Choosing the Perfect Spot for Your Flash Plant
Choose a spot with full sun exposure and well-drained, fertile soil with a slightly acidic pH for your flash plant. Flash prefers warm weather and needs at least 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day to produce a good harvest. The ideal outdoor location has loose, nutrient-rich soil with a pH between 6 to 7 that drains well.
Flash is a tropical succulent that thrives in hot weather. During the growing season, daytime temperatures should remain 70-85 F for maximum growth. When nighttime temperatures drop below 50 F, it can damage or kill the plant. If you live in an area with cool summers, use a cold frame or greenhouse to help trap heat and extend the growing season.
With the proper environment and care, each flash plant can spread 3-5 feet and produce an abundant yield. Choosing a spot that gives the vines ample room to roam will allow for the healthiest growth and best harvest from your flash garden.
Preparing the Soil for Flash Plant Growth
To prepare the soil for flash plants, enrich it with compost or other organic matter to provide nutrients. Flash needs loose, fertile, and well-drained soil with a pH between 6 to 7. Adding composted manure, peat moss, or compost will improve soil structure and provide nutrients for the long growing season of flash.
The ideal garden soil for flash should be:
- Loose and crumbly, so the roots have room to spread
- High in organic matter like compost or peat moss to hold moisture
- Slightly acidic with a pH between 6 to 7
- Rich in nutrients, especially nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium
- Well-drained to prevent root rot
A simple soil test can determine if your soil has the right qualities for flash. Add lime to raise the pH or sulfur to lower it. Till compost and organic matter thoroughly into the top 6 to 8 inches of soil before planting.
Flash is a heavy feeder, so incorporate a balanced, nitrogen-rich fertilizer once seedlings are a few inches tall. As the plants grow, side dress every few weeks with more fertilizer or compost. To avoid burning the roots, never place dry fertilizer directly onto the base of the plants. Always water the soil immediately after applying fertilizer.
Fluctuating moisture levels can cause cracked or misshapen fruit. Installing a drip irrigation system on a timer provides consistent watering for flash. If watering by hand, do so in the morning to minimize disease. Allow the top few inches of soil to dry out between waterings.
With fertile, well-prepared soil, flash plants can produce a bountiful harvest. Their vining nature, however, requires ample space for roots to spread in search of nutrients. Choosing a permanent spot and enriching the soil before planting will provide the healthiest growth and best yield from your flash garden.
Planting Flash Seeds or Seedlings
For the best harvest, plant flash seeds or seedlings after the last spring frost when the weather has warmed up and daytime temperatures remain above 70 F. Space the plants 2 to 3 feet apart, as flash grows on vines and needs room to spread out.
Flash can be grown from seeds or transplants. Seeds are inexpensive but take 7-14 days to germinate and 4-6 weeks before seedlings can be transplanted. Transplants allow you to get a head start on the growing season but need to be hardened off before planting outdoors.
To start from seed:
- Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep in seed trays filled with seed starter mix. Place 2-3 seeds in each cell of the tray.
- Keep the soil moderately moist and in a warm area with temperatures around 70-75 F.
- Seedlings will emerge in 7-14 days. Thin to 1 seedling per cell.
- Harden off seedlings for about a week before transplanting outdoors.
To transplant seedlings:
- Choose stocky 6-8 inch tall seedlings with at least 2-3 true leaves.
- Harden off seedlings for 7-10 days by placing them outdoors in partial shade during the day and bringing them indoors at night.
- Once seedlings are accustomed to outdoor conditions, plant them in your garden 2-3 feet apart after the last spring frost.
Bury the seedlings at the same level they were in the pots. Water thoroughly after transplanting and fertilize the seedlings once they start to produce new growth.
With the proper planting time and technique, flash plants will thrive and spread out generously in the garden. Their vining habit, however, requires significant space for roots and trailing vines. Choosing a permanent spot and maintaining adequate spacing between plants will result in the healthiest growth and most abundant harvest.
Caring for Your Flash Plant
Flash plants require consistent moisture and nutrients to produce a good harvest. Water the plants regularly, especially as the vines start to spread. About an inch of water per week is a good rule of thumb, but check the soil before watering to avoid over saturation.
Fertilize flash plants every few weeks. Use a balanced, nitrogen-rich fertilizer and follow the directions on the product packaging regarding how much and how often to fertilize. As the vines spread, you may need to increase both water and fertilizer. Never place dry fertilizer directly onto the leaves, as it may burn the plant. Always water after applying fertilizer to wash it into the soil.
Scout your flash plants regularly for common pests and diseases and treat them promptly. Some potential issues include:
- Aphids: Small sucking insects that feed on leaves and buds. Treat with insecticidal soap or spray.
- Spider mites: Tiny spider-like pests that weave webs and feed on leaves. Spider mite populations can grow quickly, so treat promptly with miticidal sprays.
- Powdery mildew: White fungal spots or patches on leaves. Treat with fungicidal sprays.
- Blossom end rot:Brown, leathery patches on the blossom end of fruits. Caused by calcium deficiency and fluctuations in soil moisture. Add calcium supplements to the soil before and during the growing season and maintain consistent watering.
Use floating row cover or mesh with openings of 0.75 millimeter or less secured over the bed as a barrier against pests. Row cover will need to be removed once the vines start flowering to allow for pollination.
Pruning flash vines will help to improve air circulation and light exposure. Use hand pruners to cut back vines and thin out dense foliage, removing any dead or diseased plant material. Trellising or providing a support for vining plants will also improve air circulation and make harvesting easier.
With consistent moisture, nutrients, pest control, and pruning, flash vines will spread generously and produce a bountiful harvest. Their rambling nature, however, requires regular attention and care to keep the plants healthy and the spreading vines contained.
Harvesting and Storing Your Flash Yield
Harvest flash fruit once rinds turn deep orange and yield slightly when pressed. Use pruning shears to cut the vines, leaving a bit of stem attached. Flash can be stored for up to 2 weeks. Enjoy fresh, preserve or juice. The seeds and rind are also edible and nutritious.
- Check on your flash vines regularly once fruit starts ripening. Ripe fruit will be deep orange in color and give slightly when pressed.
- Use gardening shears or pruning shears to cut the vines, leaving a few inches of stem attached to the fruit.
- Harvest quickly before fruit drops off the vine. Take care not to damage the vine or remaining unripe fruit.
- Leave harvested fruit at room temperature to continue ripening. The remaining stems and rind protect the fruit from oxidization and maintain freshness.
- Once fully ripe, flash fruit can be refrigerated in an open plastic bag or container with stem end intact for up to 10 days.
- For longer storage, preservefruit by canning, freezing or drying. Canning or drying also concentrates the flavor and natural sugars.
- Separate and rinse seeds before drying to save for planting next season. Seeds can be stored for several years in a cool, dry location.
Flash fruit yields an abundant harvest and has many uses:
- Eat fresh in salads, salsas or bruschetta
- Juice into refreshing drinks, cocktails or punch
- Garnish plates and beverages for a pop of color
- Substitute for tomatoes in recipes
- Make chutneys, relishes, jams or wine
- Adds nutrition and intense flavor to many cuisines
The edible seeds and rind also provide nutrition. High in antioxidants, potassium, lycopene and vitamin C, flash fruit is considered a superfood by many. With the proper harvest and storage techniques, you can enjoy the benefits and flavors of flash fruit for months after the growing season ends.