Thursday, January 8, 2009

Drying Gourds

Now the time is here for the gardener and Mother Nature to relax. Isn't it nice sitting back and trying to relax? Poring over those plant catalogs and dreaming of this year's garden? How about those gourds you grew last year? How are they doing? Well, mine are doing fine and are in the hands of Father Time as far as drying-easy for me!

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....


  1. Hi Tina I love your painted gourds do you use them as musical intruments, maracas? / Tyra

  2. Hi Tina,
    I am so glad you posted this, I am planning to try my hand at growing gourds this year. I purchased a couple last year for bird houses, not knowing what a job it was going to be to clean it and remove the seeds. I am anxious for you to post on your method.Do they require a lot of space to grow?

  3. That is so neat, I'm going to have to try and go them.

  4. I've never grown gourds, don't think I have room, but I love the birdhouse ones. And, you are so talented to paint them!!! I have a friend that grows loufa grouds. I need to check and see how hers did this past year--I think I could use a new loufa sponge! :)

  5. Tina, Now you have me intrigued into growing gourds this summer. Do you grow the miniature ones as well? With all my plans, the tiller I bought last year may get a real workout digging up even more lawn for all my planned projects:)

  6. Hi Tina, another good tutorial about the gourds. I agree completely about the ones being sold as bird house gourds do not actually grow to the right size and shape to make real birdhouses! They are cute for decor though. The ones you saw in my house last year were grown from some seeds I found lying on the ground near a large gourd used as a planter in a Texas nursery, so I don't know what kind they are, but the gourds dried very nicely without anything done to them at all, just leaving them outside. Indoors they seem to last forever. I like them as is, but did clean and wax some with paste wax one year for Christmas gifts. My poor family and the gifts they get from me! HA

  7. The gourds you painted are so cute. I used to grow them for martin houses but haven't planted any for several years. I need to do that next spring.

  8. Thanks for the info on gourds, something else I've never grown. I was wondering about the difference between the martin gourds & the birdhouse gourds though. You did a beautiful job of decorating them. They would make nice Christmas presents too. :)

  9. Neat post! We'll be trying some gourds this year. I have an idea in my mind to create a little tunnel for the girls with gourds covering it. It should be fun. Some gourd bird houses would be an added bonus! Do save the seeds from your dried gourds?

  10. Hi Tina,

    You can paint, too! You are a multi-talented gardener! This is a very interesting, I haven't the sunny space for gourds, but would love to find a way to grow them! A wheel barrel filled with fun gourds sounds like a great way to display them! I love how the texture of the gourds left natural or dyed. Have you dyed any? Gail

  11. Good morning all!

    Tyra, no I haven't used them as instruments-only when I check them for dryness do I like to shake ratttle and roll!

    Machelle, They take TONS of space. I grow them on an A-frame trellis but still they roam like mad. Lots of sun and lots of heat too. We have more postings on them. Removing seeds is a chore.

    Dawn, Yes! Imagine what you can do with the gourds in the way of crafts!

    Linda, I saw a clip on the luffa gourds once and was SO intrigued. I am thinking of trying different ones this year, maybe not even these kinds since last season was successful and these last so long for me.

    Rose, Get that ole tiller ready! Take away the grass and really have fun. Save hubby some mowing too. Gourds need lots of room. I am debating growing a different kind this year. The minis look pretty neat so we'll see.

    Frances, I am STILL drooling over those huge gourds you grew! I have no idea what they are but they are awesome. I remember you offering me one and I am still kicking myself for not taking one. It would be Christmas for me and I'd be as pleased as your family to get all those homegrown and homemade gifts.

    Marnie, Thanks! Each year I paint something different. The first year I painted each gourd a bright primary color then painted birds and flowers. My favorite from that year (I think 04) still hangs in my mother's kitchen. It is bright yellow with a realistic blue jay on it. I gave all away to my family at the end of the year. I would give these red, white and blue ones away but can't find any takers! So they clutter the garage for now. I need to figure out a theme for this year. Sunita paints hers in the Warli style and I am thinking I may try this. You should surely grow the gourds again. I love the vines (not the yucky smell of them!) and the flowers. They are so pretty and add a bit to the garden. What did you do with your gourds? Did you paint them?

