Bitter gourd more popularly known as karela isn’t all that bitter as it tastes. It is a super vegetable rich in calcium and Vitamin C. Cultivated extensively in India and China, the bitter gourd is also known to reduce blood sugar levels in diabetics. In good soil and climatic conditions, these gourds grow real fast with minimum maintenance.
Season : Though a warm weather crop, bitter gourd can be grown throughout the year provided it is not exposed to extreme cold conditions. The best seasons to grow bitter gourd are between April – May and July – September.
Location Constraints: The bitter gourd plant is a creeper and a home garden requires a trellis setup to support the creeper. Choose a sunny spot in the garden that receives good amount of sunlight during the day.
Sunlight: Bitter gourd thrives in late spring when the summer is just picking up. The crop should receive minimum six hours of bright sunlight every day until the seeds germinate.
Spacing : Soaking the seeds prior to sowing helps them to germinate faster. Make ½ inch deep holes in the land to sow bitter gourd seeds. Space them 10cms apart to ensure the creepers won’t eat into each other.
Growth : As the plants grow, they require the support of a trellis to creep higher. You can make a wooden trellis that can be used for all kinds of creeper plants. Sow the seeds near the trellis so that the plant doesn’t spread on the ground and rot. If you do not get a wooden support, fix up a plastic rope or wire to make a temporary arrangement for the creeper. Use Organic Growth Promoter Combo to increase plant flowering and fruiting and increase disease resistance.
Height and Spreading: The bitter gourd plant grows very tall and spreads all across the trellis. Never prune the plant because the flowering process might be interrupted. Allow it to spread until the fruit appears. If you plan of re-planting bitter gourd, leave the fruits to dry and open up. The seeds can be collected and sown again for another crop.
Temperature: Anywhere between 18degrees Celsius to 24degrees Celsius is vital to grow bitter gourd. If the night temperature drops, use a shade to cover the plants.
Watering: Bitter gourds need continuous watering all through their life cycle. Water is vital for their growth and survival. Inadequate moisture can delay flowering and result in stunted gourds. At every watering schedule ensure the soil is well drained. Damp conditions cause fungal growth in the roots. Use self- watering planter box for vital growth and survival of plants
Nutrient Management: Bitter gourd thrives in good soil with regular watering. However, you might spot slow growth in a few plants. In such cases usage of manure or vermicompost would do well to the crop. Once the fruits pop up, use the fertiliser and do not forget to water the plants immediately after the fertilisation process. Use vermicompost for organic farming from TheOrganic.Life.
Pest Management: Bitter gourd plants are rarely infested by pests and aphids. But the fruits might be eaten up by insects if the land is unhygienic. Spray an organic pesticide if you spot any pests. You can wrap up the tiny fruits in newspapers to prevent pest infestation. Pest control combo-Neem based is a product which you can buy from TheOrganic.Life for pest control.
Harvesting of bitter gourd :Light green coloured fruits that are soft and juicy can be harvested in a time span of 3 to 4months. Delayed harvesting can make the gourds hard and lumpy. If you wish to replant bitter gourds leave the gourds to dry up completely.
Uses and health benefits: The health benefits of bitter gourds are numerous. From weight loss to preventing diabetic complications, this super veggie fights an array of diseases caused by irregular blood sugar levels. Bitter gourd consumed in any form improves the overall wellness of the body.
Additional Information – Dried bitter gourd extracts are used to brew tea and is liked by many people. Such strong tea controls cholesterol and reduces the risk of heart attacks.