Ash gourd - Organic

Ash Gourd

Rate this item
(0 votes)

Ash gourd (Benincasa hispida) is a popular vegetable cultivated. The fruits are cultivated mainly for culinary purpose. The fruits are covered by white, chalky wax, which deters microorganisms and helps impart an extraordinary longevity to the gourd. It is suitable for growing for home garden and fresh market.

Benincasa hispida is a robust, annual climbing plant producing stems up to 6 metres long that scramble over the ground or climb into other plants, supporting themselves by means of tendrils. The plant can produce such enormous fruits that it either needs to be really well supported when climbing or be grown as a ground-cover crop.
The plant is a rather important market vegetable in subtropical and tropical Asia, and the immature fruits are increasingly popular in city markets. It is frequently cultivated, especially in the Old World tropics, for its edible fruit. It is also often used medicinally, especially in China.

Benincasa hispida, the wax gourd, also called ash gourd, white gourd, winter gourd, tallow gourd, ash pumpkin, and winter melon and 'Chinese preserving melon' is a vine grown for its very large fruit, eaten as a vegetable when mature.

Scientific name: Benincasa hispida
Family: Cucurbitaceae
Higher classification: Trichosanthes
Rank: Species
Kingdom: Plantae


The wax gourd requires very warm weather to grow but can be stored for many months much like winter squash. Ash gourds of the Indian subcontinent have a white coating with rough texture (hence the name ash gourd, literally, in some vernaculars). South East Asian varieties have a smooth waxy texture. It is one of the few vegetables available during winter in areas of deciduous vegetation, hence its Chinese name literally means 'winter gourd'. The Wax Gourd can typically be stored for 12 months. In India, the wax gourd is recognized for its medicinal properties in the Ayurvedic system of medicine. It is also has significance in spiritual traditions of India and Yoga, where it is identified as a great source of Prana.

Climate & Soil:

The optimal temperature for the growth of ash gourd is in the range of 24–27°C. The plants are adapted to a wide range of rainfall conditions. It tolerates a wide range of soil but prefers a well drained sandy loam soil that is rich in organic matter. The optimum soil pH is 6.0–6.7, but plants tolerate alkaline soils up to pH 8.0.

Popular Varieties - Recommended by SEEDseller

Co 1: High yielding variety released from the Tamil Nadu Agricultural University. Large sized, round fruits with average fruit weight of 8.0 kg.
Buy seeds: Buy from

KAU local: High yielding variety. Fruits are oblong, and medium sized.
Buy seeds: Buy from

Indu: High yielding variety with good flesh thickness released from the Kerala Agricultural University. Yield potential is 24.5 t/ha. Mean fruit weight is 4.82 kg.
Buy seeds: Buy from

Apart from the regular variety, an extra small fruited type, known as Vaidyakumbalam, is also grown for medicinal purpose. This medicinal ash gourd is morphologically different from the common vegetable type in fruit size, rind thickness and shelf life. It belongs to the same species as that of the common ash gourd and is crossable with it.

Medicinal ash gourd:

Medicinal ash gourd is generally cultivated as a rain-fed crop.

Plant characteristics: 

It is an annual plant, with ribbed thin stem and lateral tendrils. Leaves are smaller than the vegetable type, simple, smooth and toothed with round hairy petioles. Male and female flowers are large, yellow, solitary and axillary.

Fruits are small, 7-9 cm in diameter, round, without any undulations on the surface. Immature fruits are hairy and green, while the mature ones have a thick rind with thick white waxy coating. The pulp of the fruit is harder and seeds are flat with pointed tip and are smaller than that of the vegetable type.

Favourable season: 

Medicinal ash gourd is generally cultivated as a rain fed crop during May. It is also rarely cultivated during summer in the rice fallows. Its cultivation is similar to that of the common ash gourd. Seeds are sown in pits of 60 cm diameter and 30-35 cm depth at a spacing of 4.5 x 2 m after filling with 10-15 kg of farmyard manure, compost or 5-6 kg of well powdered goat manure. The crop can be trailed on the ground or to trees, fences or even to roofs of buildings.

