Useful & Decorative

How to Grow -Broomcorn

Wouldn’t it be wonderful to just grow your own Autumn decorations, and have no need for something made in a factory far, far away?

Ornamental gourds are one good way, as well as pumpkins and decorative corn stalks.
Here’s another you may not have tried:

broomcorn in the home garden

Look up, way up.

Also known as ‘sorghum’ broomcorn is planted the same way as sweet corn.
One difference you’ll easily see is that the broomcorn can get to be 10 ft. tall and more.
It also does not form ears, but is grown for its beautiful ‘straw’ which can be used in floral arrangements, wreaths and other decorations, or to make brooms.

When the stalks are ready to harvest they may bend down like this one, or you can wait for them to turn brown.

broomcorn stalks falling over when ready

Pick me pick me!

Hanging them upside down will help the straw to dry a little straighter.
You can then remove the seeds to keep for next year or leave attached for the pretty colors.

growing broomcorn for floral arrangements

How pretty.

This is our first time growing sorghum, and we’re thinking perhaps we’ll hang it on the front of the house with some smaller ears of colorful corn.

decorative or edible corn

What the squirrels missed.

Next year we want to try to grow enough to make a broom; which can of course, double as a Halloween Costume accessory.
Maybe not for Mandolin though.

broomcorn aka sorghum seeds

Mixed colors.

Botanical name: Sorghum bicolor
Days to maturity: long, about 4 months
Spacing: 8-12″
Yield: One stalk per seed planted
Height: 10 ft. or more
Harvest: When stalks dry or bend over
Storage: dry completely or use fresh and discard
Seed: annual heirloom
Tip: Fish fertilizer helps corn and broomcorn grow healthier.

Broomcorn? Yeah…
you can grow that


Categories: Corn, How to Grow, Useful & Decorative



Growing Things- Bowls

gourd bowls

there are so many ways to finish a bowl

Other than the obvious difference between a vase and a bowl, there are two others when crafting one from a gourd:
1. You are probably going to want the inside to be much cleaner, and
2. You can go wild decorating the bowl

Prepare your gourd as you did the vase, but make the cut much lower to get a larger opening.

Now if this is just for your own use, and you are going to put a plant in the bowl, the inside does not have to be immaculate.
Otherwise you will need to really get the inner walls clean of any debris left when the flesh dried out.

You can do this by hand with sand paper, but it is much faster if you have some power involved.
This picture shows a small electric sander, and two sanding balls that fit inside an electric drill.

gourd sanders

the right tools for the job

However you go about it, be sure to do it outside and wear a mask to prevent inhaling the dust.
Of course, when working with power tools, always wear protective eye covering too.

What you do next really depends on how you plan to use the bowl.
I always waterproof mine no matter what- I wouldn’t want someone to put a plant into the bowl and have the design run down the side when they watered it.
As added protection, I varnish the inside as well.

If you plan on using the bowl as a serving dish, there is a food grade varnish available called “Salad Bowl Finish” just follow the manufacturer’s directions to apply.

food safe gourd bowl

clean & with salad bowl finish

Decorate the bowl however you like, and seal your work as well.

gourd food bowl

Thanksgiving 'roll bowl'

So you can do this as easy as just cutting the bowl, maybe putting in a few drainage holes, and planting a plant- or you could go as intense as these pieces.

These are the gourd books I used, again ranging from simple to artsy.

gourd crafting books

the basic techniques

gourd art books

going wild

The main thing is to be careful and just enjoy yourself.

