Growing Bitter Gourd – A Beginners Guide

Growing Bitter Gourd.
Growing Bitter Gourd.

Growing Bitter Gourd For Beginners:

The following information is all about Growing Bitter Gourd.

Introduction to Growing Bitter Gourd

Of all the vegetables found in the kitchen, bitter gourd stands as a different vegetable. It is one of the popular vegetables grown in Southeast Asia and it is native to China and India regions. It comes from family group consisting of cucumber, squash, watermelon and muskmelon. The nutritional value of bitter gourd is same as other vegetables in the cucurbit family while this vegetable is rich in folate and vitamin C. The plant grows as an annual crop and can perform as a perennial crop. Immature fruits have more medicinal values hence this crop is becoming more popular worldwide and attracting lot of researchers globally.

The plant is thin climbing vine with stalked leaves. Bitter gourd fruits are light to dark green in color with bumps all over it and very bitter in taste. It blossoms both male and female flower which are yellow in color. The root system is multilateral growing in 30 cm to 50 cm depth. The various parts such as leaves, vines, fruit of the plant are used for many medicinal purposes such as diabetes and psoriasis. The main vine must be cut when it reaches five to six feet in length encouraging more lateral vines and flowers.

Greenhouse growing of Bitter Gourd offers distinct advantages of quality, productivity and favourable market prices to the growers Bitter Gourd growers can substantially increase their income by greenhouse growing of Bitter Gourd in off season as the Bitter Gourd produced in the normal season generally do not fetch good returns due to large availability of these Bitter Gourdes  in the market. Bitter gourd is also popularly know as “Karela” in India and “Bitter Melon” in other parts of world. Bitter gourd can be grown in back yards, containers , pots and even in polyhouse with proper vine vertical supports.

Long Bitter Melon (Hybrid Variety).
Long Bitter Melon (Hybrid Variety).

Scientific / Botanical name of Bitter Gourd

Momordicachorantia L.

Family Name of Bitter Gourd


Other names of Bitter Gourd

African Cucumber, Ampalaya, Balsam Pear, Balsam-Apple, Balsambirne, Balsamo, Bitter Apple, Bitter Cucumber, Bitter Gourd, Bittergurke, Carilla Fruit, and Carilla Gourd.

Bitter Gourd in Indian Languages

Hindi – करेला(karela).

Gujarati – કડવીલોટ(Kaḍavīlōṭa).

Malayalam – പാവയ്ക്ക(pāvaykka).

Tamil – பாகற்காய்(Pākaṟkāy).

Kannada – ಹಾಗಲಕಾಯಿ(Hāgalakāyi).

Telugu – కాకరకాయ(Kākarakāya).

Bengali –তিক্তগরু (Tiktagaru).

Marathi – कारले(Kāralē).

Punjabi –  ਕੌੜੀ().

Urdu –  کریلا.

Bitter Gourd Varieties / Bitter Gourd Cultivars

Pusa Do Mausami is suitable variety to be planted in spring to summer and rainy season. The vegetable fruit are dark green in color, club shaped and are long and medium thick. The plant comes to harvest by 55 days from sowing.

Coimbatore Long variety is suitable for planting during rainy season. The vegetable fruits are tender, long and very light green to white in color. Farmer can expect a yield of 25 to 30 tonnes per hectare.

AkraHarit variety fruits are spindle shaped with glossy green in color and they look attractive. This variety can be harvested in 100 to 110 days with an yield about 12 tonnes per hectare.

VK 1 Priya is a heavy bearing variety and can bear up to 50 fruits per plant. The vegetable fruit are 35 to 40 cm long and can be harvested in 60 days.

Early Growing Hybrid Variety.
Early Growing Hybrid Variety.

PhulePriyanka is a hybrid variety having fruits that are 20 to 25 cm long, dark green in color. Farmer can expect a yield of about 35 to 40 tonnes per hectare.

PhuleUjwala variety fruits are suitable for exports. The vegetable fruit can grow 18 to 20 cm long and are dark green in color with tubercles. Farmer can expect a yield of about 30 to 35 tonnes per hectare.

COBgoH.1 is a hybrid variety between MC.84 x MDU.1. The fruits are light green in color having high momordicin content about 2.99 mg per gram. This variety is suitable for commercial growing as it has a high yield about 50 to 52 tonnes per hectare.

