How to Plant and Grow Bitter Gourd
Bitter gourd is a fast growing warm seasonal climbing annual plant, native to South Asia. Considered one of the most nutritious gourds, the plant has medicinal properties. A compound known as 'charantin' present in the bitter gourd is used in the treatment of diabetes to lower blood sugar levels.
Soil PH: 5.5 to 6.7
Soil Type: Fertile and well drained
Planting Season: Mid and Late Spring
Planting Depth: 1/2 in
Plant Spacing: 18 in
Row Spacing: 24 in
Plant Height: 6 feet
Days to Germinate: 3
Days to Harvest: 60 to 100 days
The plant grows as a vine up to 6 feet tall and develops small, yellow flowers both male and female, on the same plant. The fruits are green usually oblong, has an irregular surface with warts and 8-10 vertical ridges. When ripe, the fruits turn yellowish orange in color.
When to Plant
Bitter Gourd is a warm season plant and thrives in hot and humid climates with plenty of sun. Bitter Gourd can be planted in mid and late spring, mainly in the month of April and May.
The soil for the seeds is a fertile and well drained with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.7, enriched with organic matter such as compost or dried manure. However, Bitter Gourd will tolerate any soil that provides a good drainage system.
Bitter Gourd can be planted directly by seeding or transplanting. Two or three seeds can be sown together in a pit 1/2 inch deep. Water lightly. For better results soak the seeds in water 24 hours before sowing. The seeds will germinate in 2-3 days. The germinated seeds can be replanted on raised beds 18-20 inches apart. Transplants should be done in such a way as to avoid disturbance to the root system. As the plants grow, place poles 2m high and provide wire or twine supports in rows across the poles.
Regular watering with plenty of water is essential for growth. Flowers will start appearing in 5-6 weeks and fruition will occur between two to four months.
Vines should be pruned at the tips when female flowers start developing to encourage branching and fast bearing. Regular fertilizing is essential for its growth. Water immediately after applying the fertilizers.
Bitter gourd is susceptible to many diseases and insect pests. It is susceptible to watermelon mosaic virus, other cucurbit viruses and powdery mildew, which can be controlled by sulfur dust. Rust disease is controlled by spraying foliage with oxycarboxin. The fruits are subject to attack by various fruit flies and fruit rots. Pests attack on fruits can be prevented by wrapping fruits with newspapers, when they are about an inch long.
Mature fruits are ready to be picked within 3 months from planting. Fruits will be light green and juicy with white but bitter flesh. Pick the fruits every 2-3 days when they are still at the tender stage. Regular picking is important as fruits will become more bitter as they mature and it can also hamper the growth of new fruits.
Leave some fruits to reach full maturity if they have to be reserved for subsequent crops. When fully mature, the fruits will break open on it’s own and release brown or white seeds which can be collected for sowing the next season.
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