how to make bird house gourds

I sit in my recliner with my feet up and watch the birds play in my red gourd birdhouse as the sun rises behind them.

I tap dance to my chair each morning with excitement wondering what my little bird friends are up to today.

Some days they are out and about for their morning stroll; other times they are snuggled up together in the house taking an extra hour or two of sleep.

If you enjoy birdwatching from the comfort of your own home, keep reading, because in this article we will talk about how make a beautiful gourd birdhouse and turn your home into a bird paradise.

How to Dry Gourds Indoors

The key to successfully drying birdhouse gourds is to have a well-ventilated area where the gourds can be spread out to dry. The gourds only need to be lightly monitored during the drying process, and they should be turned periodically to prevent rot in the area where they are sitting.

The amount of time it will take, the drying stages, and the final product are all highly unpredictable. Some gourds I harvested dried out completely in less than a month, while others took longer—nearly six months. Some gourds get completely covered in colorful molds while drying, while other gourds only get a few brown spots. I adore this feature of the gourds because it turns each dried one into a one-of-a-kind piece of organic art. There are also big differences in the gourds’ quality; some are thin, spongy, or brittle, while others are extremely thick and robust. Then there are some that never dry at all and instead decompose I’m still unable to determine which fresh gourds will turn bad or which will be the best.

Making a gourd birdhouse involves a number of colored and textured molds in addition to the occasional mushy mess, so the drying stage is undoubtedly the dirtiest part of the entire process. I advise putting your drying station out of the way of your living area and out of the pets’ and kids’ reach. Although a well-ventilated basement works just as well, a heated garage is preferable. Anywhere it is, there must be adequate ventilation and a temperature that stays above freezing.

how to make bird house gourds

how to make bird house gourds

how to make bird house gourds

You’ll need a rack of some kind to set up a gourd drying station so that the gourds can have air flowing around them. For this, I’ve used a pallet, a clothing rack, a bench, a wire shelving unit, and a homemade frame with wire fencing. You should be able to set up your drying station for relatively little money if you use your creativity. In order to protect the gourds from the rack’s surface and to make cleanup and rotation easier, I like to place old blankets or cardboard underneath the gourds. Occasionally, the gourds get a little yucky on the racks, so I like to swap out the cardboard or blanket under them.

Another way to dry gourds is to hang them from rafters or racks. Although I haven’t personally tried it, it assures good airflow and eliminates the need to rotate the gourds.

how to make bird house gourds

Many of my gourds have natural patterns that are created by different molds that develop on the gourd as it dries. This may sound a little disgusting, and it can be during the drying process, but the gourd is thoroughly cleaned, dried, and sealed after that. Your gourd still has the lovely mold patterns on it, but there are no live, disgusting spores. When you have a bunch of ugly gourds drying, try to keep this in mind.

Be sure to monitor your gourds regularly. Check them at least once a week, making sure to rotate them as needed and toss out any that are rotten. I lose about 10% to rot. If the rate of rot in your area is significantly higher, think about switching to a different drying station for improved ventilation. Consider installing fans, cracking open a window, or arranging the gourds. However, this can also indicate that you harvested the gourds too early.

As previously stated, the drying process can take one to six months. Be patient. When they are ready, the gourd will feel hard like wood, be extremely light, and have loose seeds that rattle when you shake it—though sometimes you have to give it a good tap to get them to come out.

Natural Patterns Left In Tack

Use a dry rub to begin the prep stage if you wish to keep the mold’s patterns. For this step, I like to use exfoliating gloves, but any rough sponge or cloth will do. Just rub each gourd’s mold away while wearing a mask outside. As they clean up, the patterns on the gourd become more visible. Take care not to scrub the molds too vigorously because you only want to remove the mold’s fuzzy texture and not all of the markings. The gourd has peelable skin that reveals all those lovely patterns when removed.

The gourd should then be given a bleach bath (1 part bleach to 10 parts water). This ensures that the gourd is free of live spores. Again be careful. Avoid soaking the gourd for too long or giving it a rough wash while it’s wet because the skin becomes more delicate and easy to rub off when it gets wet.

How To Grow Birdhouse Gourds

Birdhouse gourds, like pumpkins and squash, belong to the Cucurbitaceae family. They have similar growing requirements and habits as these close cousins, but they seem less prone to pests and diseases than other plants in the same family. They are really quite easy to grow.

Gourd vines can be planted from seeds or as transplants. I always plant my seeds straight in the ground following the last frost because I live in Southern Ontario (zone 4). I’ve successfully waited until June to make sure frost won’t harm my seedlings. Here, there is typically a 5-month window without frost, which seems to be ideal for the gourds to grow.

If your area has a shorter growing season, you might need to use row covers, cold frames, or cloches to get a head start on the season, or you might need to start transplants indoors a few weeks before the last frost.

how to make bird house gourds

how to make bird house gourds

Because the gourd vines are so long, they need a lot of room. My parents’ farm is where I grow the majority of my gourds because they can sprawl around freely there, but I’ve also had success growing them in my tiny backyard under a strong trellis.

We plant the seeds in rows at the farm, where I have a lot of open space to work with, about 6 inches (15 cm) apart, and then let the vines go where they please. Although early weeding is required, as the plants grow, the garden becomes a thick carpet of green, making weed management simple. The vines spread out from their planting location by at least ten feet. We’ve only needed to water the gourds a couple of times a year during the hottest parts of midsummer.

I raised three gourd vines at my house on a robust metal trellis, making sure to properly train them so they didn’t go anywhere I didn’t want them to. In small areas, the vines must be kept under control because they can grow quite a bit. As long as you keep up with it, they can be trimmed as needed as they grow, making the process fairly simple.

We have found birdhouse gourds to be very easy to care for. Ours have never experienced any serious pest or disease. After years of growing gourds, the only pest that we noticed were cucumber beetles but they never did enough damage to worry about. I had mildew on my vines, as I seem to get on any plant from the Cucurbitaceae family in my urban yard, but it did not affect my gourds. I still got to harvest large healthy gourds even though the vine looked very sad by the end of the season. Of course, there are methods (even organic ones) to deal with mildew but for me, I found it unnecessary.

how to make bird house gourds

how to make bird house gourds

how to make bird house gourds

FAQ

How do you prepare a birdhouse gourd?

Hold the gourd level and mark two holes directly across from each other and near the top for the hanging wire. Mark 3 or 4 spots on the bottom of the gourd for drainage holes as well. Using the 1/4” bit, drill both hanger and drainage holes.

How do you dry gourds for birdhouses?

Dry or cure the gourds by placing them in a warm, dry, well-ventilated location, such as a garage or shed. Place the gourds in a single layer on clean newspapers or shelves. Space them so they don’t touch one another. Turn the gourds frequently and promptly remove any which show signs of decay.

Do birds actually use gourd birdhouses?

Gourd birdhouses are attractive to many species of birds including wrens, chickadees, swallows, bluebirds, titmice, and nuthatches. The birdhouse gourd is the white-flowering gourd species that produce the hard-shelled fruit mainly used for crafts.

What kind of gourds do you use for birdhouses?

Birdhouse gourd, Lagenaria siceraria, is a hard-shelled gourd, a type of tropical squash (cucumber family, Cucurbitaceae) native to northern Africa. The hard-shelled gourd was cultivated by people 10,000 years ago.