Tag: gourds

Luffa Gourds

A few days ago I saw you on The Weather Channel talking about a gourd vine that grows thick and quite rapid. Also, it has edible fruit that resemble zucchini squash. What is the name of this plant?

I have received a huge response to the luffa gourd report that broadcast on The Weather Channel several weeks ago! It always delights me when a plant is such a big hit!

Luffa gourds are elongated and look somewhat like zucchini. They are best known as the bath sponge gourd. You’ve probably seen their fibrous skeletons for sale in fancy bath shops.

A lot of people think these sponges come from the ocean, but it’s actually a gourd you can grow in your own garden.

Luffas should be planted in the late spring after the soil temperatures have warmed. You can get a jump-start by sowing the seeds indoors a few weeks before your target transplant date. To speed up the germination soak the seeds in warm water for 24 to 48 hours.

If you decide to grow some you will want to give them plenty of room. They can easily grow up to 20 feet. To control the growth I either weave them back into the trellis or trim the excess vines.

The gourds are ready to harvest when the skins are dry and the stems turn yellow. If you garden in a region where the summer season is short, there may not be enough time for your gourds to fully ripen. Fruits that are still green, even though they are full-sized, will produce wispy sponges that don’t last very long.

To make a sponge, soak the gourd in water overnight. This will make it easier to peel the skin off. Some people soak the gourds for several days to make it even easier.

Once the skin is removed wash the sponge part to remove any seeds and pulp. Then place the sponge in the sun for about a week to dry.

To brighten the color soak the clean, dry sponge in a solution of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water for thirty minutes.

You can purchase luffa gourd seeds from your favorite local garden center in early spring or order them through a mail order source.

Gourd Birdhouses

One of my favorite summer annual vines is the gourd. It’s a super easy plant to grow from seed. The vine’s large leaves add interest to the garden and its fun fruit harvested at the end of the growing season can be used for decorating and crafts such as this birdhouse.

If you didn’t plant gourds this year and want to try this project, look for them at your local farmer’s market or grocery store this fall.

MATERIALS:
Gourds
Steel wool
Fine grade sandpaper
Electric drill
Circular drill bit
Regular drill bit
Twig
Hot glue gun with glue sticks
Water sealant
Twine or thin wire to hang birdhouse

DIRECTIONS:
Gourd Birdhouse
Dry. If your gourds are already dry move on to step 2. Gourds can be air-dried in a well-ventilated area like your garage. It may take as long as a month. You can tell they are dry when you can hear the seeds rattling inside.

Clean. If crust or mold develops during the drying process, just wash the gourds in warm soapy water with a steel wool pad.

Sand. Once the gourd dries out and you have washed them up, take a fine grade sandpaper and lightly brush off any rough edges.

Create an entry. Now that you have a clean, Birdhouse Doorsmooth gourd to work with it’s time to make an entry for the birds. Use a drill with a circular bit to carve out a hole (about 1 ½ inches) that is large enough for birds to come and go.

Drill. Next change drill bits and drill in several holes on the bottom for drainage as well as a couple of holes on the top of the gourd for hanging the birdhouse and a hole under the "front door" for the perch.

Sand again. If you find any sharp edges sand those down at this time.

Clean house. Now once all of this is done you’re ready to scrape out the insides using a stick or wooden spoon.

Add the perch. Drainage HolesInsert a twig into the hole you drilled for the perch. I used a twig from a red twig dogwood. If it doesn’t fit snugly secure it with hot glue.

Seal. Spray the gourd with a water seal. This will help to preserve the birdhouse for years to come.

Hang. Pull twine or fine wire through the holes in the top of the gourd and hang the birdhouse in a area that is easy for you to see but sheltered so the birds will be safe from predators.

Good to Know: Growing and Harvesting Gourds

Direct sow seeds in late spring or early summer after the danger of frost has passed.

Sow in full sun.

Gourds are ready to harvest when the stem turns brown and the outer shell turns hard.

Mature gourds will not be effected by frosts. Hard freezes may cause discoloration and will damage the seeds.

When cutting the gourd from the vine, get a few inches of stem as well.

Discard any that are immature, damaged or rotten.

Gourd Scarecrow

Gourd ScarecrowThis whimsical character is easy to put together. You just need a few materials and some imagination!

Materials
1 stake 6 feet long (support)
1 stake 3 feet long (shoulders)
1 stake 12 inches long (hips)
nails
hammer

wheat or pine straw
old clothes (shirt, pants, hat)
twine
rope
scissors
dried gourd or old pillow case
hand saw

Directions:

For this project I used a 2 x 2 as the support stake and 1 x 2s for the cross bars, but any scrap wood or even branches will do.

