see the guts of the gourd.


with spoon 2
with spoon 1

Mine has a beautiful 
pearlescence to it with lots of gourd seeds. Clean all the dry guts and seeds out.  I use a spoon.

with sandpaper

If your cut isn't exactly level, it may okay with you. If it isn't okay, you can sand the lip of your bowl smooth with simple sandpaper.   Just turn over the gourd and rub the rim back and forth until the lip is as even as you wish.

Pretty easy so far.  Let's keep going.  
You can finish you bowl with something as simple as shoe polish.  After we put on some plastic gloves, let's apply some brown with a cosmetic sponge.
 shoe polish

cosmetic square

After rubbing the shoe polish all over the outside, treat the thin lip as well.  This seemed like a good finishing step for adding the brown color.  To shine it up, take a cosmetic square and buff the exterior to a shine.


I'm sure I have some leftover jute laying around from my other crafting projects. Yes! Here's some.  Poke a couple holes near the rim (not too close), and thread the jute through.  


Now, beads . . . beads.  Here's a nice turquoise-colored one and . . . a couple smaller red ones. That should look nice . . .

Yes. Not bad.   A touch of glue will hold those beads.

We're done!  That was so easy!  Let's see how our first gourd bowl looks . . .  add  a little potpourri and  . . .

Hey, that looks pretty good.  I had fun doing this project with you.  Let's do another one soon.

Section Four - Tech Head Trivia.

What does PH stand for when it comes to soil acidity and alkalinity?
The H is the symbol for the hydrogen element. pH means the hydrion ion exponent.

Is 8 on the pH scale more acid or more alkaline?
More alkaline.

Is it true that . . . . . . sheeps wool is good for clay soil?  
That it improves aeration and drains the soil

Did you know that . . . . . .  herbs do the most good when harvested
by the phases of the moon?  
Research has now supported this lore by
botanical studies.  

Did you know that . . . . . . garlic was once considered a protective plant?  
Nowadays, garlic is commonly used
to protect as well . . .
 against getting colds and to lower cholesterol!

(1) pH    Web page -

Judy Iwata-Smith
Rising Star Ranch
Email - Web page -

Read more on genetic manipulation of our seeds and our food:

Seed Sources

Ferry-Morse Seed Company
 P.O.Box 1620
 Fulton KY  42041

Seeds of Change
Main web site:
Store locator:

Stokes Seeds
Call in your order:

Fax your order Toll-free:

8:00am to 4:30pm
Monday - Friday
8:30am to 4:00pm Sat (EST)

Mail in your order
Canada Mailing Address:
PO Box 10
Thorold, Ontario
Canada L2V 5E9

USA Mailing Address:
PO Box 548
Buffalo, New York
USA 14240-0548

's Gourd Farm
10295 N. 700 W
Kingman, In. 47952

Gourds, Indian Corn, Seeds, & Fall Decorations  by Eckler Farms
Eckler Farms

1879 Barron Lake Road
Niles, MI 49120-9391
phone: 269.683.2509
fax: 269.683.0928

Hollar Seeds
Fax: (719) 254-3539
Phone: (719) 254-7411

Hollar Seeds
P.O. Box 106

Rocky Ford, CO 81067

Native Seed SEARCH
Tucson, Arizona

Nichols Garden Nursery
1190 Old Salem Road NE
Albany, Oregon 97321-4580
Toll Free Orders: 1 (800) 422-3985
Fax: 1 (800) 231-5306

Seed Savers Exchange

3076 North Winn Road
Decorah, Iowa 52101
Founded 1975