Provide light irrigation at 4-5 day interval during seedling and growing stage.

Flowering commences about sixty days after sowing. Restrict the irrigation one week before flowering. When the plant starts flowering apply 1-2 kg of poultry manure or 250-300 g of groundnut cake per pit and irrigate heavily.

Fertilizer application (*conventional farming method): 

Fertilizer application should be followed by slight earthing up. Make sure that irrigation is given immediately after fertilizer application. If the growth of the plant is weak, vegetable mixture (7:10:5) can be applied at frequent intervals at 10-15 g/pit.

Harvesting can be done when the fruit stalks show signs of drying up. On an average, each plant produces 10-11 fruits, each weighing about 180-200 g.

Average fresh weight of seed per fruit ranges from 13-16g. This type is comparatively free from pests and diseases.

Buy seeds: Buy from

Eating sustainably

The most sustainable way to eat is to be vegan and choose organic, local and seasonal produce. The varieties, season, seedrate and spacing of crops are given in following table.
  • Item 1
  • Item2
  • Item 3
  • Item 4
  • Item 5
  • Item 6
  • Item 7
  • Item 8
  • Item 9
  • Item 10
  • Item 11
  • Item 12

Organic farming is a crop production method respecting the rules of the nature, targeted to produce nutritive, healthy and pollution-free food. It maximizes the use of on-farm resources and minimizes the use of off-farm inputs. It is a farming system that seeks to avoid the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Commitment to protect and preserve nature is a pre-requisite for practicing organic farming, the entire ecosystem (plant, animal, soil, water and microorganisms) is protected. Organic cultivation improves structure and fertility of the soil through balanced choice of crops and implementation of diversified cropping system. The consumers prefer natural/ethnic foods, particularly organic foods across the world and are ready to pay premium prices for such foods. The demand for organic agriculture products is on the increase day by day.


  1. Farmers practicing organic farming are encouraged to prepare the organic inputs in their own farm and use only permitted external inputs.
  2. The pests collected by using fruit traps should be disposed of safely without posing any hazards to environment and human beings. Dispose the contents of traps with insecticide outside the cropped area after its use.
  3. According to the scientists of National Bureau of Agriculturally Important Insects (NBAII), Bangalore, the most widely used fungal antagonist in India, Trichoderma viride is actually Trichoderma asperellum or its cryptic species T. asperelloides.
  4. The organic liquid formulations are safe to environment, crop production and human health.
  5. The specifications of vermicompost, organic manures and bio-fertilizers are adopted from the “Fertilizer Control Order, 1985” (as amended upto February 2017)

Seed rate: The recommended seed rate for ash gourd is 0.75-1.0 kg/ha.

Spacing: 2 meter x 2 meter.

Planting January-March and September-December are the ideal seasons for growing (commercial cultivation) snake gourd. For the rain fed crop, sowing can be started after the receipt of first few showers during May-June.

Prepare the soil to a fine tilth by ploughing and harrowing. Pits of 60 cm diameter and 30-45 cm depth are taken at a spacing of 2m x 2m. Well rotten FYM or other organic manure (12 t ha-1) is mixed with topsoil in the pit and seeds are sown at the rate of 4-5 per pit. Soak the seeds overnight in water for better and quicker germination. Seeds should be treated with Pseudomonas fluorescens @ 2 gram per 1 kg or 5 ml per 1 kg seed. Soaking seeds in Pseudomonas fluorescens (@ 2 gram per 1 kg or 5 ml per 1 kg seed) for 6 hours and drying in shade reduce the attack of soil born fungus. A pre sowing irrigation 3-4 days before sowing is beneficial. Sow four or five seeds in a pit at 1-2 cm depth. Deeper sowing delays germination. Irrigate with a rose can daily. The seeds germinate in about 4-5 days. Unhealthy plants are removed after two weeks and only three plants are retained per pit.

