Hard shell gourds can be dried and painted for seasonal decorations, known as gourd craft. You can also drill into them to make a birdhouse. There is some preparation and planning, but decorated gourds for seasonal interior decorating will last for many years. Gourd birdhouses, hung outdoors, will last one or two seasons.
Preparing Gourds for Gourd Craft
Harvest hard shelled gourd when vine has withered. Harvest season in southeastern Wisconsin is usually in September. Any large hard-shell gourd can be used but the most popular are the Apple Gourds and the hourglass shaped Birdhouse and Swan Gourds.
Place in a dry location to cure for 3-6 months. Ideally, the gourds should not freeze during this process. The drying process works best if gourds are not touching one another. Laying gourds on newspaper in a single layer in the basement or unused room works well. If overwintered in an unheated shed or garage the success rate will be lower. Mold will appear on the outer surface of the gourd during the curing process. This is normal.
After several months of drying the gourd will be adequately cured. Discard any gourds that have collapsed or developed holes in the shell. If the shell is hard to the touch and you can hear the seeds rattle inside when you shake it, it is ready to work with.
Soak the dried gourd in a mild bleach solution for 30 minutes.
Scrape/scrub gourd to remove remaining skin and surface mold.
Rinse & allow to dry.
Your gourd is now ready for decorative painting. Finish with a protective coat of acrylic or polyurethane.
Gourd Craft Gallery
Creating a Gourd Birdhouse
Prepare the gourd as described above.
Drill the following holes in the gourd:
One entrance hole facing straight outward (not up or down)
Two or three small holes at the top for ventilation and/or for hanging
Several small holes in the bottom for drainage
Remove dried seeds from inside of gourd through entrance hole, using long handled spoon
Use sandpaper to smooth the edges of the drilled hole opening
Decorate with exterior paints, if desired
Run the wire through top holes for hanging
Treat the outside of the gourd with a protective coat of acrylic or polyurethane
Gourd birdhouses are utilized mostly by wrens. Ideal outdoor placement for your wren house:
Hang at a height of 5′-6′ in a sheltered place in partial shade or filtered sunlight, with the opening facing away from prevailing winds
Don’t place birdhouses in areas that are frequented by pets, especially cats
When hanging several houses, space them at least 20′ apart to avoid competition among birds