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Drying gourds for birdhouses

Dried gourds make a perfect nesting place and the birds don’t care if it’s fancy or not

Mother Nature certainly has a sense of humor when it comes to gourds. I think they’re some of the ugliest plants to come out of the garden, but they’re really useful to make things out of, especially birdhouses.

James Baggett is the editor of Country Gardens magazine. He says the best gourd to grow for birds is called a “bottle gourd”. It’s big and round at the bottom, and tapers off at the top. They’re ready to be picked when they’re eight-to-twelve-inches in diameter.

"You pick them right after frost and bring them inside and clean them with a mixture of about a half-cup bleach to two-quarts water, and leave them in a warm spot to dry," says Baggett. "It does help if you turn them every once in awhile so that they dry evenly."

If you don’t wash the gourd off with the bleach mixture, you’ll probably see some mold growing on it.  Don’t be alarmed if it does. Some people prefer it that way because mold gives it an unusual rustic look.

A bottle gourd that’s picked this fall can’t be worked with until spring. It needs to be dry enough on the inside to get the guts out of it.  

"And you can tell it’s dry when you shake it and can hear the seeds rattle. It’ll sound something like this…(shakes the gourd)…at that point, you’re going to need to use a drill to start your hole," says Baggett. "Depending on what kind of bird you want to attract, will determine what size hole you want to create for your birdhouse."

Grab the kids and some colorful paint, and let them have at it. If you prefer only one color, paint it white. Baggett says gourds don’t provide quite the insulation that a wooden birdhouse does, so white-washing it will help the birds and their babies keep cool in the summer.

Once you’re finished, cut a few small holes in the bottom for circulation and drainage. Then, tie a string or ribbon around the stem for hanging.

To learn more about drying gourds for birdhouses, we recommend visiting the following links:

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