Skip to main content



Soil: Well drained sandy loams and alluvial soils are suitable.

Sowing time: Rainy and Summer seasons are ideal. (As per the regional practices and timings).
Optimum Temp. for Germination: 28-32°C
Staking system : Row to Row : 120 cm, Plant to Plant : 45 cm.
Ground System : Row to Row : 180 cm, Plant to Plant 45 cm.
Seed Rate: 600 - 700 gm / acre.
Preparation of Main field: Deep ploughing and harrowing.

  • Add well decomposed FYM 10-12 tons/acre.
  • Open ridges & furrows at required spacing.
  • Apply basal dose fertilizer.
  • Irrigate one day before sowing.

Chemical Fertilizers: Fertilizer application varies with soil fertility.

  • Basal dose before sowing: 25:50:50 NPK Kg/acre
  • Top dressing 30 days after sowing: 25:00:50 NPK kg / acre
  • Apply additional N & K at 25-30 days interval: 25:00:30 NPK kg / acre (depending upon the crop conditon).

Plant Protection: Follow the plant protection measures as recommended below and when required:

Disease/Insect Pest

Chemical Name

Trade Name

Dosage/Ltr. of Water

Powdery Mildew

Dinocap 48% EC


2.0 ml

Triadimefon 25% WP


0.3 gm

Penconazole 10% EC


1.0 ml

Downey Mildew

Metalaxyl 8% + Mancozeb 64% WP

Ridomil - MZ, Master

2.0 gm

Fosetyl AL 80% WP


1.5 gm

Cymoxanil 8% + Mancozeb 64% WP

Curzate M-8

1.0 ml

Mancozeb 75% WP

 Dithane M-45,IM-45

2.0 gm

Fruit Flies

Carbaryl 50% WP


4.0 gm

Thiamethoxam 25% WG


0.5 gm

Profenophos 40%+ Cypermethrin 4% EC

Polytrin C 44

1.0 ml

Red Pumpkin Beetle

Carbaryl 50% WP


4.0 gm

Dimethoate 30% EC

Rogor, Tafgor

1 - 1.5 ml

Methomyl 40% SP


1.5 gm

Special Note: The varietal characters & information given here is based on observations recorded at our trial station. Change in place, season, cultural practice may result in variation.


1. Not having proper nutrition and healthy root system:

Since you are growing the plant in a pot, I am a bit doubtful whether the plant is getting enough root space to grow a robust root system to produce a healthy plant. If space is not a problem, try to grow them on ground. But if you are living in an apartment and growing the plant on ground is not a possibility then try to grow them on a big pot with a very rich potting mix. A mixture of 1:1:1 of soil, dried powdered cow manure and sand will provide a reasonably rich potting mixture. Also make sure your plant is getting enough sunlight and water the plant very well every alternate day.

2. Insects:      

Now, if you are already following the above and your plant is otherwise healthy and growing vigorously, then there are only two other reasons for the young BM fruit to fall off. The first possibility is that some insect such as fruit flies are attacking the young fruit. This is very easy to fix. Just put a paper or plastic cover over the young fruit after the flower drops off. You must wait until the flower drops off to ensure the fruit is properly pollinated. By the way if you are living in a very high rise apartment, the young fruits can fall off due to lack of pollination also.

3. Fungal disease:     

This is a rare but possible cause. You need to consider this possibility only after the items 1 and 2 mentioned above are covered. If this is a fungal disease, you may need to get some expert opinion by contacting the local agricultural extension specialist in your area.


  • Type of Vegetable: Exotic - Asian
  • Skill required: Minimal gardening skills - but you must have an exotic taste
  • Growing Season: May to September (In Zone 7)
  • Plant type: Climbing Vine
  • Other Names: Bitter Gourd, Momordica charantia, Karela, Pavakka, Haagalakai
    Papailla, Melao de sao caetano, bittergourd, Balsam apple, Balsam pear, K'u kua kurela, Kor-kuey, Ku gua, Pava-aki, Salsamino, Sorci, Sorossi, Sorossie, Sorossies, Pare, Peria laut, Peria
  • Growing Structure: A trellis is essential

If you like to eat a variety of vegetables and love the taste of exotic vegetables, then you should not miss bitter melons.

