For most westerners, bitter melon is an acquired taste. But in the Caribbean and many east Asian countries, this nutritious bitter vegetable is considered a staple. It is often stir fried, baked in meat dishes or steamed and eaten alone. If this season's crop will be your first experience with bitter melon, be sure that you have enough room to grow bitter melon before you purchase your seeds. Bitter melon grows on sprawling vines that take up a considerable amount of room even when grown on tall trellises.
Contact your local county extension office to have a soil test conducted for a nominal fee. Bitter melon needs nutritious soil to thrive with a pH of 6 to 6.7 (although it can survive in soil with a pH as high as 8.0). The soil test will show your soil's pH and any nutritional deficiencies; these pieces of information will help determine the amount and type of amendments to add to your soil before planting.
Use a hand tiller or rototiller to til the soil to a depth of 8 inches. Spread the soil amendments dictated by your soil test evenly over the tilled area. Then till it again, at the same depth to mix the amendments in evenly with the soil. If possible, this step should be completed roughly six months before you plant (in which case the soil will have to be tilled again just before you move on to step 3 in early spring).
Plant the bitter melon seeds in rows that are 4 to 5 feet apart. Plant each seed 1/2 inch deep and 2 feet away from its neighbor.
Erect a 6-foot high trellis (available at most garden centers) along each row, taking care to stay at least 2 inches away from the bitter melon seeds. These trellises will support a considerable amount of weight as the bitter melon grows, so make sure that the bottom of the trellis is buried at least 1 foot into the ground.
Water the planting bed with 2 inches of water. Continue to keep the planting bed consistently moist until the bitter melon germinates in a week or so.