Decorating with Gourds: How to Dry a Gourd

My Garden Life
October 23, 2017
Table of Contents

Most vegetable garden harvests are eaten, but drying gourds is a great way to preserve your homegrown harvests for a beautiful long-term display. Express your unique sense of style and creativity by drying gourds from the garden for decoration. This step-by-step tutorial explains how to prepare gourds for painting, staining, decoupaging, wood burning or other forms of embellishment.

Curing & Harvesting

  • Allow the gourd stems to turn brown and the vines to die back after the first light frost before harvesting them. Ideally, a gourd should cure on the vine for at least two weeks after the first frost kills the leaves.
  • When the gourds are cured and ready to harvest, cut each stem a couple inches (5 centimeters) above the fruit. Handle the gourds gently and protect the skin from damage, which may cause the gourd to rot during the drying phase.
  • Mix together a bleach solution (one part bleach to ten parts water) and use it to carefully wash the dirt from the surface of the gourds. Now that your gourds are cured and harvested, they are ready for the drying phase.


  • Arrange your gourds in a well-ventilated, cool area to dry. One option is to tie twine around each stem and hang the gourds. Alternatively, lay your gourds on a pallet to dry.
  • It will take anywhere from a few weeks to six months for gourds to dry, depending on their type. You don’t need to know which type of gourd you have and how long it will take to dry, but you should check your gourds every few weeks and immediately discard any that start to rot.
  • You’ll know the gourds are completely dry when you shake them and the seeds rattle around inside. The gourd will feel light and the surface will be hard. The next step after drying is to clean the gourd’s surface.

Pro Tip: If you notice mold on the surface of the gourds, feel free to wipe it away with 10% bleach solution, but it’s not necessary.

Cleaning & Prepping for Decoration

We recommend you wear a face mask during this phase.

  • Set each gourd in a basin filled with a little water and use an abrasive plastic scrubbing pad, not steel wool, to remove any mold from the surface.
  • Allow the freshly cleaned gourds time to air dry, then lightly sand the surface with 100 grit sandpaper. Sanding provides a smooth and even surface that is easier to decorate. I
  • f you plan on painting your gourds, then apply a layer of either a latex or oil-based primer paint now.

Pro Tip: Gourds intended for outdoor display should be finished with a final layer of high quality clear polyurethane. Cover colorful painted gourds with a UV-protection sealer to stop the vivid colors from fading in the sun.

Once your gourd is decorated, decide whether to use it as a centerpiece on a table, display it on your mantel or gift it to a friend or family member. We’d love to see how your gourds turn out! Share your gourd drying success tips in the comments below or post a picture of your decorated gourds for all of us to appreciate on the My Garden Life Facebook page.

Woman Crafting with a Dry Gourd, Basket of Dried Gourds


  1. joanna

    if the end starts to rot? (go soft and brown after a week) will it dry or do i have to discard them?

    • My Garden Life

      Hi Joanna,
      Usually if a gourd starts to get mushy that’s a sign of rot and it will continue unless the rotted area is removed and the gourd is placed under ideal conditions for drying. That means either hanging the gourd or placing it on a surface that allows full air circulation such as a wire rack or pallet and in an area that gets optimum air circulation – which doesn’t mean a basement, cellar, or dark corner of a garage. It’s best to dry gourds outdoors. This still may not be enough to salvage the gourd now that rot has set in, but you could give it a try. We found some very detailed information on drying gourds that you might find helpful at Chuck’s Purple Martin Page. Click HERE to see his tips on drying gourds and he also has additional information on growing and storing gourds.

  2. Deborah K Kreinbrink

    I love all the things I read in this article. I wanted to try drying gourds to hang outside for bird houses. So after using the gourds for fall decorations I put them in the garage to try to dry them. And to my surprise they dried beautifully. I was so excited. Then I sanded them and stained them and just used polyurethane spray on them. But now I’ve learned the proper way and I will try this next year. Thank you!😊

    • My Garden Life

      Hi Deborah,
      We’re happy you discovered some new tips for drying your gourds. Turning gourds into bird houses is a fun project that’s sure to be appreciated by your feathered friends when they’re seeking nesting sites!


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