Growing Birdhouse Gourd RewardsMay 03, 2010
Last year I endeavored to grow a gourd in hopes of creating birdhouses and water dippers and other fun crafts from the fruit.
As it turned out, I had very mixed success with birdhouse gourds.
I began by planting seed purchased from Irish Eyes. I planted about a dozen in sterile soil in the greenhouse, and only one germinated. I coddled that baby along until it was warm enough to move it out in the garden where I planted it to grow along the wire fence mixed with scarlet runner beans, sweet pea, and butternut squash vines. A vision of loveliness, I imagined. And, truly, the combo was beautiful and fragrant and somewhat rewarding. But, I won’t be growing the gourds again.
Read on to learn about the on-going rewards that came from growing this plant as well as why I don’t intend to grow them again.
First, the vines were fast, aggressive growers, which would be fine if they didn’t also seem to be a favorite target of powdery mildew. Rapidly, the plant went under attack, and despite my efforts to spray with baking soda remedies and finally begin simply cutting away the infected leaves, the mildew was a persistent problem, and it hopped over to the butternut squash as well. The butternut seemed much more resistant, so my bad for growing the two together.
In addition to the problems with disease and poor seed germination results, the plant didn’t produce much fruit. The flowers on this plant opened in the evening — I swear one dusky summer night I watched as the flowers actually opened before my eyes. So, what pollinates them? By the time the flowers were open, the bees, flies and birds were in bed. So perhaps it needs a moth? In the end, I was the one that pollinated the flowers, by hand, and only with limited success.
So, let’s recap — I seeded, coddled, sprayed, trimmed, hand-pollinated, and for what? One gourd!
I waited until the vines were quite withered and the skin was quite hard before harvesting my one precious fruit last fall. Then, I referred to a great step-by-step on curing and carving birdhouse gourds here. Except I didn’t quite follow the directions correctly, and began curing my gourd outdoors on our protected, if somewhat damp, front porch.
It got mildewed. It got slimy. It was wet. I thought it was just going to rot away like an abandoned Halloween pumpkin in the month of November.
But, I wiped it down with bleach to beat back the slime. I moved it into the dry basement where it began to dry. I wiped it again and again, and then forgot about it for the rest of winter. Then, in early March, I picked it up, thinking it was time to compost it. And, surprise! It was dry. It was stained with mildew remnants, but it was dry and hard and ready to become some kind of craft project.
In my garden, putting out bird feeders is a no-no. They simply attract rats. Sure, so does every edible I grow, but bird seed keeps those nasty creatures going all winter long, so I’ve stopped despite loving the wild birds. Instead, I’ve planted materials that offer seed and berry to the birds. And, I’ve begun hanging more bird houses about to provide them nesting spots. Last year, the wrens moved into a twig house I bought at a local nursery. This year, we converted our one precious gourd into a potential bird home.
Bob referred to the great instructions provided at about.com here. He drilled the hole, cleaned and saved the seed, and put in a tiny dowel perch for the birds. I hung our new birdhouse first in a Japanese Maple outside our guest room. The birds ignored it. So, I moved it into a Camellia tree, nestled behind a rhodie. Immediately, the chickadees took up residence. They seem to think nobody can see them, but we enjoy watching their comings and goings from our living room window, our dining room window and from within the garden itself. As they fly about, they sing “chick-a-dee-dee-dee” without too many “dee-dee-dees” at the end, so they must feel pretty safe.
Now, I can’t wait until the baby birds hatch. There’s nothing cuter than tiny Chickadee fledglings flitting around the garden. And, yes, I couldn’t resist the temptation. I seeded about a dozen of the seeds we saved, and so far we’re at zero germination after seeding a couple of weeks ago. Yes, I said I hadn’t planned to grow the plants again, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t. And if I managed to get a seedling going, I’d be happy to share it with you.
Stay tuned for more updates on the darling chickadees. Caught on camera here!