Drying Gourds

Drying Gourds for Decoration

Drying gourds for decoration can be lots of fun and a great pastime.  For time immemorial people have used gourds to carry water or as makeshift bowls and cups.  If you have your own garden gourds and a bit of an artistic flare, drying gourds may be just the sort of creative outlet you need to add enjoyment and creativity to your free time.

How to Dry a Gourd

Drying gourds is easy, so long as you have patience.  The best time to pick gourds for drying is once the growing time has finished.  Look for the first signs that the gourd is about to pass its prime—usually a bit of discoloration on the stem.  Then pick the gourd by cutting it above the stem.  Be sure to leave a portion of the stem on the gourd as it often helps with the decoration process, making for a good, natural handle in some cases.

Before you bring your gourd inside you should remove the dirt with a dry towel.  Avoid using too much water when cleaning your gourd as this will increase the chances that you will shorten the decorative life of your gourd.

Hang your gourd in a dry airy place where it will remain undisturbed.  Make sure that it doesn’t get a lot of light either.  Basements and garages tend to provide the most favorable environments for drying gourds.  The best way to hang a gourd is with a net similar to those used for oranges in a supermarket.  Often you can just re-use orange nets.  If you are handy with string, you may be able to fashion a makeshift net.  (I knew a fellow gourder who liked who used a hammock for his gourds in the fall and for himself in summer—but I’m not sure this kind of dual use is ideal.)

Now comes the key to drying gourds—patience.  You need to wait an entire season until the gourd is fully dry.  (Sometimes longer.)  Therefore, you need to leave your drying gourds hanging in the garage.  Make sure to keep children away from your hanging beauties as many children find the hanging ball like bags irresistible if not warned against tampering.  Every so often—about once every two weeks or so, you should check your gourds for mold.  If you discover any, you should take some bleach and a dry towel to it to keep your gourd from becoming infected and unusable.

After a season has passed, you can start to knock on the gourd to listen for the telltale sounds of hollowness.  Once you get that nice dull ring of emptiness, you are ready to take down your gourd and decorate it.

Projects for Dried Gourds

Once the gourd is dry, you are ready to decorate them.  Several interesting and creative projects involve gourds.  Many people, for example, love to paint or carve gourds.

Once you have your gourd the way you would like it, the best way to preserve its finish is to varnish it so that the gourd retains it original brightness and hues.

Other great uses for dried gourds are drums and birdhouses.  If you have big resonant gourd, you can cut off the head and wrap a clothe membrane over the top of the gourd to create a traditional African drum.  This is a difficult project but can be fun for those that are musically inclined.

If your area is home to the Blue Martin, you will find that many gourds make the perfect home for these little flyers.  All you need to do is drill a hole big enough for the Martin to enter but not so large for his predators can follow.  You simply hang them in trees frequented by these beautiful birds.

Finally, of course, you could simply make your gourd in to a jack-o-lantern as millions do every year.