Ok, Ok, I agree. Relishing bitter melons is an acquired taste. If you are squeamish about its taste, before growing them I suggest you get some good recipe (some of which are mentioned in this article) and make a few dishes first. And see if you like them.

So where do I buy these "bitter" veggies? I am glad you asked. If you live near a metro and there are Asian grocery stores nearby, then you can buy them there.

There are two main types of bitter melons. The Chinese variety and the Indian variety. The Chinese type is more succulent and the fruits are decorated on the outside with longitudinal ridges. Delicate spines instead of ridges distinguish the Indian variety. The Indian type is generally more bitter than their Chinese counterparts.

If you have plenty of space, you can grow both Chinese and Indian bitter melons. However if you are limited in space, then make your selection before you buy the seeds.

So why would somebody want to eat these bitter things?

Here are the reasons.

Once you acquire their taste, they can become a delicacy for your palate. And they are excellent source of various vitamins including A, B1, B3, B3, B6, B9, B12, C, E and K as well as Iron and Magnesium

According to wikipedia, bitter melon has been used in various Asian traditional medicine systems for a long time. Like most bitter-tasting foods, bitter melons can stimulate digestion. Bitter melons have been used by Asians for centuries and is a popular medicine in Chinese Medicine for diabetes mellitus type 2.

Bitter Melon contains four very promising bioactive compounds. These compounds activate a protein called AMPK, which is well known for regulating fuel metabolism and enabling glucose uptake, processes which are impaired in diabetics.


You can very easily grow this exotic vegetable on your backyard even if you know nothing about this plant. In this article I will show you how you can do that.

From where can I get the seed?  

That is a good question. You can buy bitter melons seeds from Internet stores or even from eBay. We had great success and high reliability with a small Canadian company called AgroHaitai( We bought excellent quality bitter melon seeds from them for several years now. And always got a bounty of fruits.

What is the growing season or When should I transplant my bitter melon?

We grow them every year in zone 7 from May to September with great success. You can grow bitter gourd (bitter melon) from seed directly by sowing the seed in its final destination. In this case you will lose about a month of growing season because you will have to wait until the last frost is over to plant your seeds outdoors. Alternatively you can start them indoors, by sowing the seeds indoors about a month and a half early (early April in Zone 7). You can then transplant them by the middle of May. This will save you time and will result in longer harvest season.

Selecting your planting location

They need a lot of sun. So find the sunniest spot in your garden. Also make sure you can provide a structure for them to climb on. These are vines, which like to climb up and spread around. Unlike watermelons, they won't fruit well if they are allowed spread on the ground. Also the fruits will get dirty from the soil and they may get all kinds of insect attack if they are in contact with the soil.

Preparing the ground 

Bitter melons are really easy to grow. If you have good soil, then all you need to do is to make a planting pit by loosening up the soil for about two feet in diameter and about one and half feet depth. Mix a lot of compost or dried manure before you plant the seeds.

Planting the seed

If you are in a colder zone (like me who is in zone seven) please wait until it is warm enough to plant your seeds. Waiting until the beginning to the middle of May (in zone 7) is a good idea. If you plant them earlier, most probably your seeds may rot. If you want to save some time, and would like to start harvesting your fruits sooner, you can sow the seeds indoors by April and then transplant them to their actual location by the middle of May.


Directly seeded, the seeds can take almost a month to germinate. There are things you can do to hasten the germination.

1. Socking:
By early April, soak the seed for two hours in tap water. Then put a wet paper towel in a styrofoam plate, spread the seeds and cover it with another wet paper towel. Put the styrofoam plate on the top (not inside) of your refrigator (it's warmer there). Keep the paper towel moist all the time. After about two weeks, the seeds will germinate.

At this time you can transfer them to your small containers. Let them grow for another 3 to 4 weeks in those containers. By that time they will develop a few new leaves. Now you can transplant them to the field. When you transplant, make sure to provide some artifical shade for a few days to protect the young plants from the sudden exposure to the harsh sun.

2. Breaking the seed coat:
We do a little trick to make them germinate faster by breaking their hard seed coat using pliers. To break the seed coat, you need to hold the seeds between your fingers by their thinnest side and then press them with the pliers on the ridge joining the two halves of the seed.

