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How to Grow Luffa "Sponge" Gourds

Luffa gourds are known as the "sponge gourd". Decades ago, this was commonly used as a sponge. This useful, cucumber-shaped gourd can be used for bathing, filtering and cleaning. It is still used in this way, but nowadays it is used more as a novelty.

Did You Know? Luffa gourds are edible! Eat them when small, like you would eat zucchini. Substitute them in any zucchini or squash recipe.

Luffa gourds should be grown on a strong fence or trellis. They need a long growing season of 150 to 200 warm, frost free days.

The vines can grow 30 feet or more.


Sowing Luffa Gourd Seeds:


Sow gourd seeds directly into the garden after all danger of frost, and the soil has warmed. The seeds need a soil temperature of at least 70 degrees to germinate. Space plants three to four feet apart.

While the plants are sensitive to transplant shock, they can be started indoors .To minimize the risk of transplant shock, grow them in 3" - 4" peat pots, which can be planted into the garden. We recommend using a heated germination mat, for faster and more successful seed germination.

Days to Germination: 10-20


Days to Maturity:

Luffa Gourds need 150 - 200 days to reach maturity. For areas with a shorter growing season, start seeds indoors. 4 - 6 weeks before the last frost in your area..


How to Grow Luffa Sponge Gourds:


Luffa gourds grow best in warm climates with long growing seasons. Luffa plants prefer full sun.

The soil should be rich and well draining, with lots of nitrogen to fuel their growth.

Fertilize once a month. Begin with a high nitrogen formula. Switch over to a high phosphorous formula just before the blooming period. Then, use a high potassium formula, as the fruit develops and grows.

Keep plants well watered all season long, and especially during droughts and hot weather. Mulching around plants will help to retain soil moisture.

Plants should be grown on a strong fence or trellis, strong enough to support the weight of the vines and the fruit. If grown on the ground, the fruit tends to curl.

Also See:

Plant Problems

Soil Temperatures - Ideal germination temperature by vegetable

Ideal Soil pH - by vegetable


Insects and Pests:


Luffa gourds are members of the cucurbita family, which includes pumpkins, squash, watermelon and cucumbers. They are susceptible to a wide range of insects. They include the cucumber beetle, aphids, slugs and snails and squash vine borers.

Use insecticides on a regular basis.


Disease:


Like other cucurbita, luffa sponge gourds are affected by a range of fungus and viruses. Most notable is Downy and powdery mildews. Begin a fungicide treatment as soon as signs occur. Better yet, apply fungicides before the fungus hits. Start treatments when the hot and humid summer weather begins in your area.

Also see: Plant Problems


Drying and Curing Luffa Sponge Gourds:


Harvest gourds for eating when small, about the size of a cucumber.

For making sponges, harvest when the fruit stops growing and the skin is loose and feels like it will come off. It is best to remove the skin at this point. If you wait until the gourd is hard, it will be more difficult to remove the skin. After removing the skin, the seeds can be shaken out, or bang the gourds against something, and they will shake or fall out.

Bleach gourds in a solution of water and 10% bleach.

Then, dry them in the sun, for 2-3 weeks.


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