This activity takes time and patience, but it will provide you with some wonderfully decorative garden objects. Prepare these gourds now and in 6 months you should have beautiful, light, dry, hard objects for future activities.
Gourds are like pumpkins or squash, but are often grown just for decoration. They have traditional cultural uses in regions as diverse as Costa Rica, Hawaii, Mexico and parts of Africa, China and South America. Researching gourds as cultural objects, used for bottles, bowls and instruments, would make a great rainy day activity. To grow your own gourds, try an online supplier such as The Diggers Club, which sells a mixed decorative gourd packet of seeds that includes Curcubita and Lagenaria gourds. The Cucurbita gourds will dry a lot more quickly than the Lagenaria gourds. Don’t rush the process.
Wait until the stems of your gourds are starting to shrivel, in autumn or winter, which means they are ready to harvest for this activity. But don’t wait until the frosts come if your area is prone – frost will completely ruin them for this activity. You’ll need to identify a warm spot outside, out of direct sunlight and protected from any possible rain, for the gourds to dry for a week, before you move them to a long-term site in the garden shed.
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What to do
1. Put gloves on to wash the gourds.
2. Half fill the buckets with water and add a good handful of soap flakes.
3. Wash the surfaces of the gourds with the soapy water and cloth.
4. Place them on a bench and allow them to air-dry.
5. Once dry, find an area out of direct sunshine and with good air flow, and place the gourds there for a week. They should be very dry and hard on the outside after a week, and may have changed colour.
6. Find a dark corner of your shed.
7. Tie a long piece of string to the remaining stem of each gourd.
8. Hang the gourds from a beam or hook, making sure they don’t touch each other.
9. Check your gourds every 2 days. If they look like they are rotting or going soft, compost them. If mould appears, an adult can wipe it with a cloth dipped in a little vinegar.
10. After about 6 months the gourds should feel hard on the outside and much lighter in weight. The seeds will rattle when you shake them.
11. Now they are ready to be decorated or turned into instruments or birdhouses.