Bitter gourd, also known as bitter melon, is a fast-growing fruiting vine that grows well in hot, humid climates with daytime temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. The bitter gourd plant gets its name from the bitter-tasting fruit it produces. Bitter gourd is a popular vegetable in Asia where it is claimed to have medicinal qualities for diabetes and digestive disorders. Sow bitter gourd seeds in a soil amended with organic matter once the soil reaches a temperature of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit.
Choose a planting location for the bitter gourd that has a well draining soil and full sun light conditions.
Test the soil with a home soil pH test kit. Bitter gourd prefers a soil that is acidic with a pH range of 5.5 to 6.7. Add ground rock sulfur to the soil to lower the pH number and make it more acidic. Let the soil rest for two weeks.
Prepare the planting area prior to planting by tilling compost into the soil.
Soak the seeds in water for 24 hours prior to planting. Sow two to three seeds together at a depth of 1/2-inch deep. Water the planting area immediately after sowing. Bitter gourd seeds will germinate in two to three days.
Water the plants regularly during the growing season to keep the soil moist.
Provide a vegetable trellis for the plant once the vines begin to grow. This will provide air circulation for the plant and prevent the gourds from becoming flat. Train the vine by assisting it to grow in a upward direction on the trellis.
Manually pollinate the plants if insects are not available in the area. Flowers will appear on the plant five to six weeks after planting. Touch the male flowers to the female flowers to transfer pollen. A successful pollination will result in large portion of the flower growing into a fruit.
Prune to remove vine tips and cut lateral branches to the 10th node when the female flowers develop and the vine reaches the top of the trellis. This will increase fruit growth and encourage vine branching.
Fertilize the plants with a high-nitrogen fertilizer once fruit is present on the vines. Water the soil immediately after application to promote fertilizer absorption.
Harvest mature gourds once they turn light green with white flesh. Bitter gourd fruit is ready for harvest approximately three months after planting. The gourds will turn bitterer the longer they remain on the vine.