Grow Your Own Birdhouse

Grow Your Own Birdhouse
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gourd birdhousesBottle gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) are easy to grow on fences or trellises, and once dried they make an ideal home for purple martins, swallows, chickadees and wrens. Besides bringing beauty and interest to your home, these birds will eat thousands of insects each day.

Although gourds can be grown in hills as you would grow squash and pumpkin, gourds that are left lying on the ground will flatten on one side and may be susceptible to rot. If you prefer to grow them in hills, try providing several inches of hay as a mulch to keep the gourds off the ground. Bottle gourds will tolerate a light frost, so allow them to dry on the vine as long as possible. Once harvested, they will need a cool, dry place to complete the drying process. They are completely dry when you can hear the seeds rattle inside when you shake them. This may take several months.

To fashion you birdhouse, drill a hole 1 to 1-1/2 inches in diameter. Smaller holes will accommodate small birds such as wrens, while a larger hole will allow larger birds such as martins to take up residence. You should also drill a few tiny holes in the bottom of the gourd for drainage. Drill two holes in the top, and thread a cord through them. Now your birdhouse is ready to hang. It will last up to two years untreated, or you can varnish the gourd for a longer lasting birdhouse.

Harvesting and Drying Gourds

Let your gourds ripen on the vines as long as possible. Wait until the stem turns brown, but harvest before frost. The fruit bruises easily, so handle it carefully. Cut the stems 2-3 inches above the fruit with a sharp knife, and dry off any moisture.

Most gourds will need some indoor drying time before they are ready to use. Wipe them down with a weak bleach solution and lay them out in a well-ventilated area to dry. Gourds are completely dry when the seeds rattle around inside. Small gourds will dry in less than a month, and large ones can take up to six months. If mold appears during the drying process, scrape it off with a knife. Thin-shelled gourds dry best when hung in a mesh bag.

Once the gourds are completely dry, remove the thin outer shells with steel wool. Now your gourds are ready to decorate. Use a wax or varnish for protection.

Pick sponge gourds (luffas) when they are young and green for a soft sponge, or wait until they are yellow or brown for a hard, scratchy sponge. Soak them in water for a few days, then peel off the skin. To remove the seeds, cut off one end and shake them out.

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Nature Crafts


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