Bitter melon (Momordica charantia), also known as bitter gourd, is an odd-looking, cucumber-shaped melon that is native to Asia. As suggested by its name, this melon has a very bitter flavor and is not consumed in the same way as more common melons, but is cooked or pickled instead. Bitter melon seeds require soil temperatures of at least 60 degrees F in order to germinate, and they grow best with daytime temperatures of 75 to 80 degrees F.
Place the seeds into a container filled with water and allow them to remain there overnight.
Prepare the bed by removing all grass, weeds and rocks. Loosen the soil to a depth of 5 inches and amend with 3 to 4 inches of organic compost.
Use a finger to make 1/2-inch-deep holes in the soil. Leave 6 to 8 inches between each to allow room for growing. Insert a bitter melon seed into each hole and replace the disturbed soil. Water until the soil is thoroughly moistened but not enough to wash the seed to the surface.
Check the soil daily and water whenever the top layer is dry to the touch.
Add a 2-inch layer of mulch once the seedlings have emerged to maintain moisture and minimize weed growth, which can drain nutrients from the vines. Continue to water whenever the top of the soil feels dry.
Place a trellis one foot behind each bitter melon plant. Train the melon vines up the trellis to prevent damage to the plant.
Fertilize with a nitrogen-rich fertilizer 30 days after planting and again 60 days after planting.
Prune the vine when it reaches the top of the trellis by clipping off all side branches from the base of the plant to the 10th branch. Also remove the top two inches of the vine. Pruning in this manner will encourage increased fruit bearing.
Things You Will Need
- Garden fork
- Organic compost
- Nitrogen-rich fertilizer
- Bitter melon plants prefer full sun to partial shade and soil that drains well.
- The seedlings will sprout in about one week.
- It takes three months from the time of planting for the bitter melon fruits to be ready for harvesting.
- Wrap the developing melons in newspaper to prevent turtles and other pests from eating them.
- Gather the melons when they are between four and six inches long.
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