Dried gourds

Summer is zooming on and this year’s gourds will no doubt be swelling up nicely in your gardens, especially with all the rain we’ve had around the country!  If you have a stash of dried gourds from past year waiting to use, this could be the time to get them out and start your creative project!

Dried gourds are often a bit scabby-looking and covered in old dried mould. To clean this off, you can immerse them  in water to soften the epidermis, then scrub the mould off gently with a goldilocks. The mould will leave stains on the surface of the gourd, but that does make beautiful and  interesting patterns. If your gourds are fresh ones from this season, you need to leave them to dry until the seeds are rattling around inside.

To open the gourds and clean the inside, first work out where you want to cut the gourd, draw around it and  use a small fret-saw to cut the opening. You can scrape out the dried seeds from inside, and put these aside for the next growing season. Clean up the inside of each gourd with sand paper or whatever other abrasive you wish to use to get the finish you want. If you only have a tiny opening, use gravel and water to clean your gourd out, followed by sand and water, then a bottle-brush.

To seal the gourd you can either rub oil into it or if you prefer, you can use varnish. Rubbing shoe polish onto the gourd and polishing it creates a nice colour and also a soft shine if that’s what you are looking for.

Gourds can be decorated by burning using a poker-work machine, but you have to be careful not to burn right through! Dried gourds have a woody texture a bit like polystyrene, so they are tricky to carve, but the surface can be incised or etched with a sharp tool.

Some of the gourds might have a very thin shell if they haven’t had a long enough time to grow. These ones will be very fragile, so extra care will be needed to cut and clean them.

Good luck with your growing and with your creations!


Planting time

Those great big gourds grown over last summer are almost all dry now with the seeds rattling around inside. So that was four months of drying time. Soon I will clean them up and then decide what to do with them!

Gourds need a really long growing season to build up a nice thick shell. Ideally, your plants can go out into the ground now, but Its not too late to plant gourd seeds for the summer. I’ve just put 12 seeds into water to soak for a day. Tomorrow I will put them between damp paper-towels in the hot water cupboard to hasten the sprouting.

Harvest time

Finally the first frosts hit Whanganui and those massive gourds were picked and put aside for drying. I’m guessing it will take 6 or more months for them to dry out completely, and then they will be ready to make into interesting containers. Last years gourds are waiting for transformation into things of usefulness or beauty…or both. We are planning workshops at Whanganui Regional Museum to create lanterns and musical instruments.


Autumn harvest is drawing near

Where did those last 6 months go? Its been a long hot dry summer here in Whanganui. Anyone who has managed to get a good crop of gourds has done well. We’ve got a few beauties waiting to be picked. The vines are still growing and flowering, because the summery weather has stretched out into May. These gourds are massive, so they will take months to dry when the time comes to pick them.

3 gourdsgourd 1

Late Frost

It was a freezing cold morning here in Whanganui today, with frost in sheltered places. Not good weather for a gourd plant to be outside in, but a lovely sunny day will follow.  If you have already planted your seedlings out into the garden, check to see if they survived that cold snap. There won’t be much plant growth going on just yet. Gourds like the temperature to be around 20 degrees, and then they will shoot away.

Frost has its uses. It kills off the little pests waiting to attack your garden.

Seed-planting time

It’s been a cold Spring here in Whanganui, but the frosts are well and truly over. it’s not too late to plant a crop of gourd seeds or the summer. In fact, the seeds like a bit more warmth to germinate, so they sprout much better if you can start them off in a warm spot, such as a greenhouse. The hot-water cupboard will do just to get germination underway, but you need to get the shoots into soil and out into the sunshine.

Gourd seeds are available at Whanganui Regional Museum. Just call in any day between 10.00am and 4.30 pm. You can pick up a packet for just $2. If you are further away, you can email info@wrm.org.nz and ask for some to be sent to you.

In the Grip of Winter

Another frost blankets the ground in Whanganui this morning. By now, all the gourds grown over the last season should be harvested and stored in an airy place, where they can gradually turn from green to brown and dry. Sunshine will help the moisture inside each gourd to evaporate.

dead vines

Dead vines with ripe gourds

ripe fruit and dead vines

Ripe gourds ready to pick

Because drying gourds are exuding moisture, they can develop thick moulds. These can be wiped off with bleach or with methylated spirits, or the mould can be left to grow. It will form interesting patterns on the surface of the gourd that can be enhanced and polished when the gourd is fully dried.

first cleaned gourd of 2015

Cleaned gourd

Now is the time to pull out the dried gourd vines from the garden and compost them. Clear away any weeds, add manure or compost to the ground to replenish nutrients used over the growing season, then cover the bare earth with a thick layer of mulch to prevent any weeds growing. This will ensure your garden is ready to replant in spring.

Summer Gourd Growth

Summer has finally arrived here in Whanganui, and the days are warm and dry. Gourds like a temperature of 20 degrees C to germinate, so any gourd seeds or seedlings that have sat and sulked in their pots should be growing happily now.  When your plants are in the ground, keep the seedlings watered until they are well established. They will flourish well in the warm weather, but keep an eye out for drooping leaves. If no rain arrives, the plants will need watering.

The vines will naturally try to climb and ramble. They are ideal for covering any messy corners of the garden, up old dead trees, or up a trellis if you have one.

Rampant vines 2, 2015Ramant vines 2015

Gorgeous gourds

We have had well over 1,000 people take part in the Whanganui Gourd Project so far. Last summer, some gardeners had trouble growing hue(gourds),  while others had amazing results. Keith Street School in Whanganui  successfully grew and dried their gourds then created some very beautiful taonga. What is especially lovely is the way the detailed patterns created by the children complement  the natural patterns caused by mould during the drying process.

Keith Street School hue whakairo

Hue decorated by Keith Street School, on display at Whanganui Regional Museum

lovely hue

Beautiful taonga created by kids from Keith Street School

Some of the school-groups visiting the Museum exhibition A Conversation With Hine-Pu-Te Hue have created decorated paper-mache taha inspired by the taonga in the exhibition and around the Museum.

paper-clay taha

Papier-mache taha created by children from Wanganui Intermediate School

These beautiful taonga created by children are on display in Whanganui Regional Museum for just this week, so if you are in the area, drop in and admire their artwork. While you are here, you may want to pick up a hue plant  or a packet of seeds.


Planting time is here

Springtime is bringing rain sun wind rain sun wind as usual to Whanganui, with a few hail-storms thrown in here and there. It’s really time to get those young gourd plants out into the garden. We still have plenty of seeds here at Whanganui Regional Museum, so come in any time (10am-4.30pm) to pick up a packet (including a handy information pamphlet) from one of our friendly visitor services staff…that’s Jilly holding the seed packet. If you don’t have time to grow the seeds, we have some beautiful healthy young plants here too. They are a good size and ready to go in the ground. Then cross your fingers and toes that we don’t get any more hailstorms.