Creating With Gourds

Creating With Gourds

Part of Ep. 803 Gourds, Ponds and Herbs

Create gifts and unique decorations with gourds from your garden.  UW-Extension Soil Scientist Sherry Combs shows how to grow and decorate wild gourds.

Premiere date: Aug 26, 2000

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
I think it's wonderful when I can combine gardening with crafts and gift giving. Here's a great idea for kids and adults, grow gourds. We join UW-Extension Soil Scientist Sherry Combs. Normally, Sherry is known as our soils expert. Today, she's wearing a completely different hat. Sherry, these are great. I had no idea gourds came in this kind of variety. I always think of the little orange ones at Halloween.

Sherry:
They're lovely. They're just wonderfully different. Look at this. Look at the seed differences that you can have, some giant ones and some little ones. They're just a very interesting vegetable.

Shelley:
How do I grow them?

Sherry:
They're easy. The main thing, though, is they're a long season crop. You want to make sure that you extend your season just as far as you can. With these kind of seeds, it's best to nick them and then start them six to eight weeks before your last frost date.

Shelley:
Start them indoors, then.

Sherry:
Get a jump on the season. Transplant them out around the time that you do your tomatoes. And other things that you can do to make the season go longer, such as black plastic or floating row covers will help. Pinch the terminal vine off when it's about ten feet long and you'll get the plant thinking it's more mature and ready to set gourds earlier.

Shelley:
What about spacing. I assume these are taking up a lot of room in the garden.

Sherry:
Yes, they do. They're like pumpkins. So, you want to space them about ten to twelve feet. And if you can't dedicate that much space in your garden to gourds, think about growing them vertically on a trellis.

Shelley:
Sure, they can grow upright, too.

Sherry:
Watering can be an issue, too. Instead of hauling the water out, think about a soaker hose or perhaps a five-gallon pail with a hole cut in the bottom.

Shelley:
They need a lot of water regularly.

Sherry:
That will help them get mature.

Shelley:
When are we harvesting these?

Sherry:
You don't want to harvest until frost has killed the vine. Because even though the gourds look mature, they're still putting on wall thickness. And the thicker walled the gourd is, the more durable it is for any sort of crafting purpose.

Shelley:
What do I do when I actually do harvest it?

Sherry:
You can bring them inside, after the frost has killed the vine, or you can just leave them out in the field until next spring. It will take about three to five months for them to cure.

Shelley:
So, they need to age and dry.

Sherry:
Put them someplace where you won't be tempted to look at them if you put them inside, because this is what they will look like. This is good.

Shelley:
You want it to look like this?

Sherry:
This is very good.

Shelley:
It's furry.

Sherry:
Yes, this is a very nicely dried, hard-shell gourd. Ones that aren't mature, by chance, that you might stick away will rot. Throw those out. They'll get flat. But this is a very good thing.

Shelley:
What do I do with this now? I assume they've cured for three to four months, now it's time to make them attractive.

Sherry:
One of the ways you can do it is with a steel brush. You can brush this to get some of the surface mold off. You can soak them in some soapy water and make it a little bit easier.

Shelley:
The steel wool was used on this one after warm soapy water. Where did this pattern come from? This is beautiful. It looks like wood.

Sherry:
Yes, it will. Each gourd will be different. It's from the mold that grows on them.

Shelley:
So, it's etching something onto the shell, itself.

Sherry:
And it will be different depending on how you stored them and the type of gourd, itself. And this bushel gourd, for example, has very unique patterns that are different from these gourds.

Shelley:
Each one will be different. Now, when I think of gourds, besides Halloween, I think of the classic bird houses. You've got one of those here.

Sherry:
They're very fun to make. Kids just enjoy them because birds come in. And right away, they can see how they're useful.

Shelley:
I've got one that's got a wren living in it. It sings every morning.

Sherry:
What you need to do for bird houses is cut the entry hole. The size of the hole and the size of the gourd will determine what size bird can go in. It'll also need some aeration and drainage holes, and holes for hanging.

Shelley:
I can do these with a sharp knife.

Sherry:
A sharp knife or a crafting tool will do the trick. Possibly, you'll want to stain it. Although you could put them out without staining. This was a colored stain that I used. And my daughter, Aiden, started painting on the surface. What this needs now is to have a wire hanger put on and a waterproof finish, because it will be outside.

Shelley:
If it's outside, it needs waterproofing. You've got one here that's just completely different and a nice, creative hanger, too.

Sherry:
This is a warted gourd. That was pretty fun. It's obviously small, for a wren.

Shelley:
There are other things that you've made with gourds that surprised me. We've got to look at some of these. I've got everything stuck in here. This is a vase. It's beautiful.

Sherry:
Yes, you can make a vase for dried flowers. Coat it with beeswax and it can be for regular flowers.

Shelley:
Now, this actually looks like it was made out of wood. It's beautiful.

Sherry:
This is a gourd that I cut the top off of and stained.

Shelley:
What's that?

Sherry:
This is fun. It's a party toy.

Shelley:
It's perfect for kids.

Sherry:
And let me show you one other one. Come here, Aiden, let's show Shelley the snake. Let's show here the snake.

Shelley:
Oh, wow.

Sherry:
Look at this guy. Isn't this fun?

Shelley:
This is made out of a gourd? Oh, I see what you've done.

Sherry:
We took the tops off of two gourds and put them together as a serpent or a snake or a whatever.

Shelley:
The sky is truly the limit. Thanks, Sherry. This is wonderful. I think this is what I enjoy about gardening so much. I learn something new every day. I hope you do, as well. I've got some gourd making to do. I think this one is going to be a mask. I see the face of a Klingon from "Star Trek" here. Thanks for joining me on the Wisconsin Gardener. I think it's a great place to learn through growing.

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