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By APRIL from North Augusta, SC
Gourds are fun and easy to grow, and many of the hard-shell types make wonderful houses for common cavity-nesting bird species like chickadees, nuthatches, and martins. Here are some tips on how to grow gourds, cure them, and turn them into cozy homes for your feathered friends.
The Best Gourds for Birdhouses:
The most common types of gourds used for making birdhouses are bottle gourds. In catalogs and garden centers the seeds are often labeled and sold as "Mexican bottle gourds", or "birdhouse" gourds. Other gourds make good birdhouses, too, including: Dipper gourds, Maranka gourds, Penguin gourds, and Kettle gourds. Ideally, the variety you choose should have a bulbous base that is at least 8 to 10 inches in diameter and a neck or stem long enough to attach a wire for hanging.
If you have the room (vines can reach 100 feet in a single season), birdhouse gourds are pretty simple to grow. All they really need is a lot of sun, a lot of water, and a good long stretch (150-180 days) of warm weather. If you live in a cooler climate with a shorter growing season, start seeds early indoors. It's wise to place your seed order in the fall for the following season as supplies of these popular seeds can run short once spring rolls around.
Here is some general information on their growing requirements:
If you don't have the time or room to grow gourds, you can always buy them and do the curing and finishing yourself. Look for them in the fall at nurseries, garden centers, farmer's markets, and crafts stores - the same places you find decorative gourds and pumpkins for sale.
The Curing Process: To cure your gourds, cut them from the vine once they fully mature (turn from green to tan). Store them in a warm location with good air circulation and leave them to dry (up to several months). Don't worry if during the process you see some shriveling and a few small spots appear. This is perfectly normal. When the gourd is completely dry the seeds inside will rattle when you shake it. Now you can clean the outer surface with a wire brush or sandpaper. After cleaning the outer surface, soak the gourd for 10-15 minutes in a bleach solution (1 part bleach, 10 parts water) to help further protect it from rot and mold. Remove it from the solution and allow it to completely dry before working it into a birdhouse.
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Some time ago, someone posted pictures of bird houses made from gourds. I would like instructions. For example, do I cut the hole and clean out the insides, or do I just hang them and let the birds do it all? Also, I would like creative ways to suspend them.
By Dena Roberts from Winnipeg, Canada
Chcek out this site or read below.
Making Gourd Birdhouses takes a little patience, but can be well worth the time and effort.
Watching birds nest in your own homemade gourd birdhouse, will give you, the birdwatcher, just a little more joy and satisfaction in providing for our birds.
When to Harvest
Harvest a hard-shell gourd when the vine has withered. Be careful to leave the stem attached.
It's best to cut the stem with pruning shears so you don't bruise it. Hang it in a sunny spot or put it on newspaper in a warm dry place for 3 - 6 months.
If it is lying on a flat surface, be sure to turn frequently, A proper size for birdhouses has a diameter of about 8 to 13 inches. Wash thoroughly in water, rinse in a solution of 1 part bleach and 10 parts water, and dry with a towel.
As it dries, it will begin to mold. This is a natural part of the drying process. If dried indoors it will grow more mold and should be frequently wiped clean with the bleach solution.
When making gourd birdhouses discard any that become soft or wrinkled. To check if it is dry, give it a good shake - if the seeds rattle, you can begin making your birdhouse.
Making the Birdhouse
Soak the gourd for 15 minutes in hot soapy water, and then scrape with a dull knife to remove the outer skin and mold.
Scrub in the water with fine steel wool. Rinse it well and allow to dry thoroughly.
To locate the birds entrance hole, hold it by its stem between your index finger and thumb and let it hang. Mark a center point along the outermost part of the curve so the hole faces straight out. Not toward the sky or the ground.
The entrance hole can be easily drilled with the proper-size hole saw or by using a keyhole saw.
Wear a face mask, as the dust is a caustic substance. Drill 2 sets of holes about 2 inches from the neck for hanging and ventilation.
Also drill 2 or 3 1/4 inch holes in the bottom for drainage. Drill the size hole necessary to encourage the birds you want to attract.
Remove the seeds and membrane of the gourd through the entrance hole with a long-handled metal spoon, screwdriver or a wire coat hanger.
Dip the whole thing in a wood preservative for 15 minutes, weighting it down with a brick. Then remove it and hang it up to dry for several days.
Sand the gourd smooth and paint with and oil-based primer. Allow it to dry thoroughly. Paint the house with exterior enamel paint (do not use water based latex paint as it will peel) Apply 2 coats.
Decorate anyway you like and hang it in the proper place to attract the birds you want.
Wow! Karyn01 that was a fantastic write up! You spelled it out better than I've ever seen! I know I'm definitely going to follow your directions!
Thank you, Karyn01, best directions ever! Can't wait for fall so I can get started on my "winter bird house project".