received so many questions about drying gourds and exactly what to
do with them that I need to make a few statements up
There are a number of
different methods to dry gourds and the particular method anyone
uses will be up to them. If you want to pick your gourds early
and place them on pallets, then fine, they will dry. If you
want to leave your gourds right in the field attached to the vines,
then fine, they will dry, and no, you don't have to go out and put
anything under them to protect them from the damp ground.
Gourds have been drying by themselves for eons and have been doing
just fine. In fact, I believe gourds will cure faster if left
right on the vine until dry.
However, here are a few
points to remember.
Gourds need air to
dry. Lots of air. So if you pick your gourds early,
DON'T put them some place where they will not get good air flow,
like in a cellar or a small room.
Gourds will dry out in the
weather just fine. No, it won't hurt them to get wet from
rain, nor will it hurt them to freeze. Yes, a hard freeze will
kill the vines and leaves, but the gourds will do just fine.
Commercial growers don't pick their gourds from the fields until
they are fully dry. Gourds are dry when the seeds rattle when
they are shaken. Gourds that are left on the vine to dry,
harden off much better and seem to be of much higher
quality than gourds that have been picked while still green.
REGARDLESS OF WHAT
ANYONE TELLS YOU, DO NOT SCRAPE A GREEN GOURD IN ANY
WAY TO FACILITATE DRYING.
You're only ruining your
gourd, and in most cases where this is done, the gourds will soon
rot. That outer skin is the protective covering for your
gourds and if you remove it, then you are only inviting trouble into
your gourds. This also means, don't cut ANY large holes and
scrape out the insides. The gourd will soon cave in and
collapse. If a gourd is not dried, then nothing should be done
to it until it is.
"But the skin of a
gourd is very hard, how will the water get
The stem of a gourd is
very porous and this is where much of the water inside the gourd
will escape. If you cut your gourds off the vines, leave
approximately 2 inches of stem intact. Pruning sheers or a
very sharp knife should be used to cut gourds from the vine.
NEVER just twist the stem to break it. This will allow
infection into the gourd and the stem will become useless for future
use. The cut should be clean to allow the water to
escape. Also, although we perceive the outside of a gourd to
be hard, it is in reality, very porous and much of the water will
escape through the skin.
"But I need to speed
up the drying of my gourds because I need them now?"
Can't be done. Yes,
you can put a few near a fireplace and they will dry a little
faster, but it really isn't worth it with a large quantity, and do
you really want a bunch of gourds in your house where people are
living... I don't think so. The best thing to do is to let
nature take its course. If you need gourds 'NOW', then I
suggest finding a commercial grower and purchasing some for your
needs. There are some things in nature that just can't
"Chuck, what do you
do to get your gourds?"
Simple, I plant my gourds
in the spring and don't go near them again until everything around
them is 'dead'. All that can be seen is brown gourds standing
out everywhere in the field. I shake a few to make sure the
seeds rattle, then I simply walk around with a pair of pruning
sheers and clip them from the vines and load them into my
truck. Yes, during the growing cycle I'll occasionally take a
walk around the patch to make sure things are going good and look
for trouble, and sometimes I'll even take my pruning shears and clip
a few useless vines, but for the most part, that's about as close as
I get to them until they are fully dry.
Gourds do not have to be
coddled, pampered, cared for, cultivated, pruned or any of the
normal gardening things we humans like to do for our garden
plants. A little fertilizer, heavy in potash is good for them,
but you don't need to add anything that will instigate green
growth. This is something you'll quickly find out with your
first attempt at growing gourds. Think of gourds as a
different kind of pumpkin, treat them the same and all will be just
fine. When they are ripe, then you can do what you like to
them, but until they are completely dry, they should be left
Now, with that said, the
following statements on drying gourds, although intended for
birdhouse gourds, will work for just about any type of gourd.
If you want to know more, then please read on...
Although there are
many different kinds of gourds, for our purposes, there are
basically two different 'types'. One type is very fleshy (Lagenaria
family). If it is necessary to pick these early, then they
need to be 'dried' in a cool, dry place for several weeks, even
months. These types are about 90% water at harvest time, hence the
long drying period. This type is generally known as 'birdhouse
gourds'. However, if not necessary, they should not be picked
until fully dry in the field. A much better quality gourd will
Others (Cucurbita family), will have a lower water
content and will fully cure in just a few weeks. If you're not sure
of the type of gourd you have, don't worry, just put them up and
leave them alone. Every couple of weeks, check on them. They will be
fully 'cured' when the outside skin becomes very hard and the gourd
is very light and the seeds rattle when you shake it.
house gourds should be allowed to grow as large as they will get,
and should not be picked before they are about 8 to 10 inches in
diameter. (I like mine to be 10 inches. This size has proven to be
the most popular with the purple martins). It will be your decision
as to which ones to use for martin gourds. I like to leave mine on
the vine until fully dry, but if you just have to cut yours early,
they can then be 'cut' from the vine, leaving as much of the stem as
possible and then set aside in a sheltered place to
Although this next step is not necessary, it will give
you better results from drying.
