Virtues: The birdhouse gourd is an easy-to-grow vine that produces its namesake fruit on long vines. Growing one is a fun summer project.
Common name: Birdhouse gourd, calabash, bottle gourd
Botanical name: Lagenaria siceraria
Exposure: Full sun
Season: Plant in spring, harvest in fall. Figure about 140 days from sowing seeds to harvesting gourds.
Flowers/fruit: White squash-type flowers give way to light green, rounded fruits with narrow waists. One vine can produce 12 gourds.
Foliage: Large, medium green leaves line the vines. These can obscure the fruits, so look carefully.
Habit: Birdhouse gourd is an annual vine that can grow up to 30 feet.
How to grow a birdhouse gourd: Sow seeds outside after any danger of frost, or indoors up to 8 weeks before the typical last frost date. Plant the large, flat seeds about an inch deep. If you’re starting indoors, it can be helpful to use biodegradable containers that can be planted with the seedling outside, because gourd vines can be touchy about being transplanted. These gourd vines grow best on a low (about six-inch-high) mound of soil with gently sloped sides. If you are growing multiple vines, plan to grow three vines per mound, with mounds spaced about six feet apart. Feed at planting time and again after about a month. Keep the soil evenly moist, but not wet. Reduce watering in late summer, and cease watering in the fall. To conserve space and avoid flat spots on your birdhouse gourd, train the vines up a trellis or fence. Leave the gourds on the vine until after the first frost, then harvest them, handling them gently, and put them in a cool, well-ventilated indoor space to cure. This can take three months. If mold begins to appear, wipe it off with a mild bleach solution. When the seeds can be heard rattling inside, the gourd is fully dried. Then it can be used for crafts.
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