Saturday 4 July 2020

Growing Loofahs (luffas)

Hello All
I wanted to share my experience with Luffas, or Loofahs, depending on what you know them as.
Last Christmas, my younger daughter bought me some Luffa seed. She, like me, is very keen on minimising her use of plastic and thought I might have a go at growing loofahs to replace plastic bathroom sponges. I am having so much pleasure from growing this crop, which is an entirely new venture for me.
Guessing it would need a long growing season I started the seeds in early  February in a heated propagator. Germination was not one hundred percent, but I ended up with three viable plants. The two strongest I planted in my large (tomato) greenhouse, while nurturing the weaker in the small (cucumber) greenhouse. The plants were slow to get started, but once a tendril or two took hold they raced along. What I wasn't prepared for was the beauty of the flowers! They are sort of Hibiscus -looking. It is easy, as with all cucurbits to tell the difference between the male and female flowers and I have been going to them daily with my soft paint brush to ensure pollination. I probably needn't have bothered as any flies, hoverflies or bees that have found their way into thee greenhouse have made a "bee-line" for them.
The early stem growths are very fine and look as though they wouldn't hold anything, but they soon strengthen up to hold what looks like being a generous crop of loofahs. One of those very fine stems has  wheedled its way through a small space in the apex of the greenhouse roof and escaped outside. I can see one thin tendril reaching for one off the wires that supports the hops. I wonder if it will catch on, and if so will we get outside luffas too.
 Here are the male flowers which are in bunches of six or so, which open and then die on different days
 Here is a female flower.
 I planted one lufffa either side of the greenhouse and they have grown towards each other to form an arch. I think I shall be knocking myself out on those luffas soon, the biggest are already a good six inches long
 Can you see that cheeky little tendril escaping from the greenhouse. You can just see the hops to the extreme right of the picture. one of the supporting wires stretches from those to the apex of the greenhouse and this is what the cheeky tendril is aiming for.

I am unsure how many fruits to allow before I stop them. So far I have 9 fruits over the two plants. I am also not sure how much to feed them. I know I mustn't  over water. If anybody wants to chip in with advice please feel free.
A quick word to bring you up to date with the bees, We have had six swarms this year and managed to box four of those so not too bad. A couple of the hives are very full of bees and we have had to give them extra room as bees were hanging out of the hive all the time. They often beard like this in extreme heat, but because they are short of room they are also short of breathing space. They now have another box of frames to move around and we will soon be taking homey off hive No 6. Hive No 1 was a swarm that landed in the blackberries this year. It is very strong, already having a super on and now it has two. Do you like my posh numbers? I cut up a couple of ice cream tubs and used sharpie pen for the numbers and fixed them with a drawing pin.

All for now. Back  soon with what we have been doing around the place and probably the odd opinion or two!
love Gill x