Before setting green gourds aside
to dry, they can be washed to remove caked on soil and other garden
debris. Gourds can be dipped in a weak bleach solution of one or two
cups chlorine bleach to a 5 gallon bucket of water to sterilize the
surface and prevent rotting. The use of a soft bristled brush will
help aide in the removal of the debris and not harm the soft skin of
the 'green' gourd. At this time, their skin is very soft and easily
damaged, therefore, they should be handled with some
The place you select to put your gourds for drying
should have a fairly good amount of air flow. Good air flow is
probably the most important thing in drying gourds. They can
simply be set on some cardboard and then left to dry. Be careful not
to let them touch each other. It is not necessary to shelter
them in a room of any kind. They will do just fine out
Don't put them in a place where
humans will have to frequent often. Curing gourds and humans just
don't go together. The odor can be rather offensive during the
drying cycle. That's why they should be put where the air or wind
can get to them. Don't put them in a cellar or a back room in the
house, or soon, anyone coming to visit will know you're drying
gourds and I promise, it will be some time before that smell is
gotten out of the house. This is also unhealthy for humans and
a good reason to leave them outside.
Also, some of the gourds
will acquire a mold on the outside of their skins. This is normal.
You don't have to wipe the mold off. It will simply dry in place,
leaving a pretty neat pattern in its wake, and it doesn't seem to
hurt the gourd any.
And also, regardless of how much care you
take, some of the gourds will rot. No reason why, that's just
nature. Some of them will get infected and those gourds will
simply rot. They should be removed and discarded. You can tell
this when the gourds shows an indentation in its skin. Just about
everyone has seen a pumpkin when it's rotting. A gourd, being of the
same family, will show the same signs and therefore, you can
recognize the symptoms. Just poke your finger into the indented area
and, if it feels very soft and mushy and pushes in easily, the gourd
is of no value and should be discarded.
If you only have a few gourds to dry, one thing
that can be done is to hang them to cure. This can be done by tying
a string to the stem close to the gourd and then hanging them from a
sheltered beam or rafter somewhere and let them be. Make sure they
don't swing and bang into each other.
All of the above
statements will work for just about any type of gourd. But, when it
comes to birdhouse gourds, some people like to hang them to
dry. To do this, look at the neck of the gourd. Although not
always, many have a slight bend to them. Turn the gourd so the gourd
neck is bent "towards" you. Then drill a 1/4" hole thru the top of
the neck about 1 1/2 inches down and perpendicular to the bend, or
"from right to left" as you look at the gourd. Use this hole to pass
a wire through to hang them by. And, although I have read it is not
good practice, you can also use a sharpened 8 penny nail stuck in
the end of a dowel or an ice pick and poke 4 small holes in and
around the bottom of the gourd. Some feel it seems to aide in
drying. And beware, being 90% water, they will leak
considerably. Do not do this inside. The mess is not
pretty. Later, when they are fully cured and you're making
them into birdhouses, enlarge these holes with a drill for drainage
There really isn't any set rule as long as the
place selected to dry them has good air flow.
The above statements about drilling and poking holes are intended
for gourds to be used only as bird houses. If you're going to use
your gourds for ornamental purposes, don't drill any holes in them
to hang them to dry. As described above, leave the stem on so you
can tie a string on it and hang them that way or just simply leave
them on the vines to dry.
I don't want to
punch holes in my gourds. Will they still dry
Absolutely. Gourds have been drying by
themselves for eons. Just leave them right on the vines or, if
you've already cut them, put them up where they will get good
ventilation and leave them alone. Setting them on some cardboard
will help protect them. Check them every couple of days and watch
for rot. If there are any that begin to rot, discard
99% of all gourds that are
dried, do not get holes punched in them. The punching of holes may
not be viewed by gourd experts as 'the thing to do'. It works
for some, and they have the means to hang them. If in doubt, don't
poke holes in your gourds. They will dry just
My gourds are very green and heavy. How long
will it take them to dry?
If they are from the Lagenaria
family, they will take a long time to dry. These gourds are probably
90% water if they are harvested early and even under ideal
conditions, it could take them 3 months to fully dry. Patience is a
must. Check them about once a week to look for rotting gourds and if
any are found, discard them. They will gradually become lighter and
lighter. They will be fully dry when extremely light weight and the
seeds inside rattle when the gourd is shaken.
in the northern part of the country and don't have a warm place to
put my gourds while they are drying. How will I protect them from
Don't try! It won't hurt your gourds at all to
freeze. In fact, some say it's even better if they freeze every now
and then during drying. All it does is slow down the drying process.
Some northern growers are even known to leave them in the field
covered in snow.
Some of my gourds have mold all over
them. I wipe it off, but it still comes back. What's
Nothing. Curing gourds quite often get a mold on
the outside of their skins. It is just a part of the drying process.
No need to try and wipe it off, it will just return. It doesn't harm
the gourd anyway. In fact, the recessing mold seems to leave some
rather intricate patterns on the skin of the gourd, and from what I
can tell, it doesn't seem to hurt them at all. Below is a gourd that
has mold on it. When dry, this mold simply melds into the
One of my gourds
has a sinking spot on it. It feels very soft and spongy when I push
on it. What's wrong?
