I grow birdhouse gourds. Why? Because I think they’re cool. I feel completely vindicated in my love for gourds because one of the most chic stores in town just did their autumn windows with birdhouse gourds.
The first time I raised and dried birdhouse gourds I didn’t follow any directions I just picked them at the end of summer and put them on top of my refrigerator. They were really small.
This year they are much bigger. So I actually did some research and I am going to follow gourd-drying directions and take my readers along for the ride. Just in case you happen to find weird things like birdhouse gourds as fascinating as I do.
The gourds are ready to harvest when their stems dry out and turn brown. However, gourds should be harvested before the first hard frost.
BTW: The definition of a hard frost is when the temperature falls below 28 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours or more. (Living in California, knowing about these things is not automatic.)
Now my gourds are still green and so are the stems but it is getting colder at night and I’m afraid it might get too cold. So I’m in a quandary.
Do I harvest now or wait until the stems turn brown? Thankfully one of my gourds committed suicide by jumping to its death. I found it lying on the ground.
I had my test subject.
You might as well know right now that it takes a long time for a gourd to dry. It takes several months for a gourd to dry completely inside and out. So this gourd will be a great Thanks Giving or Christmas decoration in 2008.
First of all, when you harvest a gourd leave a few inches of stem intact. I left as much as I could which wasn’t much.
Take the gourd and clean the surface with soapy water and then air dry completely.
Place the gourd in a well-ventilated area away from direct sunlight for a week. After a week the outside of the gourd should begin to harden and change color. I said should. Mine is the same color and it has been inside for about four weeks. Hmmmm.
BTW: most of my other gourds are still on the vine. Maybe they’ll be ready in 2009.
After a week inside move the gourd(s) to a dark well-ventilated area where they can remain for at least six months. When I was reading about drying gourds, one set of instructions said to “spread them in a single layer and be sure none of the gourds are touching each other.” I don’t think this will be a problem. It is best to place the gourd(s) on a screen for better air circulation.
Move the gourd(s) around every couple of weeks so they (it) dry evenly and they (it) don’t rot.
When the gourd(s) become light and hard, and you can hear the seeds rattling inside when you shake them, they are ready.
You can make birdhouses out of them by cutting them and adding a little perch, or you can paint them as decorations—or you can leave them plain.
I’ve seen them made into luminarias. You cut them in half and cut decorative holes and designs in the bottom part where the candles are placed.
I like their pear shape. So I would rather not cut them in half.
I will keep you informed about my gourds’ progress.