Before we talk about growing bitter gourd, bitter melon or ampalaya let's talk about it first. As the name implies it is bitter but it is delicious once cooked, it is also packed with vitamins and minerals that will make you healthy and strong, it is also known to help in certain disease such as diabetes. Bitter melon is a native vegetables in Asia and now being popular in other countries too because of its therapeutic effects. If you want to grow ampalaya (local name of bitter gourd in Philippines) then it is a good idea to watch the season, it grows best in tropical countries but it can be grown in different places to provided that it meets the right climate, temperature, soil conditions and of course your own caring for your plants.
Now let's proceed on information on how to grow ampalaya or bitter gourd. First thing you need to know about bitter gourd is about them being a vine, yes, they will need trellis in order to grow properly, it is easy to build trellis so you don't have to worry so much about it. If you need help about it then visit my post on how to build trellis and it will give you idea on how to build one.
Prepared your trellis? Then don't forget to till the soil to eliminate the weeds and other pest that lurks under the soil, tilling also promotes good air circulation in the roots which is good for your plants. If you saw some earthworm dude don't kill them and let them lurk there, earthworms helps a lot in fertilization and air circulation of your plants. You can also create vermicompost using various kinds of earthworms and we will discuss that in our future post.
Since we will be practicing organic vegetable gardening, I advice that you keep a ample supply of organic fertilizer made from your own compost bin. You must apply compost after tilling to give your soil nutrients that your plants need in order to grow well, also make sure that your garden has enough sunlight because our bitter gourd wants a lot of sunlight.
Next thing you need to acquire is the good quality seeds. You can go to your nearest agriculture store or supermarket to purchase the seeds that you need, different varieties have their own advantage and disadvantage. In my case, I choose hybrid seeds that are pest and disease resistant and give me harvest that are in demand in the market so I will earn easy cash by selling bitter gourd in marketplace. Since we are living in internet age you can easily choose and buy bitter melon seeds online.
If you already purchased the seeds then its time to germinate them, don't be nervous and just soak them in water for 24 to 48 hours until the coat becomes soft, when this happens put them in container of directly plant them in your plowed soil. Be patiently wait for six to seven days until the little cute seedlings start to emerge, this will be the critical time in planting because they are prone in being crushed to pieces by your pet dogs; if you have one.
If you do the transplanting method (plant the seeds first in containers and transfer the seedlings later in the soil when they are already ready) then you must carefully remove the bitter gourd seedlings in the containers and gently plant them directly in the soil, do the transplanting late afternoon so you will spare the little bitter melon seedlings from direct sunlight in noon, this will reduce mortality rate. After transplanting give them water after transplanting.
Remember that you must create a proper drainage in your planting area to avoid fungal infections on the roots of your plants which is caused by too much moisture in the soil, too much watering is not recommended and excessive application of organic fertilizer is not a good idea. Too much is not good so always do it moderately or if you really needed to do it.
Water your bitter gourd when the soil is dry, you can do this every morning or in the afternoon, remember that you must not over water the plants. When your bitter gourd is big enough you must train the vines to cling on the trellises, tie them if necessary. The fruits of bitter gourd will be straight when they are hanging and they are safe from any harmful things on the ground. Watch out for pest like fruit flies because they will give you nasty damage if they left out uncontrolled.
When harvest time comes it is the most exciting period in growing your own organic vegetables, the recommended time to harvest bitter gourd is in the morning and afternoon so you will not punish yourself under the sun. Harvest them before they turn yellow, yellow bitter gourd is not edible because its not delicious. Newly harvested bitter melons are the best, there are many ways to remove their bitterness and make them delicious, common way of removing the bitter taste is by soaking them in the water for a while before cooking. I love it when they are cooked with beef broccoli.
To summarize this long post about how to grow bitter gourd let's make a simple.
- Till the soil where you will grow your bitter gourd.
- Prepare the compost fertilizer.
- Prepare the trellis.
- Choose the seeds, I advice that you choose hybrid seeds that are pest and disease resistant.
- Soak the seeds for about 24-48 hours.
- Directly plant the seeds in the soil or plant them in container and transplant it later.
- Water the plants when the soil lost moisture.
- Putting rice straw mulch is a good idea to conserve moisture especially on hot days.
- Waiting until harvest...
- Harvest your bitter gourd, bitter melon, ampalaya or whatever you call it on early morning or afternoon to save yourself from blistering sun.
There you have it, hope I helped you in finding ways on how to grow bitter gourd in organic way. Stay tuned and we will discuss more things on how to grow organic vegetables at home and reaps its great benefits.