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How to Grow Luffa from Seed Posted on 10 Jan 18:28 , 1 comment

You've probably heard of a luffa sponge and you might have even used them.  Did you know that a luffa sponge is actually a gourd?  Luffa is one of our favorite crops to grow.

 

What is a Luffa?

Luffa (Luffa aegyptiaca and Luffa acutangula), also known as loofah, vegetable sponge or dishcloth gourds, are grown mainly for their useful fibrous tissue skeleton. Young fruits can be eaten as squash, used in stews or even used in place of cucumbers.

Growing luffa is really fun but it definitely takes patience. Luffa is cold sensitive and takes a long time to mature into a dried sponge.  From seed, Luffa takes 120-200 days to fully mature.

 

Growing Luffa from Seed

Soak Luffa seeds for 24 hours before planting.

Sow luffa seeds 8 to 12 inches apart along a fence as soon as the ground is warm enough to work and all danger of frost has passed in spring.

In more northern areas of the country most gardeners start seeds in pots (at least 4", but 5" or 6" are even better, so roots can expand) inside a few weeks before planting time and then transplant them outdoors once the weather is warm and settled.

Luffa vines can grow to around 30 feet long and need a strong trellis to grow on so be prepared to give them a sturdy support such as a fence or trellis.

 

Taking Care of Luffa Plants

Increase your success at germination by starting your seeds in coconut coir.

When the weather is right (warm soil and air) start hardening off your seedlings.  This is more important than with most other plants because Luffa are so prone to transplant shock.

After a week or so of hardening off, plant your seedlings in an area that gets FULL sun.

Keep the Luffa watered.  During summer, I water daily.

Feed your luffa plants every 4 to 6 weeks with a diluted liquid fertilizer or compost tea.

 

 

Harvesting Luffa

The very first fruits that appear on the vine should be allowed to mature into sponges.

Luffa sponges are mature and ready to pick when the green skin has turned dark yellow or brown and starts to separate from the fiber inside, and the fruit feels lightweight. Leave fruit hanging on the vine as long as possible for maximum sponge fiber development, but be sure to pick and peel the fruit immediately if they get hit by frost.

First, peel off the tough outer skin: If it is already cracked you can pull it off in pieces, if it is intact try squashing the fruit gently until cracks appear and then extending the cracks by squeezing the fruit and pulling at the torn edges of the skin with your thumbs. If the skin is very dry, soaking the fruit in water for a few minutes may make it easier to dislodge the skin. 

Once the skin has been removed, shake out the seeds.  Next, wash the sap out of the sponge with a strong jet of water or in a bucket of water with a little dishwashing.

Finally, dry the washed sponges in the sun, turning them frequently, until completely dry. Store in a cloth bag to prevent them from getting dusty and they will keep for years.

 

I hope you have enjoyed another educational article.  If you have additional questions, please leave a comment below or send an email to mary@marysheirloomseeds.com


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