To begin make a point at the end of your 6 foot stake so that it is easy to push into the ground when you are finished with the scarecrow.

Scarecrow FrameNow you are ready to create your frame. Hammer the 3 foot stake across the 6 foot stake, about 6 inches down, and then hammer the 12 inch stake in the same way about half way down. The end product will look something like a telephone pole with an extra cross bar.

The next step is to dress your scarecrow by hanging the shirt on the top cross bar and the pants on the lower cross bar. Tuck the shirt into the pants. Secure the pants by tying the rope belt around the waist.

Close the ends of the shirt arms by tying them with twine.

Now you are ready to stuff the shirt with straw. It is important to use a clean straw such as wheat or pine. This is because materials such as hay contain a lot of weed seeds that can sprout in your garden later and be a nuisance.

All you need now is the head. I used an old, dried gourd but you can also stuff a pillow case with more straw. If you go for the gourd, simply saw off the neck and sit it down on the top of your 6 foot stake onto the extra 6 inches projecting above the “shoulders.” For the pillow sack, stuff it full and shape it into a ball, then tie it to form the neck. Like the gourd, slip the extra 6 inches of stake into the center of the ball and tighten the rope.

Top the gourd with an old straw hat and you are ready to place your scarecrow out in the garden!

Harvesting and Drying Gourds

One plant that I always make room for in my garden is the gourd vine. Like moonflowers and morning glories this rapidly growing, sprawling vine is perfect for summer interest. Grown on fences or trellises gourds produce large leaves, yellow or white flowers and, of course, funky shaped fruits.

This year I planted bird house gourds (Lagenaria sicerana). These are the type that look like they have been squeezed in the middle creating bulbous ends. I sowed the seeds in early summer beside two pyramid trellises, which the vines quickly covered.

Now that summer is over it will soon be time to harvest the fruits and set them out to dry.

The best way to tell if a gourd is ready to harvest is by look and feel. The vine will begin to die back and the skin of the gourd will be hard and pale. An immature gourd feels fleshy and is bright green.

Polished Gourd
I’ve read conflicting advice about harvesting gourds before or after the first frost. Some people contend that fruits should be gathered before a frost while others maintain that you can leave them on the vine to dry, even after a hard freeze. Experience has taught me that when you harvest them depends on if the gourds are fully ripened. Frosts will damage immature fruits, but these won’t dry successfully anyway. Because I was influenced by parents who grew up during the Depression and didn’t throw anything away, I can’t bear to waste any gourds so I collect the immature fruits and use them as temporary decorations. I leave the mature gourds on the vine until I do my fall clean up, which is usually after the first killing frost.

The only other drawback to leaving gourds out after a frost is that the cold temperatures will damage the seeds. So if you are hoping to save seeds for sowing next year, bring in all your gourds before the first frost.

When you are ready to harvest, it’s important to cut gourds from the vine rather than pulling or twisting them away. Use sharp pruners so you can make a nice, clean cut. And leave about 2 inches of stem intact. This little bit of stem is important because it facilitates the evaporation of water. Gourds are about 90 percent water. When they dry moisture escaped through both the porous skin and the stem.

This next step isn’t mandatory, but it does help. Gently clean the gourds to remove dirt and wipe them down with a diluted bleach solution – 2 tablespoons bleach to 1 gallon of water. This process removes bacteria and helps to prevent rotting.

Gourds should be dried in an area that has good air circulation. This is very important. In fact, they can be left outside to dry. Just remember that the cold will damage the seeds. I dry mine in the garage. Place them on a card board mat, with enough space between them so that they are not touching.

Now, here’s the hard part. You need to leave them alone. Aside from rotating them occasionally and removing the ones that are rotting, let them dry for a month or more. Large, heavy gourds may take as long as 6 months to completely dry.

You may find that a crust or mold appears on the gourds as they dry. This is normal and not a sign that they have gone bad. After they have completely dried wash them in warm soapy water with a steel wool pad. This will remove the residue, although the mold will leave behind interesting patterns. Be careful when handling the gourds if you are allergic to mold.

Once the gourds are clean, wipe them with a cloth and let them dry thoroughly. You can lightly sand the shell with a fine sandpaper to prepare it for painting, varnishing or waxing. Just be aware that sanding might leave faint scratches behind.

I like to bring out the natural tones of large gourds. What works for me and gives them a nice shine is just an ordinary paste wax.