Here is the Birdhouse Gourd, Lagenaria siceraria. It is named so because it can be hollowed out an made into a bird house. There are many different types and shapes of this gourd. This listing is for the the one you see in the images. The fruits typically are green an dry brown! The fruits can rage from 6 inches to 24 inches in size. Vines get to around 12 feet long and need to climb something. They really do make a great birdhouse and can last quite a number of years before they start breaking apart. These are fun to grow for all ages even if your not a gardener! Open pollinated 90 to 120 days.
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- Full sun, or at least 6 hours a day.
- Fertile soil, should be prepared before planting.
- Lots of water, especially early in the growing season.
- They need a slightly acidic soil. pH of 6. to 6.5
Planting: Prepare the seed by soaking in water overnight or longer. Seeds may be clipped on the edges next to the point. These two steps hasten the germination time. Gourds are slow to germinate, taking anywhere from one to six weeks. The average number of seeds to germinate is about 60 to 80%. Plant seeds directly into the ground or they may also be started in small pots and transplanted to the ground , after any danger of frost and when the plant has 4 leaves. Gourds do not like to have their roots disturbed and will be slow to begin growth. Plant the seeds to the depth of about time and a half the size of the seed. Though they are slow to get started, once the vine begins, you can almost watch the movement.
Growing time: Gourds need a long growing season in our hot sunny climate. Ornamentals need about 100 days from sprouting to maturity. Hardshells, Lagenaria, take 120-140 days, depending on the size and thickness of its shell. Luffas take 140 days. Luffas are slower to sprout and will mature late. They like especially hot weather. Water all gourds regularly during the early growing season. When the gourds are mature, usually September or October, stop watering altogether. To discontinue the heavy watering in August is a trigger for the gourds to start the drying and hardening off process. (Again, loosing 20 to 30% of the gourds is normal.)
Potential Problems: Gourds generally have few problems. However there are a few pests to watch for. Cucumber Beetles, Squash bugs, Squash vine borer, Cut worms, and Aphids are all possible pests. Gourds can also develop bacterial wilt. If the plant dies, take it out and treat the other vines. Use your organic remedies or the chemicals on the market.
PREVENTION is always the best alternative. Companion planting helps. Some plants to use with gourds: radishes, catnip, broccoli, tansy, dill, marigolds and even the Buffalo Gourd, which is a native that is bitter and smells even worse that the Lagenaria, hardshells.
Harvesting: Do not cut the gourds until the stems and tendrils are brown. Another way to tell that they are ready, is to wait until the gourd begins to become light weight. This will mean that the pulp is drying, that its water is evaporating and it is fully mature. If you take a gourd before it is ready it will shrivel and rot. Remember: you can never leave a gourd on the vine too long, but you can cut it too soon. Leave at least an inch or two of the vine for esthetics sake, also it gives you a handle!!! As gourds dry, they will form a mold on the outer skin. This is normal. Gourds can be stored in any aerated dry place, such as a barn, garage, attic, etc. or they can be left on the vine. The time for them to be completely dry varies with the size and thickness of the shell. (usually between one and six months) They should be brown and the seeds rattle to be dry enough to craft.
Crafting: The first task is to wash off the mold that has formed on the outer skin. This comes off easier when the gourd has been soaked in water from several hours to a day or two. Since gourds are buoyant they will not stay down in water. They must be turned regularly or covered with a wet towel to keep the mold wet.
Use a metal scrubber and elbow grease to remove this mold, washing frequently. When all the mold has been removed, let the gourd dry. This makes the outside ready to paint, wood burn, or whatever art form you choose. Leather dye colors gourds nicely. (With leather dye a sealer must be used). And the gourd is also ready to cut.
Cleaning out the pulp and seeds can be a chore. (The odor is unpleasant and often toxic.) It is recommended to wear a mask when cutting and working with the pulp. Cut gourds with any of several saws, from an Xacto knife to a jig saw. Use a spoon, scraper, or plastic ice cream scoop to clean out the pulp. Try to get every bit of pulp from the inside surface, as it will eventually slough off and ruin any finish. Sanding gets the inside really smooth.
When the gourd is clean outside and in, and it is just as you want it, it is ready for your imagination to go to work. Gourds can be treated very much like wood, in that they can be cut, painted, stained, chiseled, wood burned, glued and made into many objects. Your imagination is the only limiting factor. I often say, "The gourd tells me what to do".
- Full sun, or at least 6 hours a day.