Saturday, January 22, 2011

A Gaggle of Gourds by Elaine Lockey

I recently visited a friend in Fruita who showed me the amazing collection of Birdhouse Gourds that he grew in 2010.  What is even more amazing is that he planted one seed and got almost 50 gourds from the single plant.  He was thrilled and overwhelmed to say the least.  Where will this gourd gaggle end up?  They are being donated to an elementary school to be painted, loved and made into bird houses by the students.  This is a great time of year to begin planning your next vegetable garden and ordering seeds. Consider adding Birdhouse Gourds to your seed order. Not only are they fun to look at while they are growing but will provide hours of fun for children and adults alike when they are ready to decorate, not to mention providing homes for birds. 

 What makes a gourd a gourd? A gourd is a trailing or climbing plant related to pumpkins, squash and cucumbers, in the Cucurbitaceae family. It is also a name for a dried shell of a fruit. According to Wikipedia, gourds may be the oldest plants domesticated by humans. Plants of the Lagenaria and Luffa  genera are more useful as utilitarian plants grown for their hard shell or fibrous interior than as food. Lagenaria spp. produces hard fruits useful as containers in the past before pottery and as an art medium now. Luffa spp. produces those vegetable sponges with the fibrous texture that you use in the shower. The gourd fruits have a very tough rind often irregular in shape.  I think that’s where the expression “out of your gourd” comes from – meaning foolish and crazy!

Birdhouse gourds, as they are commonly called, have the botanical name Lagenaria sicerari. According to Gurney’s Seed and Nursery Co., birdhouse gourds have a long time before they are mature enough to harvest – about 95+ days and Cornell’s website states up to 140 days.  They love hot sunny places to grow and are heavy feeders so give them lots of compost. You should harvest them in the fall when the shell is hard and glossy.  The key to being able to use these is in the curing. Allowing proper air circulation and time is essential (1-6 months).

The gourd is cured when it is completely dry and you can hear the seeds rattling.  Cut an entrance hole, empty out the seeds and paint as desired. For use as a birdhouse, be sure to put some little drainage holes in the bottom. For complete instructions on how to grow, harvest and cure a gourd visit the Cornell website:
I found so many ideas for design inspiration on the internet – from the whimsical to the beautiful.  How will you paint yours?