    Racquel, They are fun. You could find a good spot and build that A frame and harvest yourself a whole crop! Skeeter grew them for the first time this year and got quite a few. They are easy. Sun and heat and that is it! Hope you have a big area for your veggie garden:))

    Hi Dave, If anyone could build a great tunnel it would be you. The girls and you and Jenny would have fun watching them. These have never been bothered by borers and rarely by drought, though they do get some water. I do not save my seeds. I have a gourd I'll probably post on the next gourd posting that is a birdhouse for sparrows. Purists will say-NO! But no martins will ever nest in my yard because there is no open space-all trees, so don't worry about the martins. The sparrows have multiple broods right off my deck and I watch them daily. I did cut this gourd open but most I do not. The job requires a jigsaw, and powerful hole cutter with a drill. It is dusty and messy and not really worth the trouble for me. So, short answer-no I don't normally cut my gourds so I don't harvest the seeds-I buy the seeds-only MARTIN gourd seeds. Not the birdhouse type.

  12. Hi Gail, Yup, I paint too. A talent I also got from my grandmother. I do more gardening than painting now a days but when it comes to the garden it is fun. My dear friend taught me the bauenmalerei type of painting the gourd on the left displays. Gail, I have found that gourds can grow in part shade. They DO need sun but can still grow gourds in like 5 hours of sun. Do you have this? If so, you are in luck! They are very easy. I found out mine would grow in shade quite accidentally when I planted them on the north side of some arborvitaes on a picket fence and they grew. But you know what? I have an extra gourd for you if you'd like one to decorate. I can bring it to a PPS meeting. I am thinking of dying these this year and painting in the warli style of painting as Sunita does. I think it will be unique and honor a blogger in a cohesive manner for my garden. Not sure yet.

  13. Yup, it still hangs in my kitchen and I love it. If you have no takers for the red, white and blue ones and really wanna get rid of em, I'll take em. As you know, the 4th of July is a big day for us and they would go great with my many 4th decorations.

  14. I've never grown gourds, but am interested in your updates about their drying and thickness. I think gardeners are part scientist/pioneers, too! ;-)

  15. Nice post, Tina. A friend of mine used to grow gourds and paint them. She did some cool textures, metallic paints, and they ended up looking very sophisticated. She sold them for a tidy sum at her annual craft fair. I've been meaning to try growing and painting some for my home decor. Maybe your post will be the nudge to get me there next year. Thanks! VW

  16. Hi again, the ones for martin houses I just painted white (I read someone recommended it to reflect sunlight). I made some with smaller holes for wrens that I varnished and hung in the shade. My Mom has a very small one with a chickadee painted on it that is really nice. It's lasted inside for years.

    I agree, the vines and flowers are very decorative.

  17. Glad you reminded me of the scheduled posting! I have an updated picture to snap and add to the posting tomorrow. Arg, I had better get to it before I forget.... lol....

    I did not get as many gourds as I had hopped for but did have luck with them. And plan to plant more this year. I have never tried my hand at painting but will with the small gourds as they will make cute indoor crafts....

    Thanks for encouraging us to grow gourds Tina! We have had such fun with them. And more fun to come after the drying process is completed...

    We have a hole cutter attachment for the electric drill which is used for Dead Bolt door locks, would that work to cut holes to make birdhouse's? I bet it will....

    Off to grab the camera now...

  18. A great post Tina,
    I managed to get 2 of the ones shaped like a girl. Only the tops near the vine have started to dry. One sounds like seeds rattling but it's still the color it was when on the vine.
    I have mine in the utility room, which is not heated, sitting on a shelf. My first yr to grow them but I thought they were pretty.
    I thing I'll plant more this yr.

  19. Hi all! Mom, consider these gourds yours! Had I known you wanted more I would've brought them up there when we came. I'll hold them for you. The good thing with them is they can go outside all year, and if you like I could even cut some holes in them for the birds. Just let me know.

    Monica, Yup, we really like to learn and experiment-if only for ourselves. The one gourd that dried is quite thick. I may cut one just to show the thickness and process and maybe to collect some seeds for a certain seed swap, problem is I bet they cross pollinated with the birdhouse gourds so they will not be true.

    VW, Gourds are so fun-and profitable in the right market too. I'd love to see your friend's gourds. There are so many ways you can paint them. That is always an incentive but first you have to have them for your home. I do think you'd have fun with them and the kids too.

    Marnie, Yours sound lovely and especially your mother's. Did you paint your mother's chickadee? It sounds awesome!

    Janet, A pretty good project for wet cold dreary days-prior to blogging which now takes up all that old free time I used to have:)

    Skeeter, Yup, the deadbolt attachment is it. You have to make sure the size for the hole is correct for the type of bird you wish to attract. I will have to look it up but there is one general size that is a one size fits all. It may be the same size. You need a good dust mask when cutting the hole! If this blog inspires even one person to try something new in the garden and helps with how to do it by providing some little bit of information that I have learned, then this blog is a success. I am glad you grew them and have enjoyed them so much. Can't wait to see your crafts! btw, did you decide to update the garlands?

