Some gardens are ornamental and some are practical, but there's no reason why your garden can't be both. Consider trying the bitter melon, a vine that's both an attractive and nutritious addition to any garden. It's distinguished by bright green leaves and delicate yellow flowers while the melon itself is rich in iron, beta carotene, calcium and vitamins B and C. Although bitter melons may be a challenge to start from seed, any home gardener can sprout, plant and grow them with a little bit of patience and know-how.
Score the outer shell of the bitter melon seed with a sharp hobby knife or similar tool. Breaching the seed's tough husk will allow moisture to enter more easily, thus shortening the time needed for germination. Alternatively, the seeds may be softened by soaking in water for 24 hours.
Assess your climate and choose whether to sprout the seeds by direct-sowing them outside or starting them indoors instead. Bitter melon seeds require warm temperatures to germinate and grow; 75 to 85 degrees F is ideal. If weather permits, the seeds may be direct-sown outdoors ¾ of an inch deep in an area with full sun and rich, well drained soil.
If the seeds are to be germinated indoors, wrap them in damp paper towels, place in a warm spot and keep them moist until they sprout. Patience will be rewarded with bitter melons as germination may take a week or longer. Once they have germinated, plant them in small pots or flats, cover with ¾ of inch light potting soil and set them in a warm, sunny spot to mature.
Choose a spot to transplant the seedlings outdoors as weather permits. Bear in mind that in addition to bearing valuable, unusual looking fruit, the bitter melon is an attractive vine that will climb readily. Trellises, fence posts and even porches are ideal places to let the bitter melons grow, provided they get full sun and are planted in rich, well-drained soil.