Curing gourds for craft purposes is easy. Some gardeners have found success with curing gourds by just leaving them on the vines through winter, but results can be variable. To pick your gourds for drying, as soon as the vines are dead and the gourds’ skin has begun to turn an ivory color, cut them from the vine, leaving 2”–3” of stem attached to the fruit. Don’t try to save any gourds that have cracked or broken skin, since they will eventually rot. Keep gourds in a cool, well-ventilated place. Bring indoors as a last resort, as curing gourds often develop a strong smell. Clean off any soil from the surface, and wipe the gourds with a mild bleach solution (1 oz. bleach to 2 quarts water). Store them on a wire mesh, not touching each other, out of direct sunlight. It can take up to 6 months to completely dry inside. When gourds are finished drying, they will feel much lighter, the seeds will rattle around inside, and the outer skin will peel away to reveal a brown or tan shell.
Once cured, hard-shelled gourds have a thin, hard, waterproof shell, which is treated just like wood (carved, cut, and/or painted). They grow in many sizes and shapes and thus have endless uses and last indefinitely.
For our project, we chose the spinning gourd, since it is the perfect size for a tree ornament.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- Cured spinning gourds
- Fine sandpaper
- Very fine drill or burr
- Wood burner
- Face mask
- Use the sandpaper to remove blemishes and areas of discoloration.
- Use the drill or burr to pierce a hole in the stem of the gourd. This is a delicate area of the gourd so you need to be sure to use something sharp. Do this before decorating, as it is possible to crack the gourd during this process.
- Heat up your wood burner according to instructions. Put on your face mask, and start burning patterns and shapes into your gourd. You may find it useful to draw shapes with a pencil onto your gourd prior to burning.
- If you decide to paint your gourd, be sure to do so after burning, as burning paint could produce harmful fumes and dust.
- Tie a piece of twine through the hole in your gourd and display.
We’d love to see how creative you get! Hashtag your creations with #botanicalinterests.