Short Variety Bitter Gourd.
Short Variety Bitter Gourd.

Climate for Growing Bitter Gourd

The plant grows well in tropical and sub-tropical regions from lowland areas to altitudes up to 1000m. Bitter gourd plant can tolerate heat up to 30° to 35° C and thrives well in 24° to 27° C. Compared to other vegetables in its family, bitter gourd can tolerate low temperature but cannot tolerate frost. The plant prefers warm and dry weather while adapted well to different rainfall conditions.

Soil requirement for Growing Bitter Gourd

Bitter gourd grows in wide range of soils. For optimum growth and production it prefers soils that are sandy loam with good drainage and rich in organic matter. Soils with pH value 6.5 to 7.0 is favorable.

Land preparation in Growing Bitter Gourd

Plough the land thoroughly bringing it to fine tilth. Prepare raised beds about 100 to 120 cm wide, 20 to 30 cm height with convenient length.

Propagation in Growing Bitter Gourd

Bitter Gourd Seeds.
Bitter Gourd Seeds.

Propagation is mainly done by seeds and also transplanting .

Growing Bitter gourd in Pots.
Growing Bitter gourd in Pots.

Seed Rate Growing Bitter Gourd

1800 to 2000 grams of seeds is required for a hectare land.

Season for Growing Bitter Gourd

The best season in growing bitter gourd in north India would be January to February while in South India it would be June to July and December to January.

Seed Treatment for Growing Bitter Gourd

Seeds must be treated before sowing for better germination and from other soil borne diseases. Seeds must be treated with 4 grams of Trichodermaviride or 10 grams of Pseudomonas fluorescens or 10 grams of Carbendazim per kilogram.

Sowing and Spacing in Growing Bitter Gourd

Two to three seeds are sown in a pit at a depth of 2 cm with spacing about 40 to 60 cm apart and 1.5 to 2 metre row to row.

Irrigation in Growing Bitter Gourd

Irrigate the beds before sowing the seeds. Plants cannot tolerate drought so maintain good soil moisture up to 30 to 50 cm soil depth where the majority of root zone is located. The best way to irrigate fields is through drip irrigation. Install drip irrigation with main and sub-main pipes and place the inline lateral tubes at an interval of 1.5m. Place the drippers in lateral tubes at an interval of 60 cm and 50 cm spacing with 4LPH and 3.5 LPH capacities respectively.

Manures and Fertilizers in Growing Bitter Gourd

Apply 20 to 25 tonnes of well rotten farm yard manure per hectare. Prepare a mixture of two kilogram of Azospirillum and Phosphobacteriaper hectare and 2.5 kilogram of Pseudomonas per hectare with 50 kg FYM and 100 kilogram of neem cake and apply to the field at the last plow.Fertilizer application must be carried out depending on the soil test. On an average per hectare provide a total of 184 kilogram of Nitroen, 112 kilogram of Phosphorous pentoxide, and 124 kilogram of Potassium oxide. The total fertilizer is split into basal dose along with three to four side dressings must be given at different plant growth stages. Entire amount of phosphorous and one third of nitrogen and potassium is given as basal dose. The remaining nitrogen and potassium is applied thereafter as side dressings. The first application must be given at the plant establishment stage and the remaining application at an interval of two weeks.

Interculture Operations in Bitter Gourd Growing

Weed Control: Mulching is commonly used practiced for weed control while growing bitter gourd crops. It can be done organically or with plastic mulch. Weeds can also be controlled by using registered herbicides that are available in the local nursery. Two to three hand hoeing can be done to prevent weeds.

Trellising and Staking: By two weeks after planting the plant rapidly grows fast by spreading vines. Vines need support to grow and trellising helps to increase in fruit yield and fruit size. It’s easy to spray insecticides, reduces fruit rot or decay or soil borne diseases and easier while harvesting. The height can be up to two metres and 1.5 metre apart. Trellises shape can be any type depending on available resources.

Pruning: Is one of the important intercultural operation that will improve the fruit production. The plant develops many side branches which are not useful or productive. Cut the lateral branched till the main lateral reaches the top of the trellis, removal of side branches in the first ten nodes will induce early cropping and a positive effect on yield.