In high range zone, seedlings can be raised in greenhouses to ensure good germination and are later transplanted to the main field. Sow two or three seeds in small plastic pots filled with potting mixture. Transplant 15-20 days old seedlings into the field at 2m x 2m spacing.

Trailing: Ash gourd is grown trailing on the ground by spreading dried twigs and coconut fronds on the ground. 

After cultivation
Hormone application
Weed control

Plant protection


Fruit fly (Bactrocera sp.) 

Bactocera cucurbitae

Fruit fly is the most destructive insect pest of snake gourd. Fruit fly maggots feed on the internal tissues of the fruit causing premature fruit drop and also yellowing and rotting of the affected fruits. This fly is difficult to control because its maggots feed inside the fruits, protected from direct contact with insecticides.

Control: Bury any infested fruits to prevent the build up of fruit fly population. In homestead gardens, covering the fruits in polythene, cloth or paper bags covers help to prevent flies from laying eggs inside the fruits and ensure mechanical protection. Breaking of soil to expose pupae, and burning the soil in pit by dried leaves are also effective. Remove and destroy affected and decayed fruits. It can also be effectively controlled by the use of banana fruit traps coupled with the removal and destruction of infested fruits. Traps are to be set at a distance of 2 meter after a border row and they may be replenished after 7 to 9 days. Start bait trapping just before flowering. Apply Neem cake 250 kg ha-1 (100 gram per pit) at planting and one month later. Use any of the following fruit fly traps:

  1. Fish meal trap: Place 5 g dry fish in coconut shell, moisten and add 0.5 gram cartap hydrochloride. Put coconut shell inside a polythene cover. Make holes on the cover above shell and hang the cover from pandal (trellis).

  2. Trap adult fruit flies using cue lure plywood blocks containing 6:4:1 mixture of ethyl alcohol : cue lure : Malathion. Reset traps at four months interval. Hang plywood blocks with pheromone @ 1 trap per 15 cents (land area).

  3. Trap adult fruit flies using food baits. Make a pulp of 20 gram banana, 10 gram jaggery in 100 ml water + 0.2 ml malathion at 2.5 meter spacing. Change traps after 3 weeks. Red banana, Robusta, Njalipoovan and Palayankodan fruits can be used.

  4. Drench Beauveria bassiana 20 g l-1 @ 10 l and apply 40 ml during fruiting stage.

Note: Dispose the contents of traps with insecticide outside the cropped area after its use.

Snake gourd semilooper: Anadevidia peponis

Green coloured semilooper caterpillar cuts the edge of leaf lamina, folds it and feed from with in. It is a specific pest of snake gourd.

Control: Hand pick the caterpillars and destroy them. In severe cases (*conventional farming method) spray insecticides like quinalphos (0.05%).

Epliachna beetle: Epilachna spp.

The yellowish coloured grubs and adults of the beetle feed voraciously on leaves and tender plant parts, and the leaves are completely skeletonized leaving only a network of veins. When in large number, the pest causes serious defoliation and reduces yield.

Control: Remove and destroy egg masses, grubs and adults occurring on leaves. (*conventional farming method) Spray carbaryl 0.2%.

  1. Remove and destroy egg masses, grubs and adults occurring on leaves.
  2. Use predator (Chrysocaris johnsoni) of larvae and pupae.
  3. Apply Beauveria bassiana @ 10 g l-1.
  4. Spray leaf extract of ailanthus and cashew (10%).
  5. Neem oil + garlic emulsion spray (2%) 

Leaf feeders and sucking pests

Collect and destroy larvae. Spray a mixture of 1 liter cows urine + 10 gram bird chilli + 9 liters water. Spray 2% talk-based formulation of Beauveria bassiana + 0.1 % teepol at fortnightly intervals for the management of pumpkin caterpillar, leaf footed bugs and plant lice.

(*conventional farming methods: Spray 2% talc based formulation of Beauvaria bassiana + 0.1% teepol at fortnightly intervals for the management of leaf feeders. In severe case of infestation of pumpkin caterpillar, apply chlorantraniliprole 18.5 SC @ 30 g ai/ha)

Plant lice or aphids - Aphis gossypi

Aphids in large number congregate on tender parts of plant and suck sap resulting in curling and crinkling of leaves. Ants carry aphids from one plant to another.

