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Growing loofah with kids has been one of the most fun and exciting garden projects in the little sprouts garden. My kids love to grow and these unique and interesting plants. There are many kids garden ideas you can do with your kids today.
For more on growing gourds, check this out.
Loofah or luffa, either spelling is correct are actually a gourd. I always thought they grew in the ocean, but it turns out, they grow in the south on a vine.
Your kids are going to love this addition to your garden. They are easy to grow as long as you have a long hot growing season. Hardly any pests bother them. They are great for pollinators because their big beautiful yellow flowers attract all kinds of butterflies and bees.
Luffa is a very fibrous sponge. They are sold in fancy spa packages for exfoliating the skin. They are a gourd that is edible in its young form and as it ripens, it forms strong fibers that are super durable.
If you want to eat the luffa, you need to harvest it when it’s just a few inches long. Its flavor is delicate and it has a little bit of a slimy texture like okra. It tastes kind of like a cucumber or zucchini mix. They are very good. I have not tried cooking them, but you can eliminate the slime factor with cooking. They are delicious raw though. Fresh and crisp. Check out more about what a luffa is here.
Many people use a loofah for bathing. It’s a great exfoliating sponge. I love the idea that I can grow something that is useful around the house. They are great for scrubbing dishes as well. You can wash your car with them and get the bugs off the front end. You can also use them for making beautiful soaps.
Microbeads are filling up the earth’s wildlife, but you can grind loofah in the blender really fine and use it in soaps and body washes as a scrubber that is biodegradable. I love that.
For more things you can do with a loofah check out these uses.
How to grow loofah
To do a growing loofah project with your kids, you need to start with seeds. My little sprouts and I have saved seeds from our loofahs and you can purchase them on Etsy here. We use the funds we raise selling seeds to buy seeds and plants for the next year’s garden.
Make sure you have a long warm growing season. In Oklahoma, it’s hot 8-10 months a year, so it’s perfect for growing them. If you live in more northern regions, I would be cautiously optimistic, but they have been grown successfully in zones as low as 4. So if you aren’t in growing zone 4-10, I wouldn’t try it.
Grow them early. Especially if you are in a northern area, start them inside before spring. I would recommend January or February if you have a good grow light.
Luffas love the heat, so make sure you don’t set them out until far after your last average frost date. Our last average frost date is April 15, but I don’t put my luffa plants out until May 15 or later. We always drop a lot of seeds at harvest, and they sprout all around our garden, but they don’t start sprouting until May, so if you grow them directly outside, put seeds in the ground around May 15 also.
Have kids plant the luffa seeds about 2 knuckles deep in the ground. That’s one for a grown-up. They don’t like good healthy fluffy soil. They like the old crappy hard clay stuff. They are gourds, which usually grow wild, so I guess that makes sense. Cover the seeds with soil and pat it down lightly, about as hard as you would rub your eye.
Water the seeds well and keep watered every few days until they sprout. Luffas can take from 3 days to a month to germinate and many of them do not. Gourds are notoriously hard to germinate so don’t lose hope if you only get a few that make it.
Make sure your growing loofah area has a long sturdy trellis. Luffa vines grow to about 30 feet in length or even more and they are thick and heavy. We grow ours along our chain link fence. They also require full sun at least 8 hours a day.
Once the luffa vines get going and it’s nice and warm out, they will grow FAST and they are very drought tolerant. We usually never worry about watering ours, we just let nature take its course, but we do water weekly if there is drought. Sometimes Oklahoma summers are DRY.
You can tell your luffas are ripe and ready for harvest when the skins just start to turn yellow. If you wait until they are brown, they are really hard to peel and the luffa sponges will be discolored. If you pick them when they are green, they won’t be scratchy and fibrous, they will just be a mushy mess.
Once the growing loofah turns yellow and you see a few brown spots appearing, have the kids get them off the vine and get the skins right off within the day. It’s easiest to cut them off with scissors. The vines are tough.
They are full of tons of seeds. Shake the seeds out of the cavities and let them dry to plant again next year. You can rinse the slimy film off the luffa sponges and let them air dry.
Loofah sponges will last for months and even years if you keep them dry. Also, keep the dust off them. We store ours in big plastic totes and they are always ready to go. If you want to purchase a loofah sponge we grew at Little Sprouts, check out our Etsy store, and see if we have any in stock.
If you use them in the shower or bath, hang them up to dry after each use and they’ll last for months. I love how my skin feels after I scrub with mine. I always want to grow them to have my supply. For how to sanitize your loofah, check this article out.
If you are interested in beginning gardening or gardening with kids, click on the highlighted links to see how to get started. If you want even more help with beginning gardening, check out our videos to get you started.
I hope you will get out in the dirt and dig around with your kids today! There is nothing more fun than growing with kids.