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May for gardeners is a busy month with sowing, potting on and planting out all happening as the weather begins to warm up nicely. It’s also the month of bank holidays, meaning more time to spend in the garden. One plant that has taken social media by storm over the past few years is the Luffa (or Loufa or Loofa - however you would like to spell/pronounce it)! Luffa cylindrica is also known as the sponge gourd and seeds are readily available so you can grow your very own sponge at home. They do look like they come from the ocean but in fact they are wonderful plants to grow from the Cucurbitaceae family that also includes Cucumber and Courgettes.
They do require a long, warm and sunny growing season from about 150 - 200 days so growing undercover in a warm environment will help to produce flowers and fruit but equally if you have a sunny wall and some trellis, they can grow just as well. Seeds need between 25 - 30 degrees warmth to germinate, so use a heated propagator, a cover or something to keep them warm with some air as well. If all else fails, there are plenty of plug plants now available as well.
Once you’ve got them growing, given them support and keep the soil moist the flowers should develop quite quickly which will in time develop into the fruits. Smaller fruits can be eaten but if you leave them on long enough the skin turns brown and you can harvest them to find the fibrous sponge inside.
If you are able to grow them over an arch or pergola, the hanging fruits do look otherworldly and a real focal point in the garden. I am growing mine in my Rhino Greenhouse grow bed so they can climb up the insides of the greenhouse and I will tie them into the top so the fruits hang above my head when I am in there. That’s the plan anyway!
Not forgetting it’s also No Mow May, a whole month of letting the lawn grow to help increase biodiversity. My mower will be kept in the shed all month long. Happy May gardening!