The gourd is rotting
and there is nothing you can do for it. Simply throw it out on the
mulch pile before it infects any of the other gourds. Often
when gourds are harvested early, they don't have a chance to receive
any hardening agent from the vine. These gourds won't have any
natural ability to counteract bacteria and thus, may rot. That
is one reason that gourds should be left right on the vine until
Below is a gourd that
has a rotting spot on it. Notice how the gourd side caves in where
the gourd is rotting.
I decided to punch
holes in the bottom of my gourds and hang them to dry. Now, there is
a lot of fluid dripping from the bottom of them. What's going on
Remember, birdhouse gourds (Lagenaria) are about
90% water when harvested green. For the first couple of days after
you punch holes in them, there is going to be a very large amount of
this fluid that will drain out of them. It can create quite a mess
if they are hung inside. It will stop after the initial water has
drained out. That's why, if you are going to dry your gourds this
way, that it be done outside where the dripping won't hurt
The only place I have to dry my gourds is in
the basement of my home. Will it hurt to put them down
If you only have a few, say 5 or 10, you might be
able to hang them from the joists, and they may do just fine. But,
if you have a large amount, I would be wary of putting them in the
basement. A couple of reasons. One, the ventilation in a basement is
not very good, and in order for gourds to dry properly, they need
good ventilation. Two, a large amount of drying gourds will create a
rather unpleasant odor, and I don't think you would want that odor
in your house. If you feel they have to be dried inside, then I
would find a friend with an open barn somewhere.
else you could do. If you have the space somewhere outside, place a
shipping pallet out in the open. Now place your gourds on this
pallet. This way, they will get full sunlight and plenty of air
circulation. If it rains, and you feel you must, you can simply
cover them with a plastic sheet or tarpaulin of some sort. When the
rain is gone, uncover them. And if you forget, not to worry, it's
not going to hurt them to get wet. In fact, the rain often
helps wash off a lot of the mud and debris from the
And don't put them on a pallet, cover them up and
leave them covered. All this will do is speed up the rotting process
and soon all you'll have is a pile of rotting gourds. Drying gourds
need ventilation to dry properly. And remember, cold doesn't bother
them either. Temperature is not a factor in the drying process
of gourds. Moving air is.
My wife is trying
to dry gourds in our garage in Wisconsin and several have started to
rot. Is there any way to prevent this?
A couple of things
One, No matter how hard you try and prevent it,
some gourds will always rot. It's just nature. This number depends
on the drying conditions and is usually around 5% or about 1 in 20.
These should be discarded immediately before they infect any of the
others. If that number seems about right, them leave them alone
where they are.
Two, If you have more than that
percentage, then they just aren't getting enough air and you have to
get them more ventilation. If you don't have any open windows
available, then you've got to move them outside. If available and
you feel it necessary, put them under an overhanging roof somewhere
out in the open where wind can get to them. If this is not
available, put them on an old shipping pallet (as shown above) out
in the open. They really need a lot of moving air. This is probably
the one major factor for drying gourds. Rain doesn't bother them,
cold doesn't bother them, but stale air does.
Although not always, some gourds will obtain a mold on the outsides.
Don't mistake this for rot. It is a natural part of the curing
process. Push on the gourd. If it is solid, then the gourd is only
molding. If it is soft and punky and 'caving in', then it is
rotting. The gourd is beyond any help and you need to discard
the term 'harden off'. What is meant by that?
As a gourd nears the
end of it's growing season, the plant secretes an enzyme that stops
growth and begins the drying cycle of the gourd. The materials
inside shrink drastically during the drying process and become the
outer wall of the gourd. This is known as 'hardening
off'. The outer skin solidifies and becomes very hard.
Gourds that are 'cured' on the vine are almost always much better
quality than gourds that are cut from the vine early. Yes,
gourds cut early will dry, but the final product is going to be a
little lower quality than if left to their own accord.
I have some gourds
that don't look like the ones you have in your pictures. I
want to dry and paint them. How do I do this?
To be honest, I'm not
into the artistic part of the gourd hobby. I'm more geared
towards the aspect of using them for housing for purple martins and
these are mainly 'bottleneck gourds'. There are many different
kinds of gourds, ranging from small and colorful ornamentals all the
way up to large kettles. Some will have long curvy necks, fat
necks and some will even look like water dippers with crooked
For answers to
questions about gourds other than 'bottleneck' gourds, you may want
to check with a few of the links shown on my main page. http://home.hiwaay.net/~yankee1/gordpage.htm
Many of those folks are happy to talk about their part of the gourd
hobby and you'll be able to get a much better answer for your
questions than if I were to make a stab at it.
Also, you may want to
check with the American Gourd Society. They are much more
diversified in their dealings with all different types of gourds and
can direct you to the proper place to get your answer.
The American Gourd
P.O. Box 274
Mt. Gilead, Ohio 43338-0274
Here's the link to The American Gourd
link that explains a few details for Drying Gourds
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comments or just say "Hi", please click on my mail box to send
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