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Sunday, September 23, 2012

Growing angled luffa (loofah) gourds from seed

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.

24 comments:

  1. They're fun plants to grow, especially when it's dried and you get the loofah.

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    1. I love how the vines can grow 1ft per day when it is warm in August, and how these fruits literally get bigger by the day. Most of these guys are for food, but there always has to be some of them left to dry out in order to get seeds for the next generation of plants.

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  2. As shown in these pictures, these 2 luffa vines nearly took over the entire 500 square feet trellis so I have doubled the size of this trellis as well as started seedlings indoors already.

    This should give them about a 1 to 1.5 month advantage as long as I can transition them to outdoor conditions without too much shock.

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  3. what are the hanging CD's for?

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    1. Those are hung in order to scare off the deer.

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    2. I had wanted to ask the same question, as I also have an angled loofah plant in my garden (I live in a tropical country). If it is to scare off insects, I may just follow you and do the same. Are these CDs of any use against flying pests?

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    3. I doubt that they scare off insects because I have flies and bees pollinating my luffas regardless of CDs hanging around. I've heard of people using bags of water though.

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  4. Hi Steve,

    I'm planting Luffa as well, so far no flower yet. The vines are growing big, and there are lots of black ants. Did you experience with ants, will they do any harm to the vines/flowers/fruits? thanks

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    1. I really doubt that ants do much to the vines as I have them too. I have already got plenty of fruits so far this year as fruiting started as soon as July as I started the seeds in early April this year indoors under a 400 watt metal halide. Azomite and potassium seems to help them make lots of fruits.

      Here's the link to this year's thread which has a lot more pictures. My longest vine is currently about 21 1/2ft in length and still growing very fast.
      http://www.bambooweb.info/bb/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=3975&start=45

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    2. Can I ask where can I buy Azomite and potassium since I couldn't find them at Home Depot. I gave the luffas the bloom Miracle-Gro Bloom Booster (15-30-15) to see if any help. The vines are about 7ft now, I live in Boston area so I guess I will have about 2 more months to go before the first frost. I growing them to eat, and will not make gourd lol, thanks

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    3. cont...very good job Steve on your luffas. I viewed the above link and really love it. Correction, the vines I have not about 7ft but are about the size of yours, but haven't produce any flower yet, could be too much nitrogen in the soil. This is my first year growing luffas, and still learning. The seeds I got from Asia, so not sure how long will it take to have the first flower lol,

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    4. Miracle gro works well for luffas in getting them up to size and onto the trellis for June. It helps the stems fatten up, and the leaves to get huge as I already have stems exceeding 1 inch in diameter by vines over 22ft in length. After July, I stop using miracle gro, and start using straight potash + azomite. I think too much nitrogen may hinder fruit growth as mine have already been producing since the beginning of July. Being started from seed in early April, it only makes sense that they started to produce by their 3 month mark with good care.

      I would not suggest going to a retailer for them, or eBay due to a large markup in price, but there should be local farm markets in your state. I found a source of azomite on the company's corporate website, and if it's not there, you can call them to ask. It will make a very noticeable difference. Another thing that could hinder flowering is too much shade, or too small of a trellis. My trellis well exceeds 1000 square feet solely for the luffas as these need a lot of space in order to produce well.

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    5. Thank you very much for the info Steve

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    6. I've already picked over 100 fruits by now, and that's only the tip of the iceburg as September is typically the strongest month for production on everything. I do also keep up some miracle gro fertilization even through the year as it's always important to have enough nitrogen for new vine and leaf growth. My guess is that yours must already be producing by now too eh?

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  5. Steve, Most of my luffa vines are growing on the ground. Based on the information in your article, it appears i should have erected a trellis to accomodate all of the plants. Is that correct? Thanks

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    1. I prefer having them on trellises for convenience and so the fruits grow straighter. It helps them avoid weed competition, and maybe gives them more sunlight for better production.

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  6. Hi Steve,

    Could you please let me know what kind of the luffa you have? Where you bought the seed? I bought one package of the angled luffa from 2bseed.com & now I got the fruit that have smooth skin, slow growing, I just have some baby fruit, the vine have plenty of sun & space but not sure why. I would like to have the one like you. Thanks.

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    1. This is simply an angled luffa seed that was originally propagated from the common ones they grow in China many years ago which happens to always be very productive. I get 150-250 fruits per vine on mine. I think it tastes better than the smooth versions too because I know of many people who grow that type.

      In July, fruits can get up to 3-4ft in length, but each flush makes smaller and smaller ones. The latest flush we have gotten this year is only making 1 footers, but it's still great that they are producing well into October.

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  7. Hi, thank you for your quick response. Would you please share some of your seed? You can contact me at maivantrann@yahoo.com I will pay the cost of sending the seeds. Thanks.

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    1. Unfortunately, I only saved 1 gourd which I don't intend to break apart until I plant them again in April. I've had a lot of requests for seeds lately, but I'll make sure I save more for next year so I can begin selling seeds too.

      I believe that this is the species that I have, but I'm not really sure. In any case it's a highly productive angled luffa gourd. I have no idea how this vendor is since mine were brought over from China a couple decades ago, and just continually grown year after year.
      http://www.evergreenseeds.com/anluexlo.html

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  8. Hi Steve,
    I just recently tried to grow luffa and 1plant give a single fruit but it won't grow bigger just about the size of a palm..the rest just turned yellow and dried. Maybe i started planting at the wrong time but as i live in Saudi Arabia the summer here always super hot, most plant can't survive the heat. Any advise..

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    1. How hot does it get?

      If the base is well mulched and watered regularly, I don't see any reason why it can't produce very well. The species of luffa may also make a difference. If you are able to get 1 to fruit, then you should be able to make some adjustments and get 100 fruits. Luffas generally grow faster in the heat, but it is necessary to grow them early in the season.

      Yellowing and dropping of fruits can be a nutrient deficiency such as the lack of magnesium or other minerals. One way to beat this is to make sure that the hole that the plant gets planted in is well aerated and fertilized with manure, and perhaps a rock dust such as azomite.

      Do you have any pictures of it?

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  9. Hi Steve,this is the first year I planted and boy did they take off.I did everything right and now the plants are taller than I am(I'm short anyways lol)but I trellised mine and they are doing very well. My site here is mistypines.blogspot.com if you want to see some pictures.

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    1. They do require a lot of trellis space. My current trellis is at least 1500 square feet, but it has lots of other stuff as well. Here's a picture of my luffas this year taken on June 26th. http://i832.photobucket.com/albums/zz246/stevelau1911/summer%202014/DSC01774_zpsd190f37e.jpg

      Some of them are around 10ft long now. One thing I've noticed about yours is a lack of stem thickness and leaf size which is not that good for production as stems can go upwards to 1 1/2 inches in diameter by September for plants that produce well into the hundreds.

      They are very heavy feeders, more so than tomatoes, peppers, or most other vegetables so you should be able to fatten them up with some more water soluble fertilizer, or manure mixed in around the base. The problem with thin stems is that it's very tough for them to get nutrients up through those pipes to provide nutrients for the fruits. Some of the ones I have now already exceed 1/2 inch in diameter at the base. I'm hoping to get harvests in another month.

      For upstate NY, these luffa plants on this particular blog were started a month later than they should have been so it's not a very good guideline for bench marks. I've found that mid April is about the time to get them started indoors under a metal halide light.

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