The gourd is a member of the squash family and comes in all shapes and sizes. They have become popular craft projects for many. Gourd Societies have popped up everywhere you look. Many of the members are true artists who realize the gourd is a great and versatile medium for them. A gourd can be a beautiful piece of art and/or also have a very useful purpose.
The hard shell of the gourd makes it great for carving, painting, and decorating. Try growing gourds and let your imagination go. You can turn a gourd into an elegant fanciful piece of art, a container, a musical instrument, or a birdhouse.
Make a Birdhouse
Choose the kind of gourd you want to grow. There are gourds that are called birdhouse gourds, and these seem to work the best. Plant according to the package directions. If you happen to get some seeds without directions just remember to plant in full sun, as deep as the seed is long. Gourds get very heavy, so plant near a strong trellis or fence, for the vine to grow on.
Harvest your gourds when the stem dries out. Place it in a dry place for several months. Shake the gourd and when you hear seeds rattling, then the gourd is dry. To clean a gourd, get a wet towel and let it stay in the wet towel for 2 days. This softens the outer skin. This outer skin will now come off easier. Use a dull knife to scrape off the outer skin. Again, place the gourd in a dry, airy place to dry. Be sure it is completely dry before starting your project.
There are many advantages of using gourds for birdhouses.
1. They are cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than a conventional birdhouse made from wood.
2. The price is right, because you can grow your own.
3. The cavities are large.
4. Gourds are lightweight and that makes it easier to lower and raise. Being lightweight also enables the birdhouse to sway in the wind. Purple martins like this and most predators do not.
5. They look great and have a natural appeal to most people.
6. Predators seem to have a hard time holding on to the slick surface of a gourd.
1. After harvesting and drying the gourd, cut 2 small holes in the top of the gourd for the wire hanger. Hide the twisted part of the hanger inside of the gourd. Decorate your wire hanger if you wish, by adding beads or whatever you have.
2. Cut 4 small holes in the bottom of the gourd for drainage.
3. Gourd birdhouses are most often purple martin houses. The size of the opening, of the birdhouse, will depend on what type of bird you wish to attract. One for purple martins require a 1 ½ inch diameter hole. So be sure and check for the bird of your choice.
4. Use a craft knife to cut the shell. Scrape and clean the inside of the gourd as good as you can.
When cleaning the gourd, be sure and save the seeds for next year. Store the seeds in an airtight jar in the refrigerator or you can put them in an envelope and store in a cool, dry place. Be sure to label and date the container.
5. Purple martin houses are painted white most of the time.
6. You can hang many gourd birdhouses together because purple martins live in colonies. Some places have as many as a few hundred hanging together.
7. The opening to the birdhouse should have a perch. Use a short piece of dowel rod or a short stick for this. Cut a hole the size of the dowel then glue and insert it under the bird entry hole.
*One hole makes a birdhouse. Four holes turn it into a bird feeder.
* When growing gourds keep them off the ground.
* To get more gourds you need to encourage more sideways growth. Cut the end of the vine off when the vine is about 10 feet long.
* Do not harvest before the stem dries out or it will rot.
* You may see mold on the outer skin. This will come off, is natural and will not hurt the finished project.
* The hard skin lets you do almost anything. Carving, burning, staining, painting, etching, dyeing and more can be done to turn your gourd into a great piece of art.
* Use the tiny gourds for making Christmas ornaments.
* Almost any kind of paint will do when painting a gourd. For a birdhouse, use a good exterior paint.
* Seal your project with spray sealer.
Hang, and enjoy your gourd birdhouse and the birds!