Asian Gardening Tips and Solutions
How To Grow Angled Luffa
Angled Luffa is also called Chinese Okra, although it has nothing similar to Okra. In Asia, it is grown in hot Summer for its immature fruits which are great in stir-fry, soup and steam recipes.
Like a lot of popular Summer vegetables, Luffa is cooling, diuretic and detoxifying. Angled Luffa likes warm and hot weather, rich and wet soil.
Temperature lower than 60 F, it grows very slowly.
The Luffa plant grows vigorous vines.
The challenge for growing Luffa in your back yard garden is not how to make it grow bigger but is how to maintain the vines in a good shape and at the same time, to still produce plenty of fruits.
Luffa is a short day plant, which means it requires a long period of darkness in order to grow flowers. For some areas in certain season, for example, in Florida in Summer time, day time is very long. Some gardeners may find out that their Luffa plant grows vigorous but has no flowers or fruits for a long time. Luckily from long-term training and breeding, work of many seeds companies, the Luffa varieties that are less sensitive to day light time are available in the market. These kinds of Luffa will bear flowers very early and still grow well, no matter whether it is in short day season or long day season and they are perfect for back yard gardening.
No matter which varieties of Luffa you grow, the growing method is similar. Depending on varieties Luffa seeds may have a very hard coat and are difficult to germinate. Before germinating your Luffa, use a nail clipper to carefully clip a small opening at the edge of seed. Stay away from the embryo to avoid killing it. This will make the seeds germinate much faster and easier.
Sow the seeds in potting mix and keep the soil wet. Luffa will grow cotyledon in a week. When the seedling grow 4~5 leaves, transplant it in your garden. Add a lot of organic fertilizer, turn over the soil and bury the fertilizer deep. Plant your luffa next to a strong trellis. One or two plants are enough for family consuming. In the next few weeks, Luffa will start to climb up the trellis. For early matured varieties, you will notice that baby female flowers re growing. When the vine gets to half way on trellis, remove the tip when it reaches the top, as this will encourage side vines to grow.
It is better to remove any female flowers on the main vine at this moment. Fruiting too early on main vine will weaken the whole plant’s growth. For late matured variety, remove the tip when the vine is half way on trellis.
Wait for side vines to grow.
Keep 2~3 side vines and remove the other side vines. Only keep 2~3 leaves on side vines then remove the tips. Let tertiary vines to grow. Prune tertiary vines in the same way. By doing this, you can prevent Luffa vines taking over your whole garden before it starts flowers.
Continue to do this until you see female flowers growing. Let vines grow freely.
Remove any “slide vines” which mean vines without female flowers.
Pay attention to Luffa shoots. You will see baby female flowers from the first few leaves at almost every leaf. Keep 3~4 female flowers on each vine and remove the tip. This will prevent the vines over-growing and at the same time to focus nutrients on fruiting.
Angled Luffa flowers in the afternoon right before sunset. Usually insects are not very active at this time. So you should manually pollinate the flowers. Pick a male flower, remove flower leaves and gently touch the female flower. A well pollinated female flower will grow bigger in a couple days. Luffa is not a dense gourd, so the fruits grow very fast. The best time to pick is one to two weeks after fruiting. Don’t let the fruits get old or they will develop “sponge” inside.
After picking your Luffa fruits, remove any yellow leaves, weak vines, slide vines and vines that have finished fruiting. Side-dressing Luffa plant with some 10-10-10 inorganic fertilizer will make it grow back quickly. Few days later, more new vines will grow back. Prune the vines as method above. Keep on doing this you can have your Luffa fruiting for long time. Luffa is an easy to grow, super productive and very healthy summer vegetable.
How To Grow Winged Bean
Winged bean is also known as ‘Angled Bean’. It is nutrient-rich and all parts of the plant are edible. Leaves can be eaten like spinach, flowers can be used in salads, tubers can be eaten raw or cooked and the seeds can be used in similar ways as the soybean.
Young pods are very crunchy and commonly used as vegetable in cooking. Winged bean likes warm weather and cannot resist cold temperature. The best growing temperature is 68 – 78 F, temperature lower than 59 F or higher than 95 degrees, it will not grow well. In warm areas, winged bean can be grown as perennial while in colder area, as annual. Winged bean is a short day plant. So in long day season, it will grow vigorous vines but bear flowers very late. Luckily now there are day neutral varieties available which are early matured and are suitable for areas with a short growing season. Winged bean seedlings grow slowly. In order to maximize its growing season, indoor seed starting is highly recommended. Sow the seeds in potting mix and keep it moist. The best temperature for germination is 77 – 86 F. It takes 1 to 2 weeks to sprout.
You can keep the seedlings in seed starter until garden soil gets warmer than 59F, then transplant in your garden. It is OK to trim the vines to keep Winged bean’s seedlings bushy if you cannot transplant them early. Add a lot of organic fertilizer, turn over the soil and bury it deep. Plant Winged bean seedlings next to a strong trellis, at least 2ft apart. Winged bean grows slowly at the first for a few weeks, then it will gradually speed up. The warmer environment temperature, the faster winged bean vines grow. Make sure the vines have enough space on trellis. In long day season, late matured varieties will grow vigorous vines and cover up the trellis heavily.
It is good to pick young shoots and leaves. The more you pick the more it will grow. Early matured varieties will start to flower much earlier even in long day season. At the beginning of flowering stage, few pods can develop. There are some reasons that cause fruiting problems:
1. Environment temperature is still too high to fruit ( higher than 86F).
2. Nutrients are focused on growing new vines and leaves. Flowers cannot be fully developed; When flowering gets further, more young pods should start to set. If your Winged bean flowers still do not fruit well, look for these possible causes:
1. Vines and leaves are too heavy. The flowers cannot get enough nutrients and sunlight to fruit.
2. Lack of fertilizer. Need to supplement some 10-10-10 inorganic fertilizer. I actually had a small area which had a lot of flowers but no pods at all, while the other areas were fruiting fine. So I cut off a lot of heavy vines and leaves. Two weeks later, new shoots grew back and flowered again. Only a few days later, young pods started to grow! Winged bean flowers are edible. It actually tastes pretty good, crispy with fragrant but it is not very productive.
Winged bean pods are super productive. The pods should be picked in two weeks after flowering or soon they will grow hard fibers which make them inedible. Don’t feel sorry to pick these little young pods. The more you pick them, the more the flowers will grow into pods. If you leave the pods to get old on the vines, nutrients will be consumed by the old pods to grow seeds and make less young pods to grow.
Winged bean slows down growth as the weather gets cooler but it can keep on producing as far as environment temperature is higher than 65F. In warm areas, you can keep your plant in soil through Winter time. If the soil does not freeze, the plant will grow back in next Spring.
For cold areas, new seedlings will be needed to grow from seeds for next year. After Winged bean pods get old and dry on vines, you can harvest the beans. You can prepare it like soybean. Winged bean’s root tuber usually takes a couple years to grow into a considerable size. So only in warm areas where Winged bean can grow as perennial, growers may have the chance to harvest root tubers from Winged bean.