Ornamental gourds or Cucurbita lagenaria are ideal for creating prime real estate for winged wildlife. These plants require a long growing season of between 125 and 150 days of warm weather. So start your birdhouse gourds indoors about four weeks before the last predicted frost in your area. Plant them where they can access something to climb on, such as a fence or sturdy trellis. This will keep them off the ground and prevent them from flattening on one side.
Soak your birdhouse gourd seeds in water for 24 hours. Use a toothpick to poke three or four holes in the bottom of an unwaxed paper cup and fill it with seed- starting mix. Set the cup in a shallow pan of warm water until the soil surface feels moist. Remove it from the water and allow it to drain for about two hours.
Plant two birdhouse gourd seeds 1/2 inch deep and about 1 inch apart. Water just enough to evenly moisten the surface soil. Place the pot in a warm, bright spot out of direct sun. The top of your refrigerator or above a hot water heater is an ideal location. Your seeds will sprout in 7 to 14 days.
Move seedlings to a warm, bright windowsill when they sprout. Water them just enough to keep the soil evenly moist. Don't allow them to dry out. Cut the weakest of the two seedlings off at the soil line when they're about 2 inches tall.
Cultivate the sunny, well-draining planting site to a depth of about 6 to 8 inches. Work in a generous amount of well-rotted manure or compost. Soil composed of up to 25 percent humus will provide well for these heavy feeders. Ideal pH is about 6.5 to 7.0.
Plant the birdhouse gourds at the same depth that they occupied in their growing containers when soil warms up to 65 degrees F. You can leave them in the paper cups, which will disintegrate in the soil. Space them about 2 to 3 feet apart. Water the planting area slowly and thoroughly to evenly moisten the soil. It shouldn't be soggy or wet.
Feed an all-purpose 5-10-10 fertilizer at planting time. Follow the packaging instructions carefully.
Water your gourds once weekly throughout the growing season if you have little rainfall. These plants should be kept evenly moist, but not soggy or wet. Stop watering in late August to encourage the fruits to set and mature.