|Cheryl holding the
bounty from her Fall Crop of Gourds.
These two were harvested in November of 2001.
|The same gourds shown two
months after harvest in the "Drying" stage. Notice how they form circles of
brown and white mold.They are about half the weight now, as they begin to dry from the
The same gourds shown in
the 3rd month after harvest in the "Drying" stage. They are ready for the
Check back to see the
I remember from childhood...
the long neck gourds that my grandmother used to grow down beside the chicken house.
Granny would paint them gold and use them as centerpieces on the table during the
It wasn't until recently that I discovered gourds as
beautiful works of art. Then the research began...
Gourds come in all shapes and sizes and can be
treated much like wood. They can be cut, drilled, carved, woodburned, painted, sanded,
stained or finished like wood. My favorite book so far on gourds is "The
Complete Book of Gourd Craft" by Summit and Widers.
I purchased my first gourds on eBay. The largest one
was 22" tall. The shell was 3/8" thick and had to be cut with a jigsaw. The
cleaning process took several hours.
GROWING YOUR OWN GOURDS IN
A SMALL HOME GARDEN:
|This is my summer harvest of gourds.
||The small gourd on the right is the summer gourd
after being dried.
The larger gourd on the left is from
the fall crop.
I retrieved an abundant supply of seeds
from these gourds and tried my hand at gourd gardening in the sandy soil of Florida. I
started sprouting the seeds indoors in February. They quickly grew into 10" tall
seedlings which seemed to be begging to be transplanted. By the first week in March I set
them outside, only to discover that frost still occurs in March in N.W, Florida. So, I
covered them with every plastic bucket I could find and they survived the frost.
The vines seemed to grow about 6" per day. Many
blooms appeared, but only a few gourds developed. Some turned yellow and quickly rotted.
(I think in my desire to be a successful gourd farmer that I over watered them!) The
entire summer gourd crop yielded about a half a dozen gourds. The largest is pictured
above. I had tossed a few more gourd seeds into the garden later in the spring between the
tomatoes and squash, hoping some would grow along the fence. The tomatoes were abundant as
usual- but no sign of any gourds could be seen, so I basically forgot about them. One day
in September, after most of the garden was dead and gone- except for the weeds, my husband
told me to look at what was hanging on the fence. To my suprise there were two beautiful
gourds (pictured above) that had survived and flourished without any help from me!!! I
think everyone should try their hand at both growing and decorating gourds. If I can grow 2 beauties like these in a 6' area along a chain link fence
without even caring for them, or knowing they were there...
then anyone can do it! The secret is to plant them in late spring like you would
pumpkins; put a little lime in the soil (which I didn't do, but was told by a professional
gourd grower at a later date); water them well when they are first planted; then leave
them alone until harvest! Do not pick them until the vines die. They do mold and stink
while they are drying, so put them somewhere out of the weather to complete the drying
process over the winter. Some people wipe them regularly with a bleach water solution to
keep down the mold and smell. The book mentioned above has alot of information that will
benefit you if you decide to tackle the project in a more professional manner.
|A fully-dried gourd, complete with
"personality" and MOLD!
believe that this basket once looked like the gourd on the left? I made the
cardinals from polymer clay. See this basket on my "Gourd Basket" page. I will even tell you how I made it!
HOW TO CLEAN A DRIED GOURD:
Be sure to wear old clothes and be prepared to spend several
hours to do a good job. If you are just going to paint on the gourd this will be a piece
of cake... If your gourd has black mold on it, you can scrub it with a bleach water
solution and let dry. Then use a fine grit sandpaper and sand any blemishes away until you
get a smooth surface. Prep it with a sealer like you would use before tole painting on
wood. Prepare your design and paint or woodburn as desired. Finish with a clear gloss or
satin finish to protect it.
To make a basket requires the hard
work. Design your basket and mark the cutting line with a pencil or chalk. If you
have a thick shelled gourd, you will need a hand saw or jigsaw. A thin shelled gourd can
be cut with a knife. If you cut the narrow end of a bottleneck gourd off, you will need a
wooden dowel or something long enough to reach inside the gourd to remove the pulp and
seeds. The smell to most dried gourds is absolutely awful and most people would suggest a
mask to avoid the fumes. If you cut a basketball or tobacco box type of gourd there will
be plenty of room to get your hand inside of it with an old spoon to clean it. Discard the
pulp (some people have used the pulp to make hand made paper...my husband is thankful that
I haven't added that craft to my list of 55 others!) and keep the seeds for planting or
NOW FOR THE FUN PART - CREATING
YOUR WORK OF ART:
My grandmother had saved 3 of the long neck
gourds from her crops of 30 years ago and was delighted to pass them on when she heard of
my new craft adventures. The gold paint had faded from years of storage, but I was
determined to make them into beautiful heirlooms. After all, they already qualified as
antiques! So, I eagerly set out to hand sand each one to discover their hidden beauty.
Underneath that gold paint was a shell that looked like an exotic spalted wood. Small
amounts of the gold paint remained in the low spots of the gourd shell which added
shimmering highlights of beauty. (It was so amazing that I have tried to duplicate the
technique by painting new gourds with gold spray paint and then sanding the surface.
Nothing quite compares to Granny's antique gourds though!)
I lightly covered the gourd with Cherry wood stain and finished the gourd with several
coats of gloss finish. Then embellished them with philodendron sheaths, feathers, copper
wire and beads. These are among my favorite ones of all. Some gourds I leave natural, some
have shoe polish for a lighter shade of brown and some have walnut stain for a darker
finish. Look at the different baskets I have pictured and use your imagination to create
your own works of art. I hope this page will inspire you to be creative.
NOW LETS MAKE A "HANGING GOURD PLANTER":
Try to locate a Bottleneck Gourd about 12-18" tall.
Tools needed for projects:
handsaw, pliers, skewer, craft wire and wood stain or shoe polish.
Using a hand saw, cut the top off as
shown in the photo. Clean the gourd by scraping out the dried pulp and seed. Some gourds
have a terrible odor, so you may want to wear a mask. Cutting the gourd at the neck leaves
an opening too small for your hand, so I used a wooden dowel to scrape the sides of the
gourd to remove the pulp and seed. Discard the pulp and save the seed to plant. Set the
bottom of the gourd aside to make a basket out of at a later time. We are going to use the
top to make a planter. Use a fine grit sandpaper to sand the outside surface to a smooth
finish. Now you should decide if you want to leave your gourd natural or stain it. You can
use shoe polish, wood stain or leather dye to add color to it. I used a "Walnut"
wood stain on the ones in the photo. Spray with clear gloss and let dry. Now drill 2 holes
a little larger than the diameter of the craft wire in each side. Start on the left side
and attach the craft wire through the hole. Now decide how many loops and what size you
want to make yours. Wrap the wire
around different size objects to make the loops. You
can use a shishkabob or small paintbrush handle to wrap the smaller loops and a pencil for the larger ones. Place beads on the wire in
between the loops at various points. As you go across the top of the gourd, make a loop
for hanging, then continue your pattern down to the other hole. Now you can continue the
wire and beads around the front of your gourd or go down the side of your gourd. I have
both styles pictured below. Use your
imagination and have lots of fun. You can fill
your planter with artificial ivy and hang indoors to enjoy. If you want to use real ivy,
you will need to put a small, narrow, plastic or glass container inside the gourd. I like
to embellish them with objects made from polymer clay, like the tree frog shown. Check out
Joshua's polymer clay projects page for
|Planter with polymer clay
||Planter with polymer clay
||Planter with wire and beads
Click on images to
Click here to see more "GOURD BASKETS"