Gourd Information

There are many types and sizes of gourds. Their shapes lend themselves to what one sees the gourd become.  An instrument, a hat, a mask, a vase, a bowl... ideas are only limited by your imagination.  I tend to see whimsical  animals in a lot of them.  Kettle gourds make great chickens.  Mini birdhouse gourds make wonderful little barn yard animals and snowmen.  Apple gourds--well apples, of course. Just about any of them can be turned into a birdhouse for your little featured friends.  Many times I start project with an idea, then just build onto it as I go.  You'd be surprised with what you come up with.

Growing and Drying Gourds

There are two types of gourds that are  most familiar to people. The Cucurbita or ornamental (the small colorful gourds used in fall decorations) and the Lagenaria or hardshell gourd (used for birdhouses, dippers and other crafts). The ornamental gourd has a rough prickly leaf and vine and has large orange blossoms that bloom during the day like a pumpkin or squash.  The hardshell gourd has a soft leaf and vine and has a delicate white blossom that blooms at night.  So if you are wondering what kind you might have planted, these are excellent clues to go by.

Growing gourds is really fairly simple.   You can start the seeds a few weeks early indoors  or directly in the ground after the danger of frost has passed. The hardshell gourds do require a longer growing period so the  the first is better than the latter, but I do both and have luck with both ways.  You just want to make sure the gourds have  time to mature or they  will rot on you while they are in the drying stage. Before you pick them, make sure the stem and little tindril next to it has completely dried.   I warn you---give them lots of  room to grow.  Gourd vines  vine  out everywhere. A fence or trellis is a good idea, but not necessary.

Your gourds can be enjoyed for their beautiful color during the fall, then allowed to dry over the winter.  Even the ornamental gourds can by dried and later  used for craft items, so do not  toss them away after the holidays. It is best not to let these freeze. Put them in a dry , out of the way place for a few months. To lesson the amount of mold, a few weeks after harvested, dip the gourds in boiling water for just an instant then soak them in a borax solution of 1/2 cup to a gallon of water for about 15 minutes.  Drain the gourds and place on several layers of thickness of newspaper or on a rack. They can also be placed in a mesh bag and hung to dry.  If the gourds are dried in a dark place they may even keep some of their color.
The hardshell gourds  can be left outside on a trelllis or placed on a wire rack where air can circulate around them or placed in a garage, basement or barn. Freezing does not hurt them. If left outside, when  spring days come most of the skin loosens and cleaning is easy. However, if you want to save seeds for next years planting freezing may cause poor germination of seeds.   
Gourds can also be peeled with a knife when they are green if they are completlely mature when picked.  They will dry with a lighter shade of tan and without the mold marks.

Cleaning Gourds

This is my least favorite job to do. I do advise wearing a  dust mask because of the mold on the gourds.   When the gourds are completely dry, soak them in warm soapy water with just a little bleach added until the outside skin loosens (they will float so you will have to weight them down),  then you can scrap the skin off with a knife or scrub with a silver/ copper scratcher pad. Some are easier than others. Set them  aside in the sun to allow to dry.  They are now ready to be cut, carved, wood burned, painted or whatever you like.

Let the gourd times roll!