If you think that sponges come either from the sea, freshwater or manufactured by us, then I have news for you. Sponges can actually be grown in any gardens around the world.
Harvesting Loofah sponges has some similarities to reaping sea sponges. They are both rinsed thoroughly and allowed to dry for several days. Both sponges can be bleached using Hydrogen Peroxide in order to brighten their appearance.
While sea sponges are farmed under water and can’t be exposed to air – even for an instant – Loofah sponges have no such limitation. The Loofah Gourd plant is originally from India and now can be grown throughout the world. Let me show you the steps necessary to manifest a sponge from this amazing plant.
Hang In There Baby
When you consider harvesting loofah sponges, the first thing you want to have will be a structure on which your Loofah Gourd will wind itself through. Remember this plant is a vine, controlling the direction of growth is important.
Get a hold of a sturdy trellis and place it in the rear of the garden. It needs to be around 5 to 6 feet tall and exposed to full sunlight. The sponge vine will also do well on an arbor or even a fence. The point is to have as much control of the direction of the vine’s growth as possible, leading to harvesting loofah sponges effectively
Let’s get Digging
Once the threat of frost has ended, dig a hole in the ground that’s about one-half to three-quarter inch deep. Mix your soil with 50% compost – preferably organic. You want to make sure that your seeds are good for planting. A good way to separate the good from the bad seeds is to put them all in a bucket of water. The ones that sink (have a developed embryo) will be the ones you want to plant; while those that stay afloat will not be good for planting.
If you live in an area that has a relatively limited warm season, you may want to plant them in a pot large enough for the particular plant with some potting soil first. You’ll want one plant per pot, and one for each spot in your garden.
If you put them in a small pot, you’ll have to water them daily. If you plan to keep them in the pot less than one month, a 4” pot will be fine. On the other hand, if your plant stays in the pot longer than a month, then you’ll need a 5”- 6” pot. Peat pots are a great choice, as they are good for the environment. Keep them in a warm spot with plenty of sun and make sure the soil never becomes dry. Provide plenty of water, but make sure not to over water, as loofah can’t survive in muddy soil.
Once the warm temperatures are here to stay, you can transfer them to your garden. Dot the soil around the plant with slow release, non-burning nitrogen fertilizer. You also want to make sure that this soil does not become too wet (especially soil containing clay) as this can cause the roots to become diseased and retard the plant’s growth.
Protect The Young
During the period when the plants are young, they are defenseless against weeds and some animals, such as snails and birds. Too much rain can drown them as well. Do what you can to remove weed. Dark mulch will keep the weeds at bay, as well as maintain the soil warm enough for the young plant.
You’ll want to remove the initial flowers that appear, as well as the first four side ward branches on each plant. This will increase the product and its quality. Using your fingers pinch off the flowers as near to the stem as possible, and remove the branches using shears. Damaged fruit must be removed immediately – it cannot be saved.
As soon as the seedling produces its first leaves, you can transplant it in your garden. Bees will be happily pollinating the loofahs yellow flowers.
Bees are the principal pollinators, and are fond of the big yellow flower. The blooms will eventually fall off, giving way to the loofah sponges. If you’re interested in eating the gourd, pick it when it has not yet ripened. When the fruit begins to do so, It begins to dry up inside and its now well on its way to becoming a very useful sponge.
Once fall has arrived, your loofah gourds should be ready for picking. Give them as much time as possible on the vine. When the fruit becomes dry and lightweight and reaches a dark yellow to brown complexion, your loofah sponge is waiting inside.
Your Sponge is ready
There are several ways that can assist you in removing the skin of the gourd. One is to lightly hit the dry fruit against a hard surface to loosen the skin and the seeds inside. Another way is to soak them in water – this also will loosen the skin. Crushing the loofah sponge will also loosen the skin – this is especially helpful for younger gourds.
Make sure that you don’t leave any piece of skin on the fruit, as it can turn brown. Once you have removed the entire husk, look for any areas that maybe slightly darker. This is due to the way the fruit was resting on the plant. Meaning some type of pressure was applied to that particular part. It could also be an insect tried to take a bite out of the fruit. Simply scrape the area with the back of your thumbnail.
Now take the sponge and wash it in soapy water and then spray with water – this will remove any excess sap color. Follow by squeezing and shaking out the remaining water. If your sponge is still not as bright as you prefer, you can bleach in a mixture of 5 gallons of water and cup of bleach – not more than necessary.
To remove the seeds cut the sponge at one end and shake out the seeds. Spray with water to remove more seeds.
Now you’re ready to put your new sponge out to dry. Keep out in the sun and rotate as needed. Remember that the longer it is the sun the rougher the texture will become. Make sure that your loofah sponge is completely dry before storing – any wet spot can result in the growth of mold.
Another Sustainable Option
The Loofah Sponge is yet another option at hand when you are interested in using an environmentally friendly product. If you love to garden, then this will by right up your alley.
When you are ready to plant your loofah sponges, place a trellis in the back of your garden with plenty of sunlight. Once the last frost has passed, you are ready to plant your seeds about three quarters inch deep. You have the option to plant the seeds in pots and transfer them to the garden once the last frost has passed.
Keep weeds away from the young plants – birds and snail can also a threat. Use mulch to control weeds and maintain the proper ground temperature.
Once fall has arrived, look for ripened fruit. You’ll want to pick those that are dry with a yellow to brown skin. When you shake the loofah sponge you’ll be able to hear the seeds inside.
Remove and wash your new sponge. Cut at one end and shake out the seeds inside. Spray with water and bleach if necessary. Your new sponge will become an asset to your home. Loofah sponges are very sturdy can last you for a long time if well taken care of.
Have you ever used loofah sponges? What do you think of their versatility? Have you ever grown any sponges? Let us know about any pointers you may have. Leave me your comments below.
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