Aphids are small sap-sucking insects and members of the superfamily Aphidoidea. Common names include greenfly and blackfly, although individuals within a species can vary widely in colour. The group includes the fluffy white woolly aphids. A typical life cycle involves flightless females giving living birth to female nymphs without the involvement of males. Maturing rapidly, females breed profusely so that the number of these insects multiplies quickly. Winged females may develop later in the season, allowing the insects to colonise new plants. In temperate regions, a phase of sexual reproduction occurs in the autumn, with the insects often overwintering as eggs.

The life cycle of some species involves an alternation between two species of host plants, for example between an annual crop and a woody plant. Some species feed on only one type of plant, while others are generalists, colonising many plant groups. About 5,000 species of aphid have been described, all included in the family Aphididae. Around 400 of these are found on food and fibre crops, and many are serious pests of agriculture and forestry, as well as an annoyance for gardeners. So-called dairying ants have a mutualistic relationship with aphids, tending them for their honeydew, and protecting them from predators.

Aphids are among the most destructive insect pests on cultivated plants in temperate regions. In addition to weakening the plant by sucking sap, they act as vectors for plant viruses and disfigure ornamental plants with deposits of honeydew and the subsequent growth of sooty moulds. Because of their ability to rapidly increase in numbers by asexual reproduction, they are a highly successful group of organisms from an ecological standpoint.

Control of aphids is not easy. Insecticides do not always produce reliable results, given resistance to several classes of insecticide and the fact that aphids often feed on the undersides of leaves. On a garden scale, water jets and soap sprays are quite effective. Natural enemies include predatory ladybugs, hoverfly larvae, parasitic wasps, aphid midge larvae, crab spiders, lacewing larvae, and entomopathogenic fungi.

An integrated pest management strategy using biological pest control can work, but is difficult to achieve except in enclosed environments such as glasshouses. Apply 1.5 % fish oil soap. First dissolve soap in hot water and then make up the volume.

Aphids don’t like garlic, chives, onions, lavender and mint. So, if you plant aphid-attracting plants alongside aphid-discouraging plants, it will help you to have less aphid attacks.

Pumpkin caterpillar (Diaphania indica)

Apply Metarhizium anisopliae @ 5 gram l-1. It significantly reduces the damage and increase the yield. 

Methanol seed extracts of Cerebera odollam, Annona glabra and dry leaves extract of Premna serratifolia and Samadera indica (10 %) are effective in controlling Diaphania indica larvae in cucurbits and Epilachna grubs Henosepilachna vigintioctopunctata in bitter gourd.

Pumpkin beetle: Aulacophora fevicolis, A. cincta and A. intermedia

Adult beetles eat the leaves, make hole on foliage and causes damage on roots and leaves. Grubs cause damage by feeding on root. It also feeds on flowers and bores into developing fruits that touch the soil.

Control: Destroy grubs and pupae.

Stem gallfly: Neolasioptera falcata

Damage caused by maggots by boring into distal shoots. Thickening or galls are seen on shoots or stem.

Control: Apply insecticides like quinalphos  


The nematodes or roundworms are a diverse animal phylum inhabiting a broad range of environments. Depending on the species, a nematode may be beneficial or detrimental to plant health. From agricultural and horticulture perspectives, the two categories of nematodes are the predatory ones, which kill garden pests such as cutworms and corn earworm moths, and the pest nematodes, such as the root-knot nematode, which attack plants, and those that act as vectors spreading plant viruses between crop plants. Predatory nematodes can be bred by soaking a specific recipe of leaves and other detritus in water, in a dark, cool place, and can even be purchased as an organic form of pest control.