Growing gourds
Drying gourds

Categories: Garden Projects, Useful & Decorative



Growing Things- Vases

We talked before about Growing Gourds, Drying them and Crafting Birdhouses-
today let’s talk about making vases.

gourds how to

homemade gourd vase

These are also made from the ‘Birdhouse’ or ‘Bottle’ Gourds, you will need one that stands without wobbling.
The first thing to do after the outside of the gourd has been cleaned is to cut the top off.

crafting gourd vases

vases shapes and sizes

How I do this is:
1. use a pencil to draw where you want to cut
2. holding the gourd well, cut- using a regular hand-held saw
1. make a hole with a sharp knife or drill a hole big enough to get a blade into
2. cut CAREFULLY using a small crafter’s jigsaw- don’t use this method unless you have experience using a hand-held electric saw

Keep in mind that the longer the growing season the gourd has had, the thicker the walls will be.
Thicker is great for birdhouses, but makes cutting gourds more difficult.
You can also buy precleaned and precut gourds- follow the link at the bottom of the post.

Now that your gourd is cut, remove as much of the insides as you can by shaking them out, using a long handled tool such a a meat fork to scrape some out.
If your opening is big enough to get your hand in, just reach in and grab the stuff; or use the highly coveted gourd tool- a spoon- to scrape the sides.
It is not imperative that you get everything when making a vase.

gourds how to

waterproofing a gourd

What is absolute is that you make sure your gourd has no leaks and that you waterproof it.
Place your gourd in a sink and fill with water.
Any leaks will show up in a short amount of time.

If there are no leaks- great!
Continue on by keeping the gourd filled with water for 3 days.
Changing the water every day helps get more of the dusty insides out, but isn’t necessary.

how to make a gourd vase

ooop! found one

If you find a leak or multiple leaks, which happens occasionally, it is easy to repair.
Empty the gourd and let it sit a day or so to dry.

paraffin seals gourd leaks

paraffin seals gourd leaks

Then melt some paraffin in a double boiler and carefully pour it into the gourd, making sure the leak is covered.
Let set to dry completely, then water-test your gourd again to be sure you got it, and let set filled with water to complete waterproofing it.

Once your gourd is leak free, waterproofed and dry- you are ready to have fun crafting it.

One word of advice passed on to me by me Great Uncle, the Florist-
“A vase should never be prettier than its contents.”

I’ll add more pictures here as I get more vases crafted.
If you make a vase- send me a picture and I’ll post it here!

How to make Bowls.

Welburn Gourd Farm is a great source for thick walled gourds.

Categories: Garden Projects, How to Grow, Useful & Decorative



Growing Things

Our gardens provide us with beauty, with food, and with good health-
they can also provide us with ‘items’.

lebanon farm market gourd art

at the Lebanon Farm Market

The list of what plant life can be turned into items is long.
For example, most of us have come into contact with a wooden bowl- did you know they can actually be made out of wood, not just wood-looking plastic?

Probably the most common example of growing items is found with gourds.

vase gourd

ready to hold those pretty flowers

Our American Indians knew the value of this vegetable-
Canteen Gourds were used for carrying water
Dipper Gourds for spoons and other utensils
Birdhouse gourd bottoms were often used as bowls, and as molds for clay bowls

birdhouse gourds

at the Green Dragon Farm Market

Over the course of this upcoming season I hope to be able to introduce you to a few more plants-to-items like this.
For now, I’m going to show you a few gourds turned into birdhouses.

birdhouse gourds

paisley woodburn pattern

I already talked about how to grow birdhouse gourds,
but I also wanted to get a little more specific on how easy it is to refinish one-
or better yet, how much fun.

Gourds are a plant life and very similar to wood when it comes to crafting them.
You can use stains, oil pencils, paints…
decoupage, wood-burn, weave like baskets…

birdhouse gourds

woodburn plus colored oil pencils

…pretty much any way you can finish a wood piece you can finish a gourd.
To me, that’s what makes them so much fun.
You can also take them beyond crafting- and into Art Form.

lebanon farm market gourd art

at Lebanon Picture Frame & Fine Art

lebanon farm market gourd art

Indian woman holding baby

No matter what you choose to do in life-
always remember to have fun.

birdhouse gourds

I sure hope the birds can read.

More on Crafting Gourds
Growing Gourds
Drying Gourds

Categories: Garden Projects, How to Grow, Useful & Decorative


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