Thursday, November 3, 2011

Gourds

While choosing the seeds that I wanted to start last winter, I threw in a packet of "decorative gourd mix" because I have always wanted to grow gourds.  And then make things out of them.  Like birdhouses and bird feeders.  Who knows?  Maybe even get an artistic streak and do something crafty with them...


Last February my seeds all started well in their little makeshift green houses.  In fact, I had lots and LOTS of little starter plants- so many that I gave quite a few away.  Tomatoes, yellow squash, cucumber and herbs.  Gourds, lettuce and even broccoli.



Yeah, well....what nobody expected was the unbelievable heat we had starting in June.  I can't even remember all of the records broken, but when it's too hot for too long and tomatoes can't handle it, then not much else will, either. I remember we hit 114 and I remember we were above 100 for weeks.  
Once the heat finally left, in early September, those plants that had survived began trying to make a comeback.  My gourds and morning glories had barely- BARELY- clung to life during the heatwave, looking wilted and close to death most days.  But that all changed quickly.  As the temperatures cooled  the gourd plants soon were climbing the fence wildly. One day I looked out my back door and thought I saw something weird out near the plants.  After the brutal summer, I had long ago stopped looking for fruit of any kind to appear anywhere out there.  But, what was this?


Oh my goodness, it was GOURDS.  I ran out and began searching like it was Easter for eggs.  I discovered quite a few of them, in different shapes and sizes.  There aren't very many of these little white ones:

There are 5 or 6 of the one's used for bird houses and feeders (more are hidden in back, near the fence)


And then I discovered the strangest of all, to me: the long-handled dipper gourd:


This sucker is 3 feet long and still growing!  I have read that if these are grown hanging down (as this one is) they can grow to almost 6 feet tall!  Every time I go out to look at these (there is at least one more) they have grown several inches bigger and longer.  

In my research online, I found this gentleman in Hartselle, Alabama.  His name is Johnny Self and he grows gourds for fun.  His record longest dipper gourd is 59 inches!  


I have also learned that you don't cut these off the vines until the vine is brown and dead.  That should occur sometime soon as we are having cold, near freezing nights these days.  You then cut them off, leaving 2-3 inches of the vine on it and preferably hang the gourds somewhere for 5 months until they dry out completely and harden.  Then you may do with them what you like.  


I will post pictures of anything interesting that I make or do with mine, but I am cautiously optimistic here.  My neighbor grew gourds 2 summers ago, dried them and made bird feeders and houses out of them.  He said squirrels destroyed them in a matter of days :o(