I’m pleased to publish Life on the Balcony’s second guest post, written by Janet Luke. Janet is a Landscape Architect who has a Masters degree, with Honors, in Environmental and Resource Planning. She has a passion for sustainable design, edible landscaping and permaculture. Her website–Green Urban Living–is inspiring many urbanites to grow their own food, keep livestock and live a more sustainable lifestyle, whilst having fun doing it!.
* * * * *
Growing birdhouse gourds and then making a birdhouse is a great outdoor project to do with the kids. They grow during summer, cure in Autumn and are ready to make into birdhouses in winter. They provide an inside activity for kids when it is too wet and cold outside. Gourds come from the same family as pumpkins and squashes and you can buy seeds at most garden centres. [Fern: Botanical Interests carries birdhouse gourd seeds as well]
Planting the Seeds
These plants are easy to grow. Remember all those pumpkin seedlings that germinate in your worm farm or compost, well gourds, being closely related, are just as easy. Plant three seeds in a large pot. As the plants grow train them along a balcony railing or let them sprawl along the ground. If they are growing along a railing you will need to support the developing fruit in some sort of sling. Try a small hammock or granny’s F cup bras!!! Birdhouse gourds like well-drained, enriched soil. You can get clever and try growing strange shaped gourds. As the gourd is growing place it in a small wooden box, as the gourd grows it will take on the internal shape of the container!
Harvesting the Gourds
Gourds are ready to be harvested when the stalk becomes dry. Cut each gourd with at least 5cm of stalk attached. Handle carefully as they bruise easily at this stage. Wipe off any moisture and keep them in a cool and airy place to dry for around 3 months. Make sure the gourds are not touching each other to allow for plenty of air circulation. If mold appears just wipe it off with a damp cloth soaked in bleach. If any of the gourds start to rot – toss into the compost pile or worm farm.
Make a Birdhouse
During the curing process, the gourds change colour and each takes on it’s own particular hue of brown. Bottles that are fully cured, will be light-weight, rattle when shaken and hard. I found that the little ones cured quickly, large one can take up to six months.
Rub gourds with a medium grade sandpaper. Wear a dust mask as any mold may be toxic. Using a small hole-saw drill a 3-5cm hole in the middle of the gourd to provide a front door for the bird. Under this entry hole drill a small hole to fit a piece of branch or bamboo as a perch. I thread the perch right through the gourd and out a small exit hole to make the perch really stable. Sometimes you need a spot of glue to anchor it. Experiment with entrance hole sizes for birds found in your community. From experience it seems best to go too small than too large.
A few small holes will need to be drilled on the under side of the gourd for drainage as well as two holes on either side at the very top of the neck. Those last two holes will be for threading a wire through so that you can hang the birdhouse outside. Remove all seeds and pulp from inside the gourd. If you have trouble reaching some, put some small stones or gravel inside and shake to release seeds and pulp. You can also varnish the outside of the gourds before you hang them to make them last longer. Alternatively paint them to match your house colours.
Be sure to place your birdhouse high in trees, protected from the weather and away from climbing cats!
* * * * *
Don’t forget about the container gardening seeds collection contest!