Spring is a busy time of year; we all pitch in to keep the farm moving forward. This is when I put on my farm hat, begin sheering and lambing season in addition to garden and crop planting. This year our large crop will be Luffa.
We decided to scale back planting so we could test an idea. My husband and I replanted our test field using buckets.
Before moving on I’m curious, “How many of you know what Luffa is?” Let me explain, Luffa is an exfoliating sponge. No it doesn’t grow in the ocean, it’s an annual plant that grows on a vine and has a 200 day growing season.
This plant needs a structure to grow up on, a fence would also work. Robert and my son Blake built this structure specifically so we could test grow Luffa on a small scale.
After researching this plant for months we decided it was a good fit for our climate and farm.The first season we learned a lot and decided to move forward by adding another structure in a half acre field; this was intense.
The first thing I learned in our second season was farming on a large scale is hard work.
Growing thousands of plants at one time and individually attaching each vine to the netting was more than I could handle.I spend most of my mornings from May- June attaching vines with string to netting.
Did I enjoy the process? Not really it was overwhelming, felt like it would never end and it went faster when my husband was able to help.
We learned a lot that second year and decided we needed to change things.
We’re in our third season and we went back to our test field. We had this idea to plant in buckets instead of directly in the ground. Before purchasing thousands of buckets it was a smart idea to test this idea.
The point of the buckets was to decrease labor, this will keep us from having to till the ground and allow us to focus on each plant.
The root system on these plants is pretty compact and requires a lot of water, we’re hoping the buckets will help hold the moisture; this is why some of the buckets are under ground.
Things to Know Before Growing Luffa
- You need a strong structure for them to grow on.
- Annual with a 200 day growing season
- Thrives in warm, humid wet climates, 70 – 100+ degree temperatures.
- Transplanting is temperature tricky – We recommend direct seed only.
- Soil must be well prepared before planting.
- Plants will turn black after the first frost/freeze.
- Luffa vines attract Fire Ants – this detours other bad bugs.
- The Bees love it and every variety will arrive to pollinate.
- This plant requires a lot of water.
- Harvesting is intense with a large crop.
- You replant from seed every year.
- Luffa’s should grow hanging free to harvest nice healthy sponges.
- Don’t press on Luffa when it’s growing – you’ll bruise the sponge.
- Harvesting begins when the outer skin begins to turn brown or becomes light in weight.
- You can eat Luffa in the early stages under 6 inches.
This was a little insight on how to grow Luffa, I’m looking forward to the small scale planting this season. This experiment could change how we do things in the future which is always exciting.
I’ll keep you posted as things begin to move along and share more information about how to maintain, harvest, and use luffa sponges.