Buy a packet of organic luffa seeds. Germinate indoors in seed flats or pots 8-12 weeks before last frost date (zone 5-6) in a rich potting mix (I prefer Fox Farm) under a humidity dome.
Once sprouted & true leaves have formed you may start with a light fertilization once a week with watering (Neptunes Harvest fish & seaweed emulsion is great for this). When temperatures are at least 50 degrees regularly bring outside, taking care to ease them into life without the humidity dome (hardening off). A good way to do this is to remove the dome during the day & replace at night, repeat this for at least a week until no signs of distress are seen when the dome remains off.
Time To Plant & Give Them Some TLC!
Remove from the container & plant into soil well worked with organic material such as leaf compost, manure, or vermicompost. Be sure to break up the roots when planting & water thoroughly. Keep in mind luffas are much like cucumbers & will enjoy climbing on a strong support structure rather than along the ground.
The beautiful yellow flowers will produce the gourds which will hang down from the support. After planting fertilize for the first month to two months weekly, then monthly until the end of the season. Take care that the luffas don’t rest on the soil to prevent rot.
When the luffa turns a yellow all over the main vine has sucked all the juices from the gourd to support other newer gourds on the vine & they are ready for harvest. Some browning on the gourd is ok, but too much may indicate rot so better to harvest sooner rather than later.
Pick the luffas from the vine & peel the yellow peel off the spongy interior. It should come off relatively easy & the skins may be composted. Let the peeled luffa dry in the sun for at least a week. Tap the dried luffa into a container once dry collecting the seeds for next year’s planting. Luffas can be quite large; don’t be afraid to cut them up into a more manageable size for bath time.
If you have gourds at the end of the season that haven’t turned yellow have no fear they won’t go to waste (although the seeds from these won’t be mature enough for next years planting). Wait until the vine dies back completely from frost then pick the immature green luffas. Peel as you would the mature ones; the only difference is that the skin may be harder to peel & they are going to be more juicy. These immature ones require an extra step before drying. Rinse them very well wringing them & removing as much of the juice as possible until the water runs clear as possible. Wringing very well & drying is essential here because of the excess moisture be sure to place them in an area with good airflow & sun to prevent mold growth which would ruin all your hard work. Drying these may also take longer.
Care After Harvest
Luffas are awesome exfoliators, not to mention an infinitely better option for a bath scrubby compared to the plastic poofs you get in the store! So long as you let them dry out in between use a piece of luffa can provide all your bath scrubby needs for at least 6 months to a year! If you see black moldy areas on yours it’s time to get a new one & you may not have been drying it properly. Mine usually start to disintegrate and become less rough long before I see any mold & that is when I change them out for a fresh one. Be sure to compost your used luffa & feel good about not contributing more plastic to the landfill!