Welcoming Luffa and Gourds in Late Summer

Reader Contribution by Amanda Kim Stairrett
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Birdhouse gourds ripen on the vine. Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett 

Our onions are harvested, the spaghetti squash are starting to yellow and our zucchini and cucumbers are nearing the end of their reign in the Ogden garden. We’ve gotten a steady supply of the latter two so far and that, supplemented by tomatoes and onions, has provided several hefty deliveries to Harvesters Community Food Network.

One of our harvests yielded some large, fragrant onions that were included in a donation to Harvesters Community Food Network. Photo by Tonya Olson

The newest residents to appear in the garden — Ridged Luffa Edible Gourds and Birdhouse Gourds — went in the ground in early June. The seeds, which were supplied by the Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, got there thanks to Connie, an advertising saleswoman at Ogden who is the best at getting her hands in the dirt and getting things done.

Baby luffa broke through the soil in late May. Photo by Tonya Olson

Connie first grew luffa last year and loved it. Her father was going through physical rehab at the time and would take him a few each day so he could keep busy by picking out the seeds. Connie and her mother — whose chickens supply a steady stream of beautiful eggs — grew birdhouse gourds a few years ago. They planted the seeds in a pile of chipped wood the energy company left when workers trimmed the trees under the power lines. “I am sure it was an idea my dad had and it worked out great,” Connie said. They then dried and painted the gourds, creating homes for small birds like swallows, wrens and Purple Martins.

The gourds were first to make their presence known and have grown to a hefty size so far. The small birds are going to get gourd mansions at this point. The luffa were slower to join the party, but they are starting to peek out from under the beautiful blanket of vines that coat the cattle panels along one side of the garden.

Connie and Jay secure cattle panels for the luffa in mid-May as others tend to marigolds. Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett

The vegetables can be harvested and eaten at their current size but, if left to mature, they become fibrous and not as tasty — but make great sponges!

Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett

Connie notes, too, that the luffa leaves emit a pleasant smell and we’ve spent more than enough time sniffing the leaves during break-time harvesting sessions. I liken it to a subtle bread dough.

This variety of luffa have rigid exteriors. Photo by Amanda Kim Stairrett

More on gourds and luffa: 

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