Bitter melon is also known as Karela or Bitter gourd and is actually a vining plant that grows much like cucumbers or melons in the hot summer sun. The vines of this plant can grow up to about 150 to 190 inches in length, that is why its recommended to keep pruning the plant regularly and also use a vertical support to save on space. The leaves of this plant are prominently lobbed while the skins of the plant fruits are warty and highly ribbed. Under the skin the flesh of the plant is creamy white and firm.
Where to Grow Bitter Melon
Bitter melon is like most summer vegetables, they are very easy to grow in the kitchen garden or terrace garden. The plant requires a very hot and humid climate to grow very well. Make sure you plant the bitter melon seeds in a location that gets six to eight hours of sunlight every day. The seeds will take about eight to ten days to germinate in soil temperatures that ranging from 15 to 20℃. The Bitter melons will take almost fifty-five to sixty days to mature.
Actually the ideal companion plants for bitter melons are peas, green beans, pumpkins and other summer squashes. Most herbs plant does not actually fare well near bitter melons.
You have to prepare the potting soil prior for planting by adding aged manure or aged compost to the soil. You have to make sure that the soil is well-draining and light for planting. While growing the bitter melon vines on the ground, ensure you mulch the soil in other to prevent the fruits from getting dirty or rotting in the moist soil.
The Bitter melons can also be easily cultivated in containers. Just pick a good container that has the capacity of holding at least fifteen to eighteen KGs of potting soil. It is advised to grow only 1 bitter melon plant per container and then provide an adequate vertical support with a wire mesh or a trellis.
How to Grow Bitter Melons
- Sow the bitter melon seeds about ½ inch deep in a loamy well-draining soil that has been prepared with compost or aged manure. The bitter melon seeds can also be soaked overnight in other to speed up the germination. Plant the soaked bitter melon seeds directly in the garden and then cover with soil. Keep a distance of about twelve to fifteen inches between two plants.
- Make sure you keep the soil evenly moist till the time germination occurs. Since the bitter melons are grown in hot summer months, the soil will really require frequent watering once the plant seedlings have established. The soil in containers dries out relatively faster, which means it’s important to always keep checking the soil with the tip of your fingers and water gently if it feels dry on touch.
- Trellising is actually required to grow bitter melon vines vertically. You can easily place a sturdy trellis that is about five to six ft long at the time of planting. Growing the bitter melons vertically also helps to retain the shape of the fruit.
- The regular pruning of the side shoots is also necessary in other to improve fruiting and control the sprawl of the bitter melon plant.
- The bitter melons are also susceptible to pests like cucumber beetles, aphids and fruit flies. It is very important to always keep a close eye on your vines and then remove these pests manually or use neem oil spray. You need to remove any weeds around the bitter melon plant to control the pests. Actually some garden friendly insects such as ladybugs are also beneficial in controlling pests.