A step by step guide to Growing Kakarakaya/Bitter Gourds
Today we learn Kakarakaya growing from seed along with planting methods, care, and harvesting. Bitter melon, which is also called bitter gourd or karela is a vegetable which belongs to the family of cucumber. This is a vegetable which grows very fast and it’s native is South Asia. This plant is most popular for its fruit which would be oblong and knobby and a flavor which would be bitter when compared to grapefruit. If you are residing in the climatic conditions which are humid and give proper care, you will be successful in growing this fruit which is considered to be nutritious.
Bitter gourd which is scientifically called as Momordica charantia is a tropical vine. This is very closely related to zucchini, cucumber, squash, and pumpkin. This is grown across the world for its fruit which is edible. This is considered a staple in most of the Asian cuisines. Moreover, the Indian variety is very narrow and has ends which are pointed with jagged and rough spikes on the rind. What are we waiting for?, let us get into growing Kakarakaya for having a healthy lifestyle.
Preparation of area of plantation for growing Kakarakaya:
- You will have to start the plantation of bitter gourd after the completion of the last frost and when the temperatures are between 23°C to 27°C. Even though the bitter gourd is very resistant to the cold climatic conditions than all the other plants belonging to the cucumber family, frost will cause death to it. Though it may change based on the locality you are residing, you are generally safe when you are going with the plantation of seeds at the time of late April or in the early days of May.
- The bitter gourd will be able to grow when the temperature is at a minimum of 18°C, but it will grow more slowly than it would be when the climatic conditions are warmer.
- You can also consider growing bitter gourd in a greenhouse for the prevention of damage caused by frost.
- Select an area in your garden which will receive at least 6 hours of sunlight directly. Although a few hours of partial shade is fine across the day, bitter gourd would love to grow in a location which receives full sun. You can consider planting the seeds in shade as long as the vines are reaching the sun once they start growing.
- Now you can consider the addition of manure or compost to the soil which is well-drained. Combine the organic materials which would be a great help in adding nutrients to the soil prior to the plantation of seeds. The bitter gourd will love to grow in the soil which is sandy and soft, so make sure you are mixing some amount of need if required.
- The pH of the soil should be in between 5.5 to 6.8 in order to get the bitter gourds which are healthy.
- Construct a bitter melon trellis so that the vines would be able to climb. Also, ensure that the trellis has a height of at least 6 feet so that the vines will have some space to grow and wrap around it.
- The trellis has to be shaped in the form of a letter “A” across the area of plantation. Growing bitter gourd on a trellis will help in the prevention of diseases and makes harvesting easy. This will also help in the production of large fruit.
- Bitter melon which is grown in the ground directly will not be able to produce fruit which is as large as the plant which is grown on a trellis.
- If you are not growing your bitter gourds on a trellis, then you can consider adding a layer of mulch or straw for the creation of a barrier between the soil and the plant so that this will maintain moisture in the soil and will also help in the prevention of fruit rot.
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Sowing seeds for growing Kakarakaya:
- The seeds have to be soaked for 24 hours before the plantation. Seeds have to be kept in a water bowl and allow them to soak for a day. This will help in the germination of seeds in a quick manner once the plantation is done. After the seeds get soaked, you will have to pat them dry by making use of a paper towel.
- Buy the seeds of bitter melon from your local garden center or nursery. You can also purchase bitter gourd seeds online.
- Consider planting 2 to 3 seeds in a hole at a depth of a half-inch into the soil. The bitter gourd has to be planted directly in the outdoor locations. Dig a hole in the soil in your garden by making use of your finger and then drop the bitter gourd seeds inside. Now, the hole has to be covered by making use of topsoil. If you are planning for the plantation of more than one bitter gourd plant. The holes have to be spaced at a distance of 40 inches to 60 inches from each other directly into the soil present in your garden.
- You can also consider planting the seeds in small pots which are filled with a potting mix if the climatic conditions are not ideal for growing. Transplantation of seedlings can be done after 2 to 3 weeks once the plantation is done in pots.
- The soil has to be watered until the top half-inch has become damp. You can make use of a watering can for wetting the soil in a gentle manner. Keep the finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. Make sure that the soil is moist but not waterlogged.
- The soil has to be watered every day in the morning. Make sure that you are watering bitter gourd at the same time on a daily basis so that you will not forget. Also, you should be able to see the germination of seedlings after 2-3 days. Also ensure that the soil is moist, but not wet.
- The seedlings have to be thinned as soon as you see 4 to 6 leaves on them. Save the seedling which seems to be the healthiest. Make use of a pair of pruning shears for clearing away the growths which are weaker by cutting them at their base.
- If you see that all the seedlings are of the same size, you can either thin them in a random way or you can wait for one more day or two to check which one is growing larger.
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Growing Kakarakaya in containers:
- Choose a warm spot on your terrace.
- Make use of the soil which is rich in terms of organic material, loamy and sandy. A combination of compost and cow dung will do wonders to the plant.
