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.
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.
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.