Ask a Question forum: Harvesting and drying birdhouse gourds

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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
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Weedwhacker
Oct 15, 2015 8:29 AM CST
Any gourd experts out there? Now that I've successfully grown a nice bunch of these big hard-shelled gourds, I've realized that I don't really know if I need to bring them in before we get freezing temps, or if it's better to leave them outside. I know the Cucurbita gourds can't be left out to freeze, but this is my first time with Lagenaria types and I've found conflicting info from searching the 'net. If anyone has actual experience with this -- particularly if you've grown them in the north and left them out in the winter to cure and it either did or didn't work out -- I'd love to know!

Maybe @Ravencroft ?
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[Last edited by Weedwhacker - Oct 15, 2015 8:31 AM (+)]
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Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Oct 15, 2015 8:33 AM CST

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When I grow gourds I leave them on the vine all the way until frost. Ideally, they ripen and dry on the vine before the frost hits, but the further north you go, the harder that is to achieve. But if the gourd is still green but has gotten to its full size, you'll usually still be successful. With green gourds, I always leave them outside and if you can hang them up high, like in a tree, that'll be better because they get better airflow which helps dry them quicker.

My experience in curing green gourds is pretty good. Maybe 25% rot and mush but 75% cure properly through the winter.

You could probably cure them indoors but you'd need a lot of airflow.
Name: Kim
Iowa (Zone 5a)
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Chillybean
Oct 15, 2015 8:43 AM CST
Sandy, great question and Dave, great answer. :D One of the children planted these gourds and we had no idea how to dry them. A freeze is predicted in a couple of days and all are still green.
springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
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Frillylily
Oct 15, 2015 8:52 AM CST
I left mine on the vine past the first few frosts, but not freezes. Then cut them off leaving a few inches of vine. do not cut too close. VERY important not to damage the gourd or it will rot. Lay them in a cool dry place and walk away. Come back after a month and shake them. When they are ready you will hear the seeds rattle inside. They should be hard, very lightweight as the liquid has all dried out. And they can take 3-4 months to dry completely. they sometimes get some black type of mold or whatever, that is ok just leave them be. After they are totally dry you can scrub them w some bleach mixture if you really want to. I would recommend to lightly sand them before applying paints to help it adhere.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Oct 15, 2015 11:16 AM CST
Dave and Frillylily, thank you! Our low temps are going to be right around the freezing mark tomorrow night and Saturday night, but then after that it looks like we'll be back in the 40s for at least a week. My gourds are big and don't seem to have grown much , if any, for quite some time now, so I'm pretty sure they're full size -- but the stems are still green so I'm really hoping they can hang on in the outside temps for a while longer. They're growing on my hoop trellis, so I think I'll throw a tarp over them for the next few days to give them a little extra protection. If it gets too cold and they're still really green, I wonder if there would be any advantage to leaving some of the vine attached when I pick them -- would that help with the drying process in any way?
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Name: Dave Whitinger
Jacksonville, Texas (Zone 8b)
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dave
Oct 15, 2015 11:20 AM CST

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I always felt like the vine took some of the moisture out of the gourd but that might just be crazy thinking.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Oct 15, 2015 11:23 AM CST
Looks like I might be doing some experimentation...
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Skåne, Sweden (Zone 7b)
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William
Oct 15, 2015 5:35 PM CST
Truth be told, it was a long time since I grown any Lagenaria. However as our summers are cold compared to most of the US, the conditions probably aren't as unlike as one would think looking at the USDA zones and I'd say that the problem of getting Lagenaria to fully mature probably is similar. For that reason they are always started indoors here and transplanted against a warm sunny wall or a greenhouse. Also the vines should be cut one leaf above the fruits, when the plants have 3-4 fruits as this will speed up the maturation process. Obviously this is to late to do this year and you may or may not have done something similar, but I just thought I'd mention it anyway in case you find it useful for another year.

Here we would harvest before frost, but our autumns are usually wet and rather cold, so they wouldn't dry much in those conditions anyway.

I read that it can be beneficial to use for instance some vinegar essence (the one we use in Sweden is usually 12%) on the fruits from time to time during curing as this will help to keep them free from mould.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
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Weedwhacker
Oct 15, 2015 8:18 PM CST
@William , thank you for your reply! Your weather sounds not unlike what I have here in the Michigan Upper Peninsula (just south of Canada) -- which doesn't surprise me too much, as this area has a very strong Finnish/Swedish/Norwegian heritage so it must have reminded some early immigrants of home. Smiling

Although I did start my plants early, I love your suggestions about growing "against a warm sunny wall or a greenhouse," and to cut the vines off once there are several fruits set on them. That's very good information for next year, if the ones I have now aren't able to cure properly. Thanks again!
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
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Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
Seed Starter Vegetable Grower Birds Butterflies Dog Lover Cat Lover
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Weedwhacker
Jan 18, 2016 11:41 PM CST
Just as a followup for anyone looking for info...

Two of the gourds (the nicest ones, actually) I brought in before the freezing temps; they are still sitting on the shelf, green as can be. The rest I left hanging on the trellis for 2-3 weeks, through the freezing weather, until I "got around to" bringing them in. All of those almost immediately started to develop mold on the outside, but not one of them actually rotted; once the mold was scraped off and the outside scrubbed up, they were perfectly solid. So -- beginner's luck, maybe, to have no loss from rotting?

As for the 2 green ones... just a few weeks ago I put them out in my greenhouse for about a week, to see if the freezing/thawing temps would hasten the curing process, but as of now they are still green. Other than just letting them sit there and eventually do their own thing, I have no idea what else to try.
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
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springfield MO area (Zone 6a)
I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Plant Identifier
Frillylily
Jan 21, 2016 3:26 PM CST
It can take a few months, the mold is to have on the outside. I don't clean it off.
You can bleach and scrub it off later if you don't like it. or if you want to paint it.
Name: Sandy B.
Ford River, Michigan UP (Zone 4b)
(Zone 4b-maybe 5a)
Charter ATP Member Celebrating Gardening: 2015 I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! I helped beta test the first seed swap Region: United States of America Region: Michigan
Seed Starter Vegetable Grower Birds Butterflies Dog Lover Cat Lover
Image
Weedwhacker
Jan 21, 2016 4:36 PM CST
Right, the mold occurs naturally as the moisture leaves the gourds; those 2 gourds that were just sitting there looking like nice winter squash have finally started to "give it up" (their moisture, that is) since being left out and getting a bit of freezing and thawing. I'm not sure what would happen if I left them outside for the entire winter up here in the north -- from the articles that I've read, that isn't advised; but I might leave a couple out next year and see what happens.
"Blessed is he who has learned to laugh at himself, for he shall never cease to be entertained."
- John Powell / Cubits.org - A Universe of Communities
/ Share your recipes: Favorite Recipes A-Z cubit
C/F temp conversion / NGA Member Map

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