- You can make use of the seeds of bitter gourd from any of the ripe bitter gourds you selected from the vegetable market. You will have to ensure that you are making use of only the seeds that are formed completely. You can also make use of the seeds from a previous crop, or purchase them from your local nursery. If you see any red coating on the seeds, take it off. If required, you can also soak the seeds in water for the complete night in water prior to sowing the seeds to speed up the process of germination.
- You will have to dig the holes up to a depth of half an inch into the soil and drop the seeds into them. You will have to leave a space of about 12 inches in between the holes. The holes have to be covered with soil and sprinkle some amount of water on top. Then, you will have to sow a minimum of 2 seeds in a container and make use of a minimum of 2 containers for sowing the seeds.
- The seeds will start the process of germination within 2 to 3 days of sowing you will see the appearance of bitter gourd plant flowers in about 5 to 6 weeks. The bitter gourds will be prepared for picking within 2 months from the time of plantation.
Care and maintenance in growing Kakarakaya:
- Spray fungicides on the bitter gourd for the prevention of disease. Bitter gourd is prone to the same diseases which affect squash and cucumbers. Make use of a fungicide which is made for squash from a garden store present in your locality for the prevention of infections in your bitter gourd.
- Common diseases which you may see in bitter gourd are downy mildew, watermelon mosaic potyvirus or leaf spot. You have to check for splotchy discoloration on the Bitter gourd plant leaves.
- Fungal infections generally occur longer wet periods. Monitor your plant in a careful manner if there has been plenty of rain in your locality.
- Make sure that you are applying an insecticide for the prevention of infestation of insects. Cucumber beetles are the most common pest and they are the ones which carry bacteria which will cause permanent damage to the vines of the plant. Make sure that you are going with the application of pesticides with rotenone at dusk so that you are not harming the pollinators at the day time. Also, follow the instructions on the package so that you will not cause any harm to your plants.
- Fruit flies will be laying eggs on the fruit. If you are noticing fruit flies closer to your plants, then you will have to protect each fruit by wrapping them in paper bags or newspapers.
- Make use of harsh chemicals if the infestation will cause damage to your plant.
- If you have plants to consume your bitter melon, make sure that you are making use of the pesticides which are safe for consumption of human beings, like vinegar, liquid soap sprays or Bacillus Thuringiensis.
- Make sure that you are watering the soil on a daily basis. The soil has to be watered so that it is moist up to a half-inch below the soil surface. Overwatering of the soil may cause damage to the root system of the plant and will cause rotting of the fruit.
- Make use of an irrigation system for providing a consistent source of water for your bitter gourds.
- The tip of the main stem has to be pruned as soon as it grows past the trellis’s top. Make use of a pair of pruning shears for cutting the growing stem back by 2 inches. This will help in the promotion of faster growth of fruit and keeps the energy of the plant into the lateral vines which have grown from the main stem.
- If you are not growing bitter gourd on a trellis, make sure that you are pruning the growing vine as soon as you see female flowers on the plant. Female flowers will have stems which are knobby green and yellow petals.
- You will have to make use of a balanced fertilizer which has N-P-K all across the growing season. Make sure that you are applying fertilizer after the plant has at least 4 leaves. A fertilizer which you have bought commercially for vegetables and fruits will work well for bitter gourd. Follow the instructions on the package so that you will not cause oversaturation of the soil.
- The soil has to be watered as soon as the application of fertilizer is done so that it has a chance for soaking into the plant roots.
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Harvesting procedure of bitter gourd:
- Fruits have to be picked after 3 to 4 months after plantation when they are still green. Make use of a pair of scissors for cutting the fruits which are hanging from the vine. The fruit has to be around a length of 5 to 6 inches and firm for touching when you are harvesting. They will become light green but then may also have streaks which are yellow on the flesh.
- Plants which are completely yellow in color and also soft to touch are overripe.
- The bitterness of the fruits may change, even when they are grown on the same vine.
- You can harvest the fruits after the fruits begin to get ripened. There will be the formation of more fruits from the same vine after the removal of fruit which has already grown. Make sure that you are checking the vines every alternate day to see if you have any fruit which is prepared to cut down.
- The fruit has to be harvested before it gets ripened completely.
- Make sure that you are using the fruit 3 to 5 days after the harvesting is done. The fruit has to be kept in a paper bag or plastic bag in the refrigerator. The fruit has to be cut open and the seeds should be removed. The fruit has to be paired with garlic or any spicy peppers to cover the bitter flavors of the bitter gourd.
- You can also parboil the bitter gourd for decreasing the bitterness, but it may also change the texture of the fruit.
- Bitter gourd has a very good dose of fiber, potassium, iron and is rich in the content of Vitamin C, Vitamin B1, Vitamin B2, Vitamin B3.
Facts about growing Kakarakaya:
- You will be able to harvest bitter gourd about 3 to 4 months after plantation and about 1 week to 10 days after flowering when the fruits are at a length of 4 to 6 inches. The fruits of bitter gourd will be of pear-shape with skin in light-green color and a few yellow streaks.
- You will have to sprinkle an n-p-k fertilizer with a ratio of 33-0-0 per hill after the flowers start blooming if your soil is sandy or light.
That’s all folks about growing Kakarakaya in the home garden or outdoor garden. Keep growing veggies!.
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