This ultimate guide on how to grow bitter gourd will help you to grow and care for your bitter gourd plant. Also learn bitter gourd benefits at the end of this article.
Bitter gourds are known for their health benefits. Although most of the kids don’t love the taste of this fruit vegetable but the health benefits of Bitter gourd make this vegetable a very important part of our diet.
This plant belongs to the Cucurbitaceae family. They have originated in India and is widely grown in Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean. They are known by many other common names all over the world such as Karela, Bitter melon, Bitter apple, Balsam pear, Bitter squash, etc.
Bitter gourds are vines that need support to spread. Vines could grow to 13 to 16 feet long producing so many lateral branches. That’s why pruning helps to decrease the lateral growth of the vine and increases yield. They got their name for the bitter taste of their fruits. Bitter gourd botanical name is Momordica charantia.
The growing technique of this gourd is nearly similar to other gourds like Cucumber, pumpkins, Bottle gourds, etc. Moreover practicing 3g cutting in gourds can increase yield up to 14 times!
How To Grow Bitter Gourd?
Karela is a summer season crop and you can easily grow this plant in tropical to subtropical regions where temperature generally ranges from 24 to 35 degrees celsius. They grow well from Late April to July in India.
If you are growing this plant in any other country then try to grow them when the average temperature of your region matches nearly to the required temperature range for growth of this plant.
Karela plant can grow in nearly all kinds of fertile soil but sandy loam soil ( Dhummat mitti) with rich organic matter is considered ideal for growing this plant.
Prepare your potting mix with 60% loamy soil + 20% dry cow dung powder + 10% coco peat + 5% sand + 5% compost. Mix them well before putting them in your pot.
If you do not have these materials for preparing your potting mix then there is no problem, you can start growing your plant. Take care that your soil remains little sandy with 20 to 25% any simple organic compost in your pot.
Take care that the soil you are using should not be contaminated from fungus or bacteria. I prefer sun drying garden soil before using it to prepare potting mix.
Selection Of Pot
Try selecting a large size pot with at least 2 to 3 drainage holes at the bottom of your pot to prevent the problem of waterlogging in the pot.
Grow this plant in a container that has the capacity of holding at least 5 gallons of soil. I prefer a growing bag or pot of at least 3 to 4 feet depth for growing bitter gourds.
You can purchase high yielding hybrid variety plants directly from the nearest plant nursery or you can grow them from seeds. If you have time and you want to see them grow in front of your eyes then purchase high-quality seeds for your home garden.
To grow Bitter gourd plant from seeds, soak your seeds overnight for better germination. sow 3 to 5 seeds to in each pot at 2 cm depth in the soil mix. Cover it with an inch layer of soil and apply water to the soil.
Take care that you should not overwater your soil. Overwatering can harm your seeds. Maintain adequate and constant moisture in the pot. Water your pot when the top layer of the soil seems dry.
Repeat this process of watering, Bitter gourd seeds will germinate in about 7 to 14 days. When your plant reaches 3 to 4 leaf stage then observe healthy and unhealthy plants in the pot.
Remove the unhealthy plants from the pot. If there is too much heat then you can place your pot in the area where it can receive filtered sunlight.
If you have purchased your plant from the nearest nursery then you can directly transplant it in a suitable pot by using the potting mix. Press the plant firmly into the soil and add potting mix around the base of the plant.
Take care that leaves of the plant do not touch the soil layer. If this is happening with your plant then remove the leaves which touch the soil at the lower region of your plant.
After transplanting water your pot gently.
Bitter gourd loves sunlight to grow. Place your pot in the area where your plant can receive at least 6 to 7 hours of sunlight. If the temperature is too high that is above 35 degrees Celsius, place your pot in an area where it can receive filtered sunlight but the duration of sunlight will remain the same.
You can also cover with net to protect the plant from harsh sunlight.
READ MORE: HOW TO GROW PUMPKINS
They love a good amount of water to grow like other members of Cucurbitaceae. Keep the soil moist but do not overwater your pot. If there is too much hot water twice a day and if it is normal then watering once will do well.
Whenever the upper layer of the soil seems dry apply a little amount of water in the pot. To retain the soil moisture for longer duration mulch the topsoil with chopped straw.
Once your plant has established well in the pot you can start feeding your plants with NPK or organic fertilizers. Apply 1/4 teaspoon NPK in the ratio of either 10:26:26 or 5:10:10 or 8:24:24 once in a month.
If you want to use organic compost only then you can apply two to four handful of cow dung manure or vermicompost or any green compost once a month in the pot.
Do not mix your fertilizers completely with the soil. By continuous watering for days nutrients will slowly leach down into the soil.
Take care to not apply an overdose of nitrogenous fertilizers.
Blooming & Care
They produce yellow-coloured male and female flowers. Flowering will start in 5 to 6 weeks after planting of your gourds. Female flowers have a tiny melon resembling structure at the base of the bloom.
Natural pollinators generally pollinate your plants and the fruit drop is rarely reported in this plant. But in severe cases, if you are noticing flower formation but no fruit formation within a few days then try hand pollination to get high fruit yield.
Bitter gourds require support to grow. Provide support with thin and long wooden sticks. Fix them in the soil or any nearby support base and hold your plants on them to grow. These vines grow very fast and within one or two weeks they will grow to a good height.
Take care that the leaves of the plant do not touch soil as it can contaminate the leaves.
They produce many unnecessary lateral shoots while growing into a mature plant. Remove nearly all the lateral shoots and leave only 4 to 5 lateral shoots in the plant. This will help to improve the yield.
Pests & Diseases
Bitter gourd is susceptible to many diseases such as
- Powdery Mildew
- Downy Mildew
- Watermelon Mosaic Virus
- Bacterial wilt
- Rust and Rots
Try to prevent fungal diseases by mulching the soil with chopped straw. Use a disease-resistant variety of seeds. You can control bacterial and fungal diseases but viral disease can not be cured.
Do not use neem oil spray to control diseases in this plant, it can cause leaf burns. Instead, you can use other organic fungicides or pesticides in response to disease symptoms.
Vegetable will become ready to be harvested 8 to 10 days after blossom drop. At this stage, the fruit reaches 4 to 6 inches long and looks like pear-shaped.
It generally takes 100 to 120 days for the Bitter gourd plant to be ready to be harvested after transplantation.
READ MORE: GROW THESE SUMMER VEGETABLES IN YOUR KITCHEN GARDEN
Bitter Gourd Benefits
The juice of this vegetable fruit is beneficial for people having diabetes, it helps to control blood sugar levels. Bitter gourds contains
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B-6
- and Dietary Fibres
Consuming this fruit vegetable helps in losing weight, curing a hangover, maintaining kidney health, lowering bad cholesterol levels, having glowing skin, boosting the immune system, etc.
Start growing Bitter gourd in your home garden by following my instructions and tell me your response. You can comment below if you have any queries.