The Q&A Archives: Gourds

Question: We live in Cape Cod, MA and are interested in growing gourds to dry and make into bird houses and feeders. Do you have any useful tips?

Answer: Gourds are divided into two categories; hard shelled and soft shelled. If you're going to make birdhouses and feeders, stick with Lagenaria siceraria, the hard shelled gourds. To grow gourds, find the sunniest garden site possible and work the soil well, adding compost, aged manure or leaf mold to loosen the soil, make it rich and help it retain moisture. Then plant as early as possible, after the soil warms in the spring. Some of the larger gourds can take 140 days to mature. Gourds will flatten on the side in contact with the ground as they mature. You can avoid this by growing the plants on a trellis and supporting each gourd in a sling attached to the trellis. At the end of the season allow the gourds to ripen on the vines until the stems are brown. Frost will soften the fruits, so try to harvest before the first frost of the season. Place harvested gourds on a rack in a dry, airy place to cure. When they are fully dry the seeds will rattle when you shake the gourds. At this point you can use a saw or drill to make holes in the gourds.

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