Crafters and gardeners spend hours converting dried gourds into bird houses, art projects and seasonal decorations, but all that hard work goes down the drain if the gourds weren't cured properly. Without adequate drying time, gourds inevitably rot, their gently curving, intricately decorated sides softening and developing foul odors as they decompose. Avoid this common pitfall of gourd decorating by using proper drying procedures for each of the three main types of gourds, which include ornamental gourds (Cucurbita varieties), utility gourds (Lagenaria varieties) and sponge gourds (Luffa varieties).
Ornamental and Utility Gourds
Harvest your gourds when they are fully ripe. Check the gourd vines to ensure that they're dead and withered, a sign of a heavy frost. Press the surface of the gourds to make sure their skin is firm. Snip each gourd from the dead vine with a pair of utility shears, leaving at least 2 inches of stem.
Check your gourds for signs of imperfections. Discard any gourds that are not fully ripe or have bruises or large cuts. Fill a bucket with a cleaning solution that contains 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Wash each gourd carefully with a sponge and the cleaning solution. Dry with a towel.
Spread old newspaper (at least three layers) across a table in a dry, warm area of your home. Lay the gourds flat on the newspaper, keeping them slightly apart so they don't touch. Check the gourds at least once weekly for signs of surface mold, which you should wipe away with a cloth dipped in the solution of bleach. Rotate the gourds to promote quicker curing and discard any that soften or rot.
Leave the gourds to dry until the seeds rattle inside the gourd, which varies in time, depending on gourd size and species; the process may take up to six months for ornamental gourds, according to Ohio State University Cooperative Extension. Expect a longer drying time for utility gourds, often up to one year's time.
Allow sponge gourds to remain attached to the vines until the gourds have dried out inside; according to the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension, the seeds should rattle and the gourds should weigh very little. Detach the gourds by cutting the vines with a pair of utility shears
Cut the stem from each sponge gourd with a knife to expose the cavity inside the gourd. Shake each gourd upside down to discard the seeds.
Soak the gourds in a 5-gallon bucket of warm water, submerging them completely in the liquid. Peel the outer skin covering from each sponge gourd when it becomes soft enough to remove without difficulty. Soak the remaining sponge portion of each gourd in the bleach solution to lighten them. Rinse thoroughly and let them air-dry before using them.