Rotations of plants with nematode-resistant species or varieties is one means of managing parasitic nematode infestations. For example, marigolds, grown over one or more seasons (the effect is cumulative), can be used to control nematodes. Another is treatment with natural antagonists such as the fungus Gliocladium roseum. Chitosan, a natural biocontrol, elicits plant defense responses to destroy parasitic cyst nematodes on roots of soybean, corn, sugar beet, potato, and tomato crops without harming beneficial nematodes in the soil. Soil steaming is an efficient method to kill nematodes before planting a crop, but indiscriminately eliminates both harmful and beneficial soil fauna.

Application of Purpureocillium lilacinum (cfu 2 x 106) @ 2.5 kg + Pseudomonas fluorescens (cfu 2 x 106) @ 2.5 kg along with 2.5 tonnes of FYM ha-1 reduces nematode population and increase yield in bitter gourd.

Soil ecosystems: About 90% of nematodes reside in the top 15 cm of soil. Nematodes do not decompose organic matter, but, instead, are parasitic and free-living organisms that feed on living material. Nematodes can effectively regulate bacterial population and community composition — they may eat up to 5,000 bacteria per minute. Also, nematodes can play an important role in the nitrogen cycle by way of nitrogen mineralization.

One group of carnivorous fungi, the nematophagous fungi, are predators of soil nematodes. They set enticements for the nematodes in the form of lassos or adhesive structures.


Downy mildew: Pseudoperonospora cubensis

Cottony white mycelial growth is seen on the leaf surface. Chlorotic specks can be seen on the upper surface of the leaves. It is severe during rainy season.

Initial symptoms of downy mildew:

  1. Small,faint, light yellow, angular spots. Sometimes dark sporulation is visible on the underside. Leaf veins form the edges of many spots because they create a physical barrier for the pathogen growing in the leaf.
  2. Tiny white spots often with a yellow border and/or dark (necrotic, dead) center visible upon close examination.
  3. Small, orange-yellow, angular spots.

Symptoms of downy mildew are the angular-shaped spots on the top side of the leaves with dark, fuzzy growth of the pathogen on the opposite side of the leaf. Initially the spots are yellow, then they turn dark brown. Spores of the pathogen were observed with all of the angular spots. The white powdery growth is powdery mildew. It is severe during rainy season.

Foliar spraying of Pseudomonas fluorescens 2 % (20 g l-1) thrice at fortnightly interval on the appearance of symptoms will control the disease.

(Control in *conventional farming method: Complete removal and destruction of the affected leaves. Spray 10 % solution of neem or kiriyath preparation. If the disease incidence is severe spraying mancozeb 0.2 % will be useful.)

Powdery mildew: Erysiphe cichoracearum

The disease appears as small, round, whitish spots on leaves and stems. The spots enlarge and coalesce rapidly and white powdery mass appears on the upper leaf surface. Heavily infected leaves become yellow, and later become dry and brown. Extensive premature defoliation of the older leaves resulting in yield reduction.

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that affects a wide range of plants. Powdery mildew is one of the easier plant diseases to identify, as its symptoms are quite distinctive. Infected plants display white powdery spots on the leaves and stems. The lower leaves are the most affected, but the mildew can appear on any above-ground part of the plant. As the disease progresses, the spots get larger and denser as large numbers of asexual spores are formed, and the mildew may spread up and down the length of the plant.

Can be controlled by spraying Trichoderma viride 2 g l-1 or neem oil 2 % as 3 foliar sprays at 14 days interval on symptom appearance.

(Control methods in conventional farming: Control the disease by spraying Dinocap 0.05%.)

Mosaic: (Cucumber Mosaic Virus)

Mosaic disease is characterized by vein clearing and chlorosis of leaves. The yellow network of veins is very conspicuous and veins and veinlets are thickened. Growths of plants infected in the early stages remain stunted and yield of the plant get severely reduced. White fly (Bemisia tabaci) is the natural vector of this virus. 

This virus infects more than 150 types of plants, including many fruits, vegetables, and flowers. It is characterized by leaves mottled with yellow, white, and light and dark green spots or streaks.

