What grows in a vegetable garden and is used for everything but eating? Gourds! Hard-shelled gourds can be used for a shower sponge, spoon, dipper, bottle, basket, birdhouse and even a musical instrument.
There are actually two types of this cucumber-family plant commonly grown; the decorative, soft-shelled gourd and the larger, hard-shelled gourd already mentioned. The soft-shelled variety are those warty, odd-looking, colorful small gourds you see used as fall decorations. They usually rot after a good frost and are composted. The hard-shelled gourds are more utilitarian and fun. They can last for years once cured and dried properly.
Gourds take a long time to mature so be patient. Harvest once the gourd has reached full size but before a killing frost. Wash off the shell with a soapy solution to disinfect the fruit. Place in a warm, well-ventilated room for drying. The skin should dry within a week but the inside may take several months. When you shake the gourd and hear seeds rattle inside, it's dry. Paint, carve, wax and decorate the gourd as you desire.
Now for this week's tip: it's time to plant garlic. Build a raised bed, amend it with compost and plant garlic cloves six inches apart in rows on top of the bed. Then cover with straw.