Growing Bitter Gourd in Greenhouse

It is observed that plants that grow in greenhouse setting and under certain conditions produce more fruit and the period of harvest can be extended beyond a normal field cultivation period. In greenhouse by using a vertical trellis system produce more fruits per plant than a horizontal trellis system. As insects or honeybee are controlled in greenhouse conditions, hand pollination must be carried out or setting up a beehive inside will help in pollination.

Growing Bitter Gourd in Container

Prepare the soil by adding vermicompost to the soil at a ratio 1:1. Loosen the soil and remove pebbles or any hard particles. Use a medium sized container with drainage holes. Place some flat stones at the bottom followed by prepared soil medium. Fill the potting mix to the top leaving one and half inch from the top. Sow hybrid seeds and water it immediately. Maintain the soil moisture by watering whenever required. Seedlings when they reach six to ten centimetre must have support to grow. Place the container where there is optimum sunlight. Add a rope against a wall for the plant vines to grow and by 70 to 90 days harvest the fruits.

Pests and Diseases in Growing Bitter Gourd

Pests and Insects in Growing Bitter Gourd:

White flies and Aphids: These are tiny insects that are found under the leaf in large colonies. They suck sap from the lower side of the leaf making the leaf stunted and fall immaturely. Application of Neem oil emulsion 2.5% with 20 grams of garlic paste in litre water or 2 ml of Malathion 50 EC along with 20 grams of garlic paste mixed in one litre water acts as a best control measure.

Fruit Fly: These insects spoil the vegetable fruits by puncturing through ovipositor and laying eggs inside the fruits. Larvae feed on the vegetable flesh making the fruit rotten. To control set Bait traps with Carbofuran granules and spraying of 2 ml of Malathion 50 EC in one litre of water are the solution to control this pest. Field sanitation is a good control measure.

Epilachna Beetle: Both adult and grubs feed on leaves by scraping the leaf lamina and skeletonize the leaves to control sprayMalathion 50 EC (2 ml per litre) should be applied.

Pumpkin Caterpillar: The crop gets destroyed by these insects as they feed on the leaves and making holes in the fruits. To control mix one litreof Kiriyath extract with one litre of cow’s urine and add 10 grams of green chilli paste in 10 litres of water and spray on the crop.

Serpentine Leaf Miner:These insects feed on leaves by eating away the chlorophyll leaving snake like white scars on the leaves. Application of Neem oil emulsion at 2.5% is a good control measure.

Pumpkin Beetle: They feed on the leaves and make holes in the roots and destroying the crop. Application of neem cake and spraying around the plant stem over the soil with 2 ml of Ekaluxin one litre of water is a good control measure.

Diseases  in Growing Bitter Gourd:

Downy Mildew: This is a fungal disease and when infected yellow spots are formed on the upper surface of the leaves and water soaked fungal spots under the leaves. This can be controlled by spraying with 4 grams of Dithane M-45 in one litre of waterfollowed by field sanitation.

Powdery Mildew:Ashy spots are formed over the leaves and stem of the plants when the crop is infected. Spray the field with 4 grams of Bavistinin a litre waterwill control the disease. Field sanitation is also a good control measure.

Harvesting in Growing Bitter Gourd

Harvesting of crop can be done from 80 to 90 days after sowing. Fruits develop rapidly and pick fruits before they ripen. Fruits must be tender, full size with good texture and immature at the time of picking. Harvest every second or third day by cutting fruit stalk with a sharp knife, usually 10 to 15 harvests can be done. Matured fruits have no market demand as they are spongy, sour yellow and split open and only seeds can be stored for next planting.

Yield in Growing Bitter Gourd

Depending on variety grown and with best farming management, a farmer can expect in 140 to 150 days a yield about 15 tonnes per hectare and for hybrid a yield about 40 tonnes per hectare in 180 days.

Storage of Bitter Gourd

Vegetable fruits cannot store for long and hence must be marketed immediately. Remove damaged and deformed and insect infected fruits for marketing. Store the fruits in aerated bags at a 12° to 14° C temperature with 85% to 90% relative humidity in the storage room. The fruits can be stored for two to three weeks under such conditions while the fruit gets damaged under 10° C and over 14° C.

Marketing of Bitter Gourd

Ready to Market Bitter Gourd.
Ready to Market Bitter Gourd.

Freshly harvested bitter gourds can be transported to local vegetable markets. However, there are many vegetable vendors who can buy  in bulk at your farm gate itself.

For Growing Chillies : Read Here.


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