|Harvest Gourds Now for Fall Projects and Decoration|
by Brenda Wood
Ornamental gourds are small and very colorful, and are familiar reminders of autumn. Hardshell gourds, on the other hand, aren’t quite as colorful, and may be light to dark green when harvested. As they cure and dry they can become moldy as the outer skin sloughs off. Because of their hard shell, gourds are very versatile and have been used for utility (birdhouses, bowls, vessels and canteens) since civilizations have existed.
If you have gourds growing in your garden right now, you might be wondering if they are ready to be picked. Gourds can be harvested beginning in August through October when the fruit is mature, and only when the vines and stems begin to turn brown. It is very important not to pick the gourds until the stem has turned brown to prevent premature rotting. Once picked, the gourds can be stored in a storage shed or barn with good ventilation and allowed to dry. They can also be left in the field to dry. It is not recommended to bring gourds into your house to dry because the mold that develops can be introduced into your home ventilation system.
Once gourds are dry the mold can be easily washed off with warm soapy water (or water and bleach) with a metal scrub pad. It is best to remove the mold in a wet manner to prevent inhalation of the mold. It is definitely not recommended to sand the mold off with a power tool. Once the gourds are dry and clean, let the fun begin...
Recently, gourds have been rediscovered and used for artistic creations such as bowls, vases, birdhouses, baskets, musical instruments, figures and Christmas decorations. Techniques include painting, staining, dyeing,
carving, partial-carving, wood-burning (pyrography), and any combination of those. In 2000, the Alabama Gourd Society (ALGS) was formed because of interest in gourd craft/art/growing in the state.
There are many states with gourd societies, all of which are granted charters by the American Gourd Society (http://www.americangourdsociety.org). There are also many useful books dedicated to Gourd Craft which can be purchased on-line at http://www.amazon.com.
The Alabama Gourd Society has over 100 members throughout the state and from other states as well. The ALGS holds their meetings in Cullman, but there are three active groups or "Patches" that meet in Auburn, Huntsville and Baldwin Counties. There is also interest in forming Patches in the Covington County/Opp and Birmingham areas. You can visit the ALGS website for contact information: http://www.alabamagourdsociety.org.
In the fall, ALGS holds its Annual Gourd Festival in Cullman. This is what "gourd-heads" look forward to all year long. You can find dried and crafted gourds in every size and shape. Shop the beautiful vendor booths featuring amazing arts and crafts made from gourds, tour the ribbon competition exhibit hall or take a gourd art crafting class to make your very own hand-crafted gourd. Watch artists do free demonstrations of their crafts, and enjoy food and live entertainment. This year a gourd banjo player will be featured among the many musical talents.
The Festival is usually held the third weekend in October in Cullman at the Cullman Civic Center. The dates for the 2005 Festival are October 15-16. The ALGS members really do an outstanding job of bringing together many wonderful gourd artists and show-casing the many aspects of gourding all under one roof.
For more information about the Festival, gourd art crafting, class registration or the wonderful world of gourds, please visit http://www.alabamagourdsociety.org.