Thursday, October 27, 2016

Gourd Birdhouses by Donna Duffy

Photo courtesy

It’s gourd harvesting time! There are two basic types of squash that are grown and used decoratively:
1) Cucurbita or soft-skinned gourds – these are the colorful orange, gold and green gourds that look like small squash and come in odd shapes; 2) Lagenaria or hard-skinned gourds – these larger, utilitarian gourds include the familiar Birdhouse, Bottle and Dipper gourds. Hard skinned gourds grow green on the vine and eventually turn shades of tan and brown.

Gourds are ready to harvest when when the stems dry out and turn brown. Leave a few inches of the stem intact. Be sure to harvest gourds before a hard frost.

The National Wildlife Federation provides the following steps to make a gourd birdhouse.

1. Pick a gourd that is at least 10 inches wide.

2. Clean the gourds with soap and water or warm vinegar water.

3. Apply rubbing alcohol to the surface.

4. Dry the outside of the gourd. Put the gourds in a dry place and let them sit for at least four weeks. Check them often and take out any that start to rot.

5. Dry the inside of the gourd. This can take a few months. Providing warmth during the internal curing process will accelerate drying and discourage decay. Adequate curing is achieved when the gourd becomes light in weight and the seeds can be heard rattling inside.

Photo courtesy farmhands
6. Cut a hole with an expansion bit or a key hole saw. Make sure the hole is towards the top to keep the babies from falling out. Check out the Amish Gourds’s Birdhouse Hole Size Chart to customize your gourd for birds you hope to attract. 

7. Cut small holes in the bottom. According to the American Gourd Society, a few holes drilled in the bottom of the gourd will provide drainage and help keep the gourd dry. Drill a hole through the top and place a thong or wire for hanging. Don't attach a perch below the hole because this gives predators something to hold onto.

8. Ideally, don't paint the gourd, but a layer of varnish or shellac will increase its strength.

Photo courtesy
In late winter, hang the birdhouse with the opening facing away from prevailing winds. Come springtime, the birds will appreciate your efforts!