Be careful when you do this, if you damage the endosperm inside the hard shell, you will kill the seeds. So, before you use this approach, make sure you have plenty of seeds.


This can be an easy weekend project for most people. If you build a good wood structure, you can re-use them for years to grow your bitter melons.

What you see on the picture is a trellis built using the following:

  • Posts :  4 numbers (4 inch x 4 inch x 8 ft)
  • Horizontal support frame: 4 numbers  (2 inch x 4 inch x 8 ft)
  • Horizontal runners: 8 numbers(1 inch x 2 inch x 8 ft)

All of these were bought from Lowes. You will be able to find them in the lumber section of Lowes or Homedepot

Steps to build the trellis

Prebuild the structure (frame) that goes on the top of the posts. You can do it in any flat surface or on your garage and carry it to the location. You will need a helper to carry it as well as to raise it when you want to nail them to the posts.

Putting the Posts

The posts were put into holes dug 1.5 ft deep. To make the posts firmly affixed to the ground, dig a narrow hole using a crowbar. Also after putting the post, when you fill-in the hole, alternate between stones and soil and stamp them into the hole using the crowbar. Pour some water while you are doing this so that the soil will go in between the stones. Once everything is dried up, your posts will be as firm as you want them to be.


If there is no rain you must irrigate your melon plants at least twice a week. If you can, setting up a drip irrigation system can save you a lot of time as well as water.

Pest and diseases

That's the beauty of it: None.

We haven't seen any major pests or diseases attacking these plants. Since they are not native to US, there aren't major pests or diseases attacking these plants. Moreover, due to the harsh winter preceding and succeeding the growing season there is not much chance for a pest or disease to survive and spread season after season.

Harvesting: Let's pick these babies, fresh from the vine 

For most early varieties, you should be able to start harvesting your bitter melons about two months after germination. You should harvest the fruits before they are too mature and start ripening. When the fruits are ready for harvest, their spines (or ridges in the case of Chinese variety) will become less pointy. The ends of spines will get round. This is the best time to harvest them. 

If you wait longer, the fruits will ripen into yellow color. Such fruits are not good for cooking.

Let the ants help you - Collecting the seeds for the next season

To collect the seeds, let the fruits ripen in the vine. They will turn yellow in color. If you open the fruits at this time, you will see bright red colored pulp which will cover the seeds. When you collect the seeds, you need to get rid of this bright red mucilage covering the seeds. One little trick we do to avoid messing with the mucilage is to let the fruits ripen and break open naturally. Then the seeds will fall to the ground covered in this mucilage. Ants and small insects relish this mucilage. In a day or so, voila!! You will able to pick the seeds from the ground, wiped clean and dry by ants and other insects.


Shri Dalip Singh
Village Kothe Ramsar, P.O Dhilwan Kalan, Kotkapoora District Faridkot, Punjab
(Mobile : 09417929149)

Description of innovation
A local type of bitter gourd known as 'Jhaar Karela' is found climbing on bushes in sandy area as a wild plant. It is known for its medicinal value for diabetic patients. This farmer has adopted the wild cultivar and brought it under commercial cultivation. He has collected the seed from a wild plant growing as weed from southwestern districts of Punjab. He had even travelled to Rajasthan to collect the seed. He made the selection and developed a variety of his own. He has been growing 'Jhaar Karela' for the past 5 year on an acreage of 0.5-1.5 ha annually. It is a vine type crop and requires staking for successful cultivation. Mr. Dalip Singh has developed a system of bamboo staking on concrete foundation to trail the vines.

Practical utility of innovation
He is getting an average yield of 75 qtls/ha from the crop. He had been marketing the produce himself with his own conveyance. He made a packing size of 1, 2 and 5 kg and sold them in the adjoining markets. The average price of his produce (2009-10) was Rs. 5000/- per qtl and thus from an area of 1 ha, he earned Rs. 375000/- as gross income. With net return of about Rs. 200000/ - per ha.

Your rating: None

Please note that this is the opinion of the author and is Not Certified by ICAR or any of its authorised agents.