Luffa Harvest 2020

If you are following our blog, yes we did survive the snowstorm. Everything we covered actually made it through fine. Unfortunately it is the end of the Luffa Wall. The good news is we have been told that Luffa squash that have gone through a cold snap are easier to harvest and peel. The leaves of the plant vines rapidly died off but our Luffa squash are fine.

Since the plants died off and the squash is still green the Luffa are still not ready. We left the squash hanging on the vine until they turned brown and dried completely. It took roughly one month before we were comfortable they were completely dry. Shaking the Luffa you can feel that the inside moisture is gone. If the Luffa was completely ripe, you can also hear the seeds shaking loosely inside. At that time we cut every Luffa off the vine wall with pruners and found the actual yield was one good sized luffa per plant. There were many smaller ones but they were not big enough to be usable as a Luffa sponge.

Simply, if the Luffa was perfectly ripe we were able to easily peel off the outer dried brown skin. If we had difficulty peeling the skin off, we soaked it in a bucket of water which loosened the skin enough to finish the job. Then we shook the dried Luffa to get all the black seeds out. We can use those seed for our next planting.

Some farms bleach their Luffa. It gets rid of any dark spots and also makes the Luffa softer. Since we use no chemicals our Luffa will look more organic. It was nice to see the interest in a chemical free Luffa sponge that can be used not only in the shower, but also as a scrubbing sponge in your kitchen. It’s been reported they can easily last a year!

Watch us peeling a Luffa on the farm’s YouTube Channel:

Luffas Are Growing

The vines of our Luffa Squash plants have completely taken over the hog panel wall and now we are seeing our first growing Luffas. The Luffa grows as a squash with firm stringiness inside of it. I’m counting an average of 3 per plant. We are still concerned with ripening time. It’s late in the season and it seems like we have a lot of babies rather than full sized squash.

The vines are still growing and there is no space left on the wall. We had to just let them fall over and grow on the ground. It’s amazing how much these few plants took over! If you plan to try this be prepared for an overwhelming amount of greenery.

Our area is famous for early snow storms so we can only hope these Luffa quickly ripen before the season ends due to weather. If they aren’t ripe the Luffa sponge will be difficult to peel and will not be firm enough for use. Keeping our fingers crossed!

Check out our Luffa Wall video on the farm’s YouTube Channel:

The Luffa Wall

This is our second try at growing Luffa. Last year we grew it on the ground and only produced a couple small Luffa squashes that never fully ripened. We could tell early on that having it growing on the ground resulted in too much shade from the neighboring plants. They didn’t get enough sun. After further research we also found that Luffa need well over 200 days to ripen the Luffa. The growing season is too short in our area to meet that.

So this year we grew transplants inside for weeks to be sure they had a good head start. We also built this Luffa wall to give them the sun they needed.

What we weren’t prepared for was how fast the plants grow with the right environment and how much wall real estate they take up! It’s clear the the vines are quickly going to take over the arches. There are plenty of flowers growing and lots of pollinators and other beneficial insects thriving.

There was still room on the ground to grow a few sun loving plants so we added some okra and melons in front of the wall which did well.

Get a closer look at the Luffa wall on the farm’s YouTube Channel:

Early Transplants

Because of our short growing season, there are some plants that will not mature fast enough to produce anything within before the snow comes. Those are the plants we grow inside and transplant outside. Those include herbs, celery, tomatoes, peppers and our newest try, Luffa.

We started the luffa almost 8 weeks in advance because they need well over 200 days of growing season. They grew so big we had to transplant them twice into larger pots. Now they are in quart size containers and in order to acclimate them to outside they get a wagon ride outside and back inside every day.

The tomatoes and peppers are still tiny but after 3-4 weeks they will be ready to go into the ground. Covered in a tunnel of course. Continuing with the plan to extend the season!

There are a lot of seeds in the ground already too. They are starting to pop through the surface! Get a look at the seedlings on the farm’s YouTube Channel:

Building a Luffa Wall

Last year the hubby was trying to come up with unique items to grow that had a long shelf life. We already have winter squash which has been lasting 3 months after pulled in October, and garlic which can last up to 2 years. We decided to try luffa. A luffa is actually a squash that’s closely related to the cucumber, but when it dries out it leaves a fibrous scrubbing sponge. They last years if not used. And if they are used, they are one of the most biodegradable scrubbing sponges out there so customers will eventually wear it out and have to buy a new.

When we tried to grow luffa last year we did it on the ground and plants in the rows next to it shaded the them so they did not grow well. Also, we found that our growing season is shorter than the required growing timeline for ripening luffa. This year we started growing the luffa seedlings inside weeks before planting time. We also decided to grow the transplants up an arbor so they can spread freely to the sun.

Using hog panels you can find at your local farm store, we created a trellis wall with full arches on either end. This is really the first time we are trellising any of our produce besides the peas we’ve done in the past. We are looking forward to seeing how this turns out.

See our trellis on our You Tube Channel.

Indoor Transplants

This year we got an earlier start on our transplants so had to double transplant some of them. Luffa requires almost 300 days of sunlight to get fully ripened Luffa so we started them very early and moved them into 4 inch posts before we transplanted into quart sized pots and then again into their final home.

Since last year’s broccoli was phenomenal having started them early under covered tunnels, we tried it again this year. The broccoli transplants went through 3 winter storms last spring we are expecting at least one this year. It’s been said the chill from a light frost improves the flavor of cabbage family plants. Broccoli is one of them.

Of course we grew basil, tomatoes and pepper transplants. They always take a long time to get to size but once they do, they rapidly produce. At least that has been our experience to date.

We have been hardening off the plants but will not drop them into the ground until we are sure the snow is past us.

Growing Luffa

Do you know what a Luffa is? Sometimes it’s spelled Loofah. It’s a natural sponge that historically was used to clean dishes and today it is used on the body in the shower to smooth your skin.

Luffa are actually a squash/gourd. They grow like a zucchini but are heavy on fiber that when dried result in the sponges you see in the store. Why are we growing luffa? It’s something to add to our mix that has a long shelf life so is readily available. It’s also organic and bio-degradable so chemical free and good for the environment. We are hoping to find a market for it.

How easy is it to grow? It’s fairly easy, however we made the mistake of planting it next to broccoli which grew very tall this year. There was too much shade. We only ended up with 3 fully grown luffa at the end of the season and only 1 that had enough fiber to dry into a sponge. We found out after the fact that luffa required over 250 sunny days to grow well and we live in a short season environment.

We will try again next year and start growing inside to get a jump start to meet the 250 days.