Kathleen Cox, Master Gardeners
If you grew or purchased gourds this year, there are many things you can do with them. Simple objects like bird houses or feeders are popular and fun, but if you like an artistic project, you can carve and decorate them elaborately. Examples of decorated gourds are online and in locally available books. When the gourd is dry enough to hear seeds rattle when it’s shaken, it is ready to work. To prepare for decorating, remove the epidermis (skin). Soak the gourd several hours in warm, soapy water. Weight it down with a wet towel to keep it under water. When you can scrape the epidermis easily with a fingernail, it is soft enough to work. Remove the skin carefully with a dull kitchen knife, a craft knife, or a plastic scrubby. Let it dry completely.
Sand the gourd with sanding sponges, sandpaper or an electric sander, being careful not to gouge or scratch it. Remove sanding grit with tack cloth or a damp towel. Air dry it completely.
The gourd is now woody and can be waxed or painted as you would any wood object. Johnson’s Floor Wax from a can and craft paints are popular, but many wood stains and paints work well. If you wish to use a gourd outside, exterior paint is a good choice. If painting the gourd a single color, try spray paint. Protect it with a coat of polyurethane. Many projects for containers or carving require cutting into the gourd. The inside contains fibrous material, dust and mold. Wear a mask and gloves. For simple lids, a coping saw or hack saw works well. Perfect holes for a birdhouse are achieved using a hole cutter drill bit. For most birds, a hole an inch and a quarter is best.
Once you are inside the gourd, clean it out, keeping the mask and gloves on. Save the seeds. Remove the fibrous material. Use spoons, knives, skewers, or stiff brushes. If you plan to use the gourd to hold food, you may like finishing it with paraffin. Otherwise, wrap food in a towel to protect it while keeping warm.
Whether you simply paint or stain gourds or become a gourd artist, enjoy their enchanting shapes and variety.
For more information you may call the AgriLife office at 498-4071 in Odessa or 686-4700 in Midland.