Can you imagine a dozen gourds (Lagenaria siceraria) from planting a single seed?
When you grow these fruits, you can do just that.
They are prolific growers, as a single vine may sprawl more than 25 feet in a single growing season.
Plant them near a fence or a trellis and by summer's end it may bless you with several long handled, round bellied future bird houses.
They are the perfect size and shape for nest boxes and other crafts.
Purple martins, Swallows, Wrens and Chickadees will all take to your new creations. A bonus is that House sparrows and European starlings aren't to fond of a moving house so they tend to shy away from them.
The vines are covered with large, lush, green leaves all season long. You may find that birds, toads and other wildlife appreciate the protection and shade the large leaves offer.
There are male and female flowers on the same vine. The flowers are white with a soft crepe paper look and feel.
Yep, there are male flowers that need to pollinate the female ones.
Female flowers have a little bulge behind the flower (Bottom flower) that looks a bit like a birdhouse gourd.
As with other members of the Cucurbitaceae family, these plants can have trouble with pollination. If pollinators are not abundant in the area, you may have to pollinate by hand, by removing the male blossoms and dusting them onto the female blossoms.
You can also take a Q-tip or small paint brush, rub some pollen from the male flower and put it on the female.
Again, the female blossoms can be distinguished by the tiny immature fruit at the base of the flower. It is normal for there to be several male blossoms produced before you spot a female blossom.
Hard skinned gourds bloom in the evening and at night. Soft skinned ones bloom during the day.
They grow best in well drained slightly acidic soil (PH of 6.5) in full sun, but will do well in a neutral soil.
Plant three or four seeds in a slightly raised mound near a fence or trellis. You can plant them in an open area, but the grounds wont be a nice, the handles tend to curve and one side will be flat.
The plants are fairly drought resistant, but the more water they get, the bigger and better the fruits will be.
Maintenance:Consistent watering helps, especially once fruit has set. You can feed by side dressing with organic matter or a balanced fertilizer when the vines start to blossom.
Vines can be self mulching, but use caution when weeding, since the plants are shallow rooted.
Feed them early on and then back off on the fertilizer. During the season you can feed them something high in phosphorus. Phosphorus encourages more blooms and better fruits.
All gourds need a long growing season of at least 100 days. Hot summer days are best. If you live in areas with a shorter growing season, you may try starting some seed indoors three to four weeks before your last frost date.
Do you want more fruits?
Once the vine is about 9 to 10 feet long, pinch off the tip so that the plant will send out side branches. It's usually on these side branches that the female flowers (and fruits) grow.
Now that a several fruits have set, monitor your vines and pinch off any flowers before the bloom. This makes the plants put all their energy into growing and ripening the fruits before the first frost.
One vine can produce up to 12 future nest boxes.
The vines will love many long drinks of water throughout the summer. But when autumn approaches, do not give them any supplemental watering. Let the vines wither and die as winter approaches.
In northern or cool climates, frost can be an issue.
They are a hard skinned gourd and can take a frost or two.
Some suggest that after the first frost to cut the the fruits from the vines and put them in a dry warm place on a screen or hang them.
If you aren't ready for them, keep them on the vine as long as possible.
It is important that air can circulate all about them, drying them.
If it becomes soft and begins to rot or becomes shriveled, throw it away. However, a bit of mold on the gourds is fine and normal.
It may take 6 months to dry the gourds. They will be ready when they are very light in weight, and you can heard the seeds inside rattle when you shake the birdhouse gourd.
Be sure to check the links below for more information.
Turn your gourds into bird houses
Birds, Butterflies, Gardens and much more.
Sign up for your weekly "Gardening For Wildlife" newsletter.