    Lola, Your gourds on the arbor were so fun! I am glad you grew them too. If you can hear seeds rattle then the one must be dried. I will try to get the next step post up soon, but if you are ready to prep them for crafts, email me and I'll tell you how I do it. I do hope you are feeling better soonest.

  20. Great gourd pictures --the patriotic ones are very pretty. You all are not only great gardeners but crafty too:) I'm guessing these skills go hand:0) A nice cool day here but got plenty accomplished. Have to get the kiddos over to the school for a fundraiser --fun fun --NOT!!! hahaah Ciao!

  21. Anonymous, Hi there lady! Good to hear from you. It was cccccollldddd today-yes! I had the dreaded commissary shopping to do, very busy lately. Hope you guys raise LOTS of money for the schools tonight. I'm on my way to Master Gardeners. It is about Bi-County so it should be interesting. The gourds are fun-the kiddos would like to grow them and paint them. I can see girl model would make a super nice flower on hers or a frog maybe?

  22. I have yet to decide on the garlands Tina. lol Since they are fruit, berries, beads and a few other things not really Christmas related, I still have them up! I am enjoying them now that the trees are gone bye bye. Well the animal tree in the office and guest room trees are still in place. I had things get in the way on the day planned to remove them but they are small and should only take a short while to pack away. I plan to get to them tomorrow.

    Once I get all the trees packed away, I will concentrate on whether or not to create new garlands as they come down. The supplies are still on the floor of the guest room also. So much in that room with the door closed to keep paws away. The No No room is getting more enticing to the fur balls every day as I add more fun stuff to nibble on for a cat.... tee hee.... Cheetah just gave me a mean look, as if she knows I am talking about her. She is sitting in the middle of the desk as I type... Such a mommy's girl....

    Time for bed now...

  23. You did a great job painting those gourds. It sounds like quite a process to dry them.

  24. Gail, Tina is very good with a paint brush and created many paintings on canvas as a teen. We both have at least one of them hanging in our respective houses today. If you go to Tina's you will see what she has. She made large ones and small ones and did a great job, even as a teenager. I am convinced, had she gone down that path, she would have been a big hit. But then again, she has always succeeded in whatever she has done.

    Tina, I will take one of them for the birds but the other 2 I will put with the 4th stuff. If you have an extra other one I can use for the birds I'll take it. We also have one of those attachments for the drill so I can do the holes anyway.

    I guess your blog is a huge succes as you have inspired a lot of us to do things from all I have read. I know you sure did me. You saw the great garden I had this year and I had not had one for over 15 years.

    Lola, I did not know you were not feeling well. Hope things get hunky dory soon and I also hope you show us your gourds soon and then when you finish them in whatever way you plan to finish them.

  25. I'm always wishing I had a big supply of gourds handy come fall (for decorating) but I've never grown them. You give me incentive, now if I remember to act on it! I'm impressed with your painting. Gardeners are creative people aren't we?!!!

  26. Skeeter, Make up your mind soon! lol

    Cinj, Thank you! It is quite a process for sure.

    Mom, I think you may be a bit biased towards me but thanks!

    Kathleen, Do give them a try-much fun for decorating and growing.

  27. I'm new to your blog. Really nice!

    Hum, I've still not been able to relax this winter.

    Oh well!

  28. Brad, Welcome and thanks for dropping by. I can see why you have not relaxed-too busy with containers! What fun for the wintertime.

  29. I gotta try the gourds! I didn't have much luck with seeds last year. But I think I'm gonna have to try those gourds!

  30. Tina, I'm dying to see what you finally do with these gourds. I love their shape. The ones I have are a more squat bulb shape. Mine still havent finished drying yet because I dry them on the vine.
    Isnt it fun experimenting?

  31. Brenda, They are so fun-do try them.

    Sunita, It will be a while yet for the drying. It is taking so long! Only one is dried so far. I think I am going to do the warli painting and varnishing. A big change but that will fit in. I can't wait to see your gourds too.

  32. Hi, Tina--Your gourds are so cute--you do crafts so well. I'm hopeless at them! Sorry I've been remiss in my comments--I came home sick so I've been really slow--but I've been reading and I'll catch up soon. Loved your mission statement, too--it's important to reflect on why we do things.