June 4, 2016
A friend gave me some seeds for gourds for birds’ nests. I planted them and they're a few feet tall now and probably need fertilizer. What type should I use and how often should I apply it? Is this vine an annual or will it come back on its own next year. If I do get gourds, how do I treat them to make bird nests?
I assume you are referring to birdhouse gourds, the ones that grow ten to twelve inches long and taper at the one end to hang. They should have been fertilized at planting with a complete fertilizer (something with all three numbers like 10-10-10 and again six to eight weeks into the growing season. Too much nitrogen will encourage rapid vine growth and can deter fruit set. To get the prettiest shape, you may want to grow them on a trellis so the gourds will hang down straight. The fruits should mature in the fall, and the outer shell will become hard. When harvesting, be sure to leave an inch or two of stem attached. Cure the gourds for a few days after harvesting in the shade. Wash dirty fruits and rinse in a weak Clorox solution before final drying. Hang them on wires until completely dry in a warm, dry area. Then make them into a birdhouse. They are an annual vine, so save some seeds if you wish to replant next season.