do bird house gourds have to dry on the vine? : LUSENET : Countryside : One Thread

i have large gourds and wonder if i can pick them and sun dry them,or do they need to stay on the vines till frost?

-- paul a coleman (, August 29, 2001


Copied from Better Homes and Gardens, December, 1999:

When a gourd matures, its stem will wither and dry out, indicating it is harvest time. Caution: Harvesting before then will make the gourd shrivel and rot. Set the gourd in a dry, airy place. "You can wipe the mold off from time to time, but it is not necessary," says Jim. Three to nine months later, when the gourd is light and the seeds can rattle, it is dry and ready to be cleaned. Wrap the gourd in a wet towel for two days, then use steel wool or a dull knife to scrape off the outer skin and mold. Let it dry again. Now the gourd is ready for you to unleash your artistic endeavors.

-- Nancy (, August 29, 2001.

One suggestion...after scraping off any mold, rinse the gourd with a weak bleach/water solution. Then let it dry thoroughly. The bleach kills any mold that you might have missed. Before using as a birdhouse, always paint the outside white to reflect the heat. Don't want those baby birds to cook in there!

-- Marcia (, August 29, 2001.

The first year I grew birdhouse gourds I picked them all in the fall, or so I thought. The ones I picked sat all winter and finally got a kind of black mold on them. I had to use steel wool to remove it. In the spring I noticed I'd left 2 or 3 on the vines and they were perfect. I don't remember if the seeds rattled yet or if I had to wait but they NEVER did get the black mold the others got. The next year I grew some again and didn't pick any until spring with the same good results. We live in Northern Iowa where it gets -20 temps. but the rain, snow, melting, thawing, freezing, etc. never hurt them.

-- Dee in Iowa (, August 30, 2001.

This is my third year growing and crafting with the gourds. We are in Central Wisconsin and we don't leave them on the vine through the winter, although I've heard you can. I guess it depends on where you are and how harsh your winters are. I pick them at the very end of the fall, before any hard freezes and place them on newspapers in the basement (ours happens to be a very dry basement). Throughout the winter they rot from the inside out and this is what causes the mold to grow on them. I like to do it this way because I think the mold makes interesting patterns on the shell of the gourd after they're cleaned. Check periodically to make sure you don't have any rotting ones. You can tell when they're done because most of them do rattle, some do not, but they become very light. When you clean them, always do it in a well ventilated place because the mold spores can be toxic. I soak them for about a half hour in a bucket of warm water with a small amount of dishsoap and a couple drops of bleach. You'll have to weight them down to keep them submerged in the bucket (a board with a brick on it works well for me). Take them out of the bucket and scrub them with a copper scrubbie and let dry throroughly. Once dry, you can make birdhouses or whatever you want with them. Remember to drill a few drain holes in the bottom of the ones you're making birdhouses out of for rainwater to drain. Also, my husband cuts the holes in the gourds for me with a "hole saw" attached to his drill. I then spray or brush with marine varnish so they're weatherproof if I'm selling them for outside use, and put a wire in the top for hanging. They sell well at farm markets and festivals. We harvest anywhere from 75 - 100 per year and end up with about 2/3 of that when we're finished because you always lose some in the drying, cleaning and cutting process. Good Luck and have fun! They're one of my favorite things to grow.

-- Rose Marie Wild (, August 30, 2001.

According to my book, Gourd Craft, you can pick them while they are still green. However, you need to scrape the epidermis off and then wipe it down frequently with disinfectant so the mold won't rot it.

-- Tracy Brock (, August 30, 2001.

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