birdhouse squash

when do I pick birdhouse squash for drying? the leaves are all dead from a light frost but the stems are still green where attached to the squash. and how do I dry them for birdhouses? I also have decorative gourds still on the vine. I have had trouble with them rotting after picking them.

Submitted by cherylree1

Hi, Well the best way to harvest birdhouse gourds is to leave them on the vine until the stem attached to the fruit is dry. Because you live pretty far north, some of your fruits may not be fully mature and will never dry well, but if you started your plants outdoors early, I'm sure some of your gourds will be fine. The only way to keep them from rotting, however, is to let them dry on the vine (the frost that killed the foliage should move the drying process along). Then, when the stems have turned brown, cut them off the vine, leaving a little stem, wash the surface with a little soapy water, and then move them to an airy, dry, dark location to cure. An old wooden pallet or screen door make good drying racks because they allow air circulation around the fruit. Now, the trick here is not to leave them in the garden if a hard freeze is coming. You may have to pick them before they completely mature and try your best at saving them. But, until a hard freeze is forecast, I'd leave them on the vine. Check your gourds every few days for rot and toss those that begin to soften. With large gourds such as birdhouse types, it can take up to 6 months for them to dry completely. Eventually, these large gourds will turn color and you'll be able to hear the seeds rattling around inside. At that time they are ready to be emptied if you want to make birdhouses out of them. Smaller colorful gourds can be used right away for home decor, but they will probably rot eventually unless you coat them with a light coat of varnish. Again, in your short season climate you may have a bit more trouble getting the larger gourds to completely mature before frost, but it's worth a try.

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