Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The birdhouse gourd adventure

A 3-year old birdhouse gourd sprouts in the compost.
Three years ago I thought it would be fun to grow a birdhouse gourd vine. They are not really edible so I'm not sure what my original motivation was. One of the vines did extremely well, scrambled into some nearby tree branches and grew to about twenty feet high with numerous gourds hanging from the tree like Christmas tree ornaments.

Some of the gourds ended up in the compost and sprouted just like this one. I was on my book tour (for Sustainable Gardening for Florida) and was a vendor for several gardenfests. The timing was right for two of them and I'd potted all the seedlings into 4" pots and gave them away to kids. I'd kept one gourd as the sample so they could see what they'd get. When the seedlings were gone, I stuck the sample gourd into some branches of a shrub in a thicket. I thought some bird would break into it and build a nest, but that didn't happen. Last winter, I put it onto the compost pile.

Last week I saw that the seeds were still quite viable and had sprouted in the compost again.

The new spot for the gourds at the edge of the cleared area.
I've been working on getting some beds done in time for some fall pumpkins. (More on this later.) I did not wish to provide any room in my regular beds for the gourds, but I had a spot at the edge of the clearing that I could use for them.

I'd saved out a bunch of dead leaves from various gardening activities. I've been using them as a water-retention layer at the base of the beds I've been building. I had some leftover leaves. I dumped two wheel barrel loads of leaves for the gourds. (I'll use the rest of the leaves for building a new compost pile.)

I dumped a load of finished compost on top of the leaves and fashioned a squash mound with a center swale. I planted the best-looking seedlings around the the edge of the mound and broke up the rind and the less mature seedlings and placed them in the center of the swale. After all that, I watered the whole mound and especially soaked the center. I will not use too many resources--water and otherwise--to grow the gourds, but if they do grow as successfully as the one vine three years ago, I will make a purple martin apartment house and install it down by the lake. Maybe inviting more purple martins into the yard will reduce the mosquito population.

Top view of the planted seedlings with the rind and the less mature seedlings in the center of the squash mound swale.

I will keep you updated on my gourds, pumpkins, birdhouses, and more.

Green gardening matters,
Ginny Stibolt

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