Birdhouse Gourds

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calendula
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Birdhouse Gourds

Unread post by calendula » Fri Dec 23, 2016 3:33 pm

Lagenaria siceraria, otherwise known as Birdhouse Gourds or Calabash, are a white-flowered vine with velvety soft leaves. They are actually quite ornamental, in my opinion. In fact, this last growing season, I planted my birdhouse gourds right in the front yard. I needed a cover for a new garden plot that I was making, and these pretty vines were just the ticket. The white flowers they produce are quite beautiful, and since the leaves are so soft and non-irritating, I don't worry about the kids or myself getting scratched up by them.

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The gourds that this vine produces grow to be rather large, but can be eaten while small and young. The most popular use for them, however, is in their dried form as birdhouses, bottles, bowls, and vases.

Planting Instructions

Birdhouse gourds can be grown in the same way as you would pumpkins, cucumbers, or any other cucurbits. They require about 110 days to maturity, so in colder climates, I would recommend starting seed indoors about 4 weeks before the last expected frost date. If you are going to direct sow, then plant them in hills (you can plant several seeds in one hill), spacing the hills at least 4' apart, but more if you have room. These plants have always flourished for me, and will take over a large area. They can be trellised to save space if you desire.

Once planted, I have never needed to do much with them--they are pretty hardy and fast growing, and I've never had any issues with pests or diseases.

Drying Instructions

In warmer climates, you may be able to simply leave the gourds on the vine until they dry out. However, in colder areas, the frost will get them before they dry, and may cause them to rot. Therefor, you might need to pick the gourds before the first frost. If that is the case, bring the gourds inside somewhere, preferably a dry, warm spot, with good air circulation. I would recommend setting the gourds on a surface that can be easily cleaned, because some of them may leak a bit while drying. Lay down some plastic or newspaper underneath them if you don't want the surface to get dirty.

You can simply set the gourds on the floor to dry, or when harvesting, cut off a length of vine with the gourd so that it can be hung. And then, you wait. :grin: While the gourds are drying, their appearance will change dramatically. They will turn from green to a moldy looking brown and black, and fluids may seep out of them.

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But don't worry, this is what they always do--the first time I dried mine, I thought they were rotting, and nearly threw them out. However, once the drying is complete, which can take a couple of months, they'll stop leaking and molding, and turn hard. Once the gourds are dry, you can pick them up and shake them. You will be able to hear the seeds rattling around inside, indicating that the gourd has dried all the way through.

Crafting with Gourds

Once the gourds are completely dried, you will probably want to wash it, especially if you are going to be painting or carving it. To wash the gourd, use a soft cloth, and gently scrub it with warm, soapy water. Immediately dry the gourd off with paper toweling or a soft cloth.

If you are going to be making a birdhouse, you'll need to cut a hole in the gourd for birds to enter--this can be done with a drill, but I have an aversion to power tools, so I like to use a little, tiny saw (the kind for carving pumpkins). The hole doesn't have to be perfect--the birds don't mind. You can use a wooden dowel to make a perch beneath the entrance hole. Just make a small hole below the entrance and insert a short piece of dowel with a little glue on it. Use care when cutting your gourd so that you do not crack it. They are quite durable, but I still handle mine gently when cutting into them.

If you are going to paint your gourd, choose paint according to where they will be displayed. For outdoor use, be sure to choose paints that will stand up to water and sun, and be sure to seal them with a protective varnish. If you will be gluing any accessories on, make sure to use a waterproof glue, such as E6000.

To hang the birdhouse, you can just make a couple holes on either side of the top, and thread some wire through. I have also seen them with an eye hook screwed into the top.

In addition to birdhouses, the gourds can be used for other decorative means, such as bowls and vases, and are commonly carved with intricate designs.

Here are a few of the gourds that I made. The first one of the left is a troll house, and though it is not visible in the picture, I decoupaged a picture of a troll onto the gourd, as well as a bunny rabbit and a tree. I used small stones around the entrance, and a beaded accent around the neck. The middle gourd is the snowman, with a top hat made from a tin can. The nose was made with pieces of the gourd cut from the entrance hole, and the scarf is just a fabric scrap tied around his neck. The chicken on the far right was made with pieces of a small, dry gourd (the kind you see a lot around Halloween time), and I used real chicken feathers for the tail.

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There are many other beautiful works of art made with these gourds, as a quick search for "gourd crafts" will show you. Some of my faves:

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dizzy
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Re: Birdhouse Gourds

Unread post by dizzy » Fri Dec 23, 2016 6:53 pm

I just might have to plant some. I've thought of it for years.

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Rohn
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Re: Birdhouse Gourds

Unread post by Rohn » Sat Dec 24, 2016 8:12 am

Calendula,
This is a very interesting and informative post. Thank you for the information. I will have to try growing some of these.
Rohn


(John 8:32) And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. (KJV)

Rhodie Ranch
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Re: Birdhouse Gourds

Unread post by Rhodie Ranch » Sat Dec 24, 2016 10:36 am

Yup, I learned a lot! I had no idea. I'll try this too, after we move to Oregon. Thankyou!

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Farmfresh
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Re: Birdhouse Gourds

Unread post by Farmfresh » Sat Dec 24, 2016 4:27 pm

Oh the lacy ones are really cool! Thanks for such a good informative thread!
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patriceinil
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Re: Birdhouse Gourds

Unread post by patriceinil » Sun Dec 25, 2016 4:12 am

Very cool, thanks for sharing the information about growing, curing and painting the gourds. I will have to try growing some next year.

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calendula
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Re: Birdhouse Gourds

Unread post by calendula » Mon Dec 26, 2016 1:02 pm

I have a ton of birdhouse gourd seeds saved. If anyone would like some, just PM me and I will happily share.

patriceinil
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Re: Birdhouse Gourds

Unread post by patriceinil » Mon Dec 26, 2016 4:43 pm

Thanks calendula, I will PM when I get a chance to get caught up here.

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Dragonlaurel
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Re: Birdhouse Gourds

Unread post by Dragonlaurel » Tue Jan 10, 2017 3:38 pm

Great job on your gourds. They would make great fairy houses too.
I wonder if they are resistant to squash borers.
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calendula
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Re: Birdhouse Gourds

Unread post by calendula » Wed Jan 11, 2017 6:08 am

I have seen lots of pictures of gourds turned into Fairy Houses, so you are right DL, they are perfect for that. I don't know about the squash borers. We have never had those in our garden. They maybe aren't very prevalent up north???

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