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Handmade Holidays

December 18, 2008

Gourd heaven., originally uploaded by LeRobertsaure.

Handmade holiday gifts abound and I alas am not participating. You see the gift I really wanted to make should have been started oh 9-12 months ago…

I love the idea of growing my own birdhouse gourds and then hanging them out in my garden. Personally I don’t have the space so I have to settle for buying my birdhouse here. Etsy Seller Blue Rock Gourds offers a variety of sizes and stain options which lets you customize your own. In their natural state like the ones above these gourds have a beautiful simplicity but painted these add a great pop of color to any garden.

If you can grow your own I would recommend it. From start to finish this is a great project for kids. They get to see the seed turn into a gourd, the gourd turn into a birdhouse and then if they are lucky they’ll get to see the baby birds in their new home. You can purchase seeds here or through your seed company of choice.

One of the most popular methods for growing vining plants is in hills. To do this, dig a hole about a foot deep and two feet in diameter in an area where it will receive plenty of sun and water. Then fill the hole about 1/4 to 1/2 way with cow manure or some other form of compost. Next, cover the manure with about 3 or 4 inches of dirt and space from about 6 to a dozen seeds around the ‘hill’ and cover them up. As they grow, their roots go down into the manure and are thus self fertilizing. Once they are well started, say about 2 or 3 leaves each, thin down to the best 2 or 3 plants. With good sun and water, they will soon begin spreading their vines. Just beware, the vines will soon overtake a large area, so don’t place the “hills” too close together. It is not uncommon for the vines of the larger gourd species to easily reach 20, 25, even 30 feet in length. I assume that a plant can handle and grow 2 good gourds each, so, with that in mind, you could expect 20 gourds from 10 plants, depending on your local and length of growing season. Just remember, the more gourds per plant, the smaller they will be. And depending on the pollination, some will have gourds, some won’t.

When you break or cut the gourd from the vine, be sure to leave at least 3-4 inches of vine as a stem to hang it with later. The gourd needs to lay to dry in a warm, dry place with good air circulation. The drying process can take up to several months. The main way to know if it is dry is to shake it. If the seeds rattle around inside, it is dry. The gourd may have some moldy and unsightly spots on it but don’t let this throw you. This is part of its natural drying process.

When it is completely dry use a wire brush and sandpaper to clean the outside surface. Next, you should treat the gourd with a 10% solution of bleach and water. This will protect the gourd from rot and fungal molds. Handle with care and be sure to wear rubber gloves and eye protection! Soak the gourd in the bleach solution for 15 minutes. An alternative method is to wash with soapy water so you aren’t using harsh chemicals. Remove the gourd from the solution and place on a clean surface and allow to dry.

For an entrance, using an expansion bit or hole saw, cut a hole slightly above the center of the gourd. Clean out the inside of the gourd using a serrated knife to break up the pith and seeds.

To hang the gourd drill two 1/4 inch-diameter holes at the stem end for the hanger, which may be a piece of rigid wire (such as a coat hanger) or a strip of rawhide.

Drill four or five holes in the bottom, approximately 3/8” using a drill bit, and possibly 2 or 3, 3/8” holes on the sides for drainage and ventilation.

The outside of the gourd may be finished with paint and most people will tell you to use a sealant so that your house will last multiple seasons but you could simply leave it in its natural state.

Now you have enough gourds to create a bird city like the one above or give some away as gifts.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. December 18, 2008 8:09 am

    I may do this next summer, sounds fun.

  2. December 18, 2008 12:11 pm

    Very cool.

    Happy Holidays!!


  3. December 19, 2008 4:21 am

    Finally a practical use for gourds! My mom used to grow them to decorate the house, and since she was successful we drowned in them. I’ll keep this idea to see if swedish birds warms up to round houses.

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