Garden Crafts: Bird Gourd Houses

Yet another garden project with found – or rather grown – materials.

This is, of course, a craft you will find at any local craft fair. They are birdhouses made of a special type of gourd called a “birdhouse gourd” I suspect that gourd #3 may be a different type of gourd that snuck in to my seed pack, but since they are open pollinated, it could very well have come from what the seed grower thought was 100% birdhouse gourd.

I’ve never purchased a gourd birdhouse from a craft fair, but wanted to try my hand at making them. It was not terribly hard (although I’m sure you’ll agree – mine are not ready for the craft fair circuit yet).

Last June, I planted several birdhouse gourd seeds next to giant sunflowers in my garden bed. As the vines grew, they climed the sunflowers. This was good for a gardener like myself who does not like to put in more work than she absolutely needs to – because the gourds were hanging, I never had to rotate them in the field to make sure that the did not end up with a flat side.

I left them up until the vines were completed dried in the fall and the first frosts were threatening. Then I moved them into my garage for the winter. Would it be too cold for them in the unheated garage? It can get down to -20F here. Things freeze. I wasn’t sure, but given that several sources warned that they would give off a terrible moldy smell as they cured, I decided to take my chances. I did have to save them from my husband, who tried to throw them away every time he found them. I can’t blame him. They did look strange and gross.

In the spring, I checked them. They were hard and dry. The seeds inside rattled when I shook them. They had a bit of mold and discoloration on the outside. Perfect!

Next I:

  1. Wiped them off with a bleach solution.
  2. Sanded the outside lightly.
  3. Drilled a 1″-1.25″ hole in each one.
  4. Removed as much of the seeds and dried innards as I could.
  5. Painted them with tempera paints I had on hand for painting Easter eggs.
  6. Hung them from branches in my yard with garden wire.

I did not seal them with poly. I meant to, but did not have any at home and in the spirit of using only materials on hand, I decided not to buy any. I suspect I will need to repaint them for next year, but since I enjoy painting and always have plenty of paint on hand, I’m ok with that.

I’ve also saved seeds for planting this year, so I won’t need to buy new seeds for next year. I took the seeds only from the 2 best gourds with the strudiest, most regular shells. Natural selection and all that.

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