Here are a few of my gourds drying on our garage floor. They are very late in drying this year and it seems like everything is late this year for some reason. It might be because I left these gourds to dry in the garage, and normally I dry them inside the house. It doesn't make sense to me though because the gourds drying outside are drying faster than these!
There are all sorts of methods of drying gourds, but I am only going to talk of how I dry my gourds.
The process actually started in the garden for me this year. The picture above is exactly how I harvested this particular gourd. I thought it was rotten at first, then realized it was only the drying process that began in the garden since I waited so long to pick this gourd. I was trying a theory to see if the longer I left the gourds in the garden, then the thicker the skin would be. That question still remains to be answered, and I will do my best explaining my results with gourds in the garden this year.
The picture to the left shows the exact same gourd just six weeks later. The gourd is hard, has some peeling and mottled skin, and has totally changed color. It has finally dried as of this posting. I know it is dry because I can shake the gourd and hear the seeds rattle. At this point there is another process that must be completed prior to using the gourd for crafts, but I'll save that part for another post.
The above gourd dried perfectly! No soft spots anywhere and it is nice and hard. The same cannot be said for the gourd pictured to the right. Now here comes the answer to my experiment. I asked myself if maybe weather conditions or the length of the growing season affected the thickness of the gourds. The thicker the gourd skin, the longer lasting the gourd will be in the garden. I cannot say positively that either one of these factors affected the thickness of the gourds, but I can say there is a marked difference in the type of gourds I grew in the garden this year.
The gourd with the soft spot is a type of gourd sold in all big box stores and commonly labeled as "Birdhouse Gourd". The other gourds pictured are all "Martin Gourds". In the Spring 2009 Jung Seeds and Plant Catalog on page 65 you will find the difference between birdhouse gourds and martin gourds explained. Basically the martin gourds are a purified strain of the birdhouse gourd. Can you see the difference in the shape of the gourds? In the past and even this year I have had much better luck growing the specific martin gourds. This will be the only type of gourd I grow for birdhouses next year as the martin type gourd are the best to grow if you want to save the gourds for long term out of the garden use.
While in the garage photographing the drying gourds, I found gourds from two years ago. Normally I choose a theme to paint my gourds each year. Once they are painted I hang the gourds outside until Christmas, then bring them in and hang Christmas ornaments out on my 'gourd' tree. By the time the Christmas ornaments come in, the current season's gourds are ready to be hung outside for a bit of color for the next season. That will not be the case this year since the gourds are so late. Can you tell what my theme was in 2006? Hint: Think red, white and blue. A funny thing with these three gourds. Can you see the one in the middle is a different shape from the other two? The one in the middle is the birdhouse gourd type, while the other two are martin gourd types. All have held up well so there may yet be something to the weather and growing season and not just the type of gourd. I am not done experimenting yet.
Continue to let your gourds dry in a dry area and check them from time to time. The gourd with the soft spot has found its way to the compost. I would be remiss if I did not mention the two gourds drying outside in the weather elements. I added them to my garden decorations post by placing them on top of a display in my wheelbarrow. They are actually drying well too despite the below freezing weather and all types of precipitation falling on them.
Skeeter has a posting on gourds scheduled for tomorrow. The next post I do on gourds will entail what you do to the gourds when you can hear the seeds rattle-it requires work! But for now let Father Time take care of your gourd drying duties.....
in the garden....