  • The leaves are mottled with yellow, white, and light and dark green spots, which appear to be elevated. This gives the leaves a blister-like appearance.
  • Plants are often stunted, or they grow poorly.
  • Plants may have other deformities and their leaves may be crinkled or wavy. 

Mosaic viruses are mostly spread by insects, especially aphids and leafhoppers. You can try covering your plants with a floating row cover or aluminum foil mulches to prevent these insects from infecting your plants.

Control your weeds. Some types may serve as hosts for the disease.

Uprooting and destruction of affected plants and collateral hosts. Spraying Neem based insecticide (2 %) controls the vector.

(Control methods in *conventional farming methods): Control the vectors by spraying dimethoate 0.05% or phosphamidon 0.05%. Uprooting and destruction of affected plants and collateral hosts should be done. 

Leaf blight

Field sanitation and foliar application of Pseudomonas fluorescens @ 20 g l-1.


Ash gourds are mature when the stems connecting the fruit to the vine begin to shrivel. Cut fruits from the vines carefully, using pruning shears or a sharp knife leaving 3-4 inches of stem attached. Snapping the stems from the vines results in many broken or missing "handles."

The fruits can be harvested at different stages depending on the purpose for which it will be used. Normally, green fruits are ready for harvest within 45-60 days; matured ones coated with powdery substance are harvested between 80 and 90 days after sowing. The fruit yield can vary depending on vari­ety and crop management. Average marketable yields are 20-25 t/ha. The harvested fruits can be stored for several weeks in ambient conditions. It will keep for 2-3 months in temperatures from 10 to 12°C and 50-75 % relative humidity. Avoid cutting and bruising the ash gourds when handling them.

Yield can vary depending on vari­ety and crop management. Keep harvested fruits away from other fruits (such as banana, pineapple and apple) that release large amounts of ethylene, a ripening hormone. The fruits should be washed thoroughly in water before cooking.


  • Bactrocera sp. flies
  • Epilachna varivestis
  • Leaf feeders and sucking pests
  • Leaf feeders
  • Plant lice
  • Plant lice
  • Plant lice
  • Diaphania indica
  • Diaphania indica
  • Nematodes
  • Downy mildew
  • Downy mildew

Tips for vegetable seed production

General principles 

The seed production programme envisages to produce genetically pure quality seeds and to store them in a viable condition for a reasonable period of time, until it reaches the farmers. The seeds should have genetic purity, uniformity in size and shape, high germination and vigor. The seeds should be free from mechanical damages, insect and fungal infestation and other crop and weed seeds. A commercial seed production programme has three aspects - seed production, seed processing and seed storage.

Cucurbits (General)

An isolation distance of 800 m for FS and 400 m for CS is required between varieties and related species. Remove off-types, wild cucurbits and plants infected by designated diseases. No objectionable weeds are permitted in the seed production plot. Maximum level of off-types and plants infected by yellow vein mosaic diseases is 0.1 per cent each. Seeds should have a minimum purity of 99% and germination of 60%. Maximum inert matter content permitted is 1%. No seeds of other crops or weeds are permitted and maximum moisture content should not exceed 7%. 


Ash gourd

Ash gourd fruits of 70 days maturity after anthesis are suitable for seed extraction. At this stage the vines wither and the sticky thick ashy coating on the fruits dries into white powder, which can be removed on rubbing. Fruits of medium and large size give bolder, quality seeds. It is advisable to have a post-harvest storage of fruits for three months to get higher germination.
Manual extraction of pulp from the fruits and fermenting the pulp for 48 hours is better to get quality seeds without mechanical damage. 

Acid treatment of pulp using 2 per cent HCI (1:10) for 30 minutes followed by drying under shade to 8 per cent moisture also gives good quality seeds. 

Pre-storage treatment of seeds with captan @ 2.5 g kg-1 and storing in sealed polythene bags of 700 gauge thickness is the best for seed storage.

Read 587 times Last modified on Saturday, 19 January 2019 18:22
More in this category: « Bitter Gourd Little gourd »

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter all the required information, indicated by an asterisk (*). HTML code is not allowed.