By around late May of this spring, I planted a few luffa (chinese okra) seeds in the ground, and eventually only 2 of them survived until maturity, but here's a complete picture documentation of the 4 months of progress since they were planted. I may have been able to get harvests faster if I started them indoors under a strong metal halide, but that's OK because I'm still able to get over 100 fruits per plant. The key to getting heavy yields is tons of water, lots of space for crawling, and good fertilizer. I fertilizer with manure, compost, and azomite. These plants produce lots of vines and take up a lot of space.
9 June 2012: Just barely coming out
30 June 2012: They are starting to make vines, but still haven't really taken off.
28 July 2012: They finally made it to the top of the trellis, but both of them are still not growing that fast yet. At least they are picking up the pace just a bit.
11 August 2012: With 2 more weeks of growth, they have already taken over most of the trellis. There are both male flowers, and fruits are starting to form at this point so had to put up the deer netting.
The stem on the larger one has also risen to around 2/3 inches in diameter.
Some of the fruits.
18 August 2012
25 August 2012: Those fruits that were just forming a week ago are now getting up to around 2ft long by nearly 2 inches in diameter which is edible size.
This one is going to be left alone for seed production. The first picture is from a week ago on the 18th just to show their rate of growth.
23 September 2012: 1 month later, they are still producing very well, but the ones that are produced later tend to grow a bit shorter as the growing season is coming to a close.
Here's the big one getting old. It will be left on until the first frost so the seeds have a chance to mature all the way.
The stems are simply getting huge at the point in time. The bigger is fatter than the 1 inch diameter pipe which makes sense since it is supporting as many as 50 fruits at any given time. .
The smaller plant has nowhere near as many vines, but its main stem is still around 2/3 inches in diameter. It has also only produced around 20% as much fruit as the bigger plant, maybe because it is getting shaded out.