Growing and Making a Gourd Birdhouse

Make a natural structure to attract a variety of birds to your yard by growing and making a gourd birdhouse.


| March/April 2017



Gourd birdhouses

Birdhouse gourds turn into a work of art.

Photo by Lori Dunn

Feathered fowl give us great joy for their beauty, antics, and delightful songs, so much so that we often want to attract them to our yards and gardens. The first things that come to mind might be planting elderberries or other alluring vegetation and building wooden birdhouses, but what about making a special birdhouse from the fruits of a plant you grew from seed? Gourds, which are often colorful and unusually shaped, are just right for this. One gourd in particular is especially great for birdhouse production, and this is the appropriately named “birdhouse gourd.”

There are many types of gourds in the cucurbit, or gourd, family, Cucurbitaceae, but our focus will be on the bottle gourds, Lagenaria spp. and specifically Lagenaria siceraria, which is also known as the white-flowered gourd or sometimes as calabash. Within the species, there is great diversity in gourd size — from 4 inches to 3 feet long — and in shape: round, spoon, coiled, bottle, and still other shapes. This is why it is important to buy seed for the particular cultivar you desire — in our case, the birdhouse gourd.

Growing your gourds

Gourds require a long growing season and resent transplanting. If possible, start each of the fairly large seeds indoors, in individual peat pots, three weeks before planting outdoors. Provide a warm soil temperature between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and keep the soil evenly moist. Germination will take about one week.

Two plants can easily cover an area about 15 feet by 10 feet. Make sure you provide your plants with a sturdy support like a trellis. You may need to tie some of the stems to the cross pieces. Also, because of the quick growth, do not allow the plants to engulf any nearby shrubs you value. Some of the developing fruits will be fairly heavy and may require net bags or even foot panty hose for extra support.

Even though the vines are heat- and drought-tolerant, it is best to provide them with good soil moisture, particularly during fruit set. Plants also prefer full sun exposure on the foliage and plenty of organic matter worked into the soil.

Harvesting your gourds

Harvest these gourds in autumn when the smooth, greenish rind turns creamy brownish-white, and when the stem and leaves start to die and dry out. Cut off the fruits with hand pruners, making sure to leave a 4-inch portion of the stem attached. Handle the gourds with care to prevent bruising. Complete your harvest before the first frost.





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