9 secrets to growing luffa
Growing luffas takes a little patience and planning, but if you are able to grow cucumbers successfully, chances are you can grow luffa. Luffa needs similar conditions, only slightly hotter. 1 Plants need 150-200 or more frost-free days, lots of sun, warmth, and good organic matter and nutrients. 2 A well-drained soil is essential – they will not survive waterlogged or muddy soil. 3 Plants need a strong trellis or fence to grow up, at least 160-180cm high – without a structure, vines will quickly over run the garden and produce curved fruit. 4 In anything other than a very warm climate, seed will need to be started indoors in a greenhouse well before the last frost. Mature seeds are dark and hard, resembling watermelon. To soften the seedcoat, pre-soak for 24-48 hours before sowing. 5 Soil temperatures need to be around 21°C for germination, which can take up to 14 days. Germination rates range from 50-80% in ideal conditions. 6 Seedlings can be transplanted at the first true leaf stage, as soon as the soil is warm. They should be handled carefully as they are sensitive to transplant shock. Space about 60cm apart, at the base of supports. 7 Nitrogen is needed at the seedling stage. Potash and phosphorus are best held until flowering starts. Too much, too soon and plants may flower prematurely producing small fruit. 8 When young luffa plants are small, they should be kept weed-free as shading will stunt their growth. Black plastic or dark mulch will also help warm the soil, reduce weeds and increase yields. 9 Luffa are great climbers and will circle and climb wooden poles or walls with a rough surface. The luffa fruits are heavy so the more the vine tendrils hold onto, the better. Train them to go where you want by wrapping tendrils around supports. They are flexible until they get large. Once they are about 1.5 m high, pinching out the growing tip will encourage fruit development.