Bitter Melon seeds - when to sow?

gilar(Z6B/7A NJ)March 9, 2005


I came across some bitter melon seed I had scooped out from a melon last year in my garage. Can someone please tell me how I can plant them? Should I start them inside now and transfer them to the garden after the last frost date? When would it fruit in my zone (border of zone 6b/7a)? How many plants would I need to get about 20 melons? How much space do they take up?



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Sow the seeds after Mother's day.In my experience ,first two weeks of June are the best time for seeds to germinate.
You may start germinating seeds indoors some time in May.
About 5 plants should be enough to meet your requirement,again this is from my experience.

    Bookmark   March 12, 2005 at 8:55AM
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gilar(Z6B/7A NJ)

Chaman, thanks for your post. Hope the ones I had saved sprout for me. How big do these plants get in the east coast area?


    Bookmark   March 15, 2005 at 8:46PM
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Somewhere bet. 6 t0 10 ft. Planting them in rows side by side helps retain moisture.

    Bookmark   March 16, 2005 at 8:29AM
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sanWang(z6 MD)

I start my seeds indoor about now. They are very productive. It may take only 2 plants for your need. They need lots of water during hot summer months. I also let them climb to the fence or near-by trees. Their flowers bring deep profound smell in early summer days. Enjoy them.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2005 at 12:08PM
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gilar(Z6B/7A NJ)


thanks for your post. How long does it take them to germinate in your area? We are probably close enough in zone though your area is a bit warmer than mine. Do you save the seeds or purchase from a seed company?


    Bookmark   March 18, 2005 at 12:16PM
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crystalgeorgia(GA/ 8)

Where can I get these seeds??

    Bookmark   March 18, 2005 at 12:55PM
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sanWang(z6 MD)

I save seeds. For a new seeds (saved from last year) it may take a few days to one week to germinate. For older seeds, it take longer, but someone taught me a trick to help germination. That is to use a hammer and carefully crack a small hole the hardsell of the seeds and then saw it under the soil. But when you start indoor, the temperature is important. 70-80 F is ideal. As for where to get the seeds? Try Evergreen seeds or any Oriental grocery stores nearby, or any seed catalog that has a section on oriental veggies.

    Bookmark   March 18, 2005 at 1:37PM
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I've seen bitter melon seeds in the Asian supermarket. What is it for anyway?

    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 3:01PM
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pinakbet(z9 FL)

I have a big oriental vegie garden and this is how I usually start my bitter melon. In late March or early April, soak the seed for at least two hrs with regular tap water. Then put wet paper towel in a styrofoam plate, spread the seeds and cover it with another wet paper towel. put the styrofoam plate on top of your freezer or refrigator(it's warm in that place). Make sure this don't dry up. The papertowel has to be moist all the time. After few days, the seed will germinate. Transfer this to your small container and after it have couple of new leaves, then you can transplant it outside. I used chicken wire as my trellis. Enjoy.

    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 5:09PM
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gilar(Z6B/7A NJ)

thanks everyone for your comments. The seeds I sowed back in March did not germinate (it must have been older than I thought). I'll get some new seeds from a nearby oriental store.

I usually cook them in a spicy sauce with cayenne pepper,turmeric vinegar, salt and sugar. First, I slice and boil it and change the water a couple of time to get the bitterness out and then mix with the spices; It has a very unique flavor, you love it or hate it; my DH doesn't like it, but I love it and can eat it all the time. I serve it over rice.


    Bookmark   April 12, 2005 at 9:32PM
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Wong how long did it take from germination to producing the melons?
I like the melons pickled in a sweet solution. I prepare the melons by chopping them and adding lots of salt to remove the bitterness. Rinse and later add a boiled mix of half vinegar and half sugar. Place in a sterlized container, refrigerate and it can last a month if not longer.

    Bookmark   April 13, 2005 at 1:24PM
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sanWang(z6 MD)

There are plenty of great recipes for bitter melon. Yours sounds delicious too. You are in zone 5. I am afraid it may take a while yet. Bitter melon needs heat to get them growing fast. I would say the idea growing condition is when the night temperature is above 70F and lot of rains.
It takes about one months under that condition for them to flower and to fruit. So, in zone 5, I would think you would put them out near Memorial Day and expect to see them fruiting by 4th of July. You should have plenty of fruits for harvesting from late July to early September if other conditions are right. Remember to water them a lot if no natural rain.

    Bookmark   April 14, 2005 at 12:29PM
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Thanks Wong. I'll try planting seeds soon

    Bookmark   April 16, 2005 at 12:06PM
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Long ago grew them in our garden for a friend. To me they were sort of like growing cukes. The friend loved them. The seeds had the most intersting shapes to them. When it is a good time to put out your cukes think would be a good time for them too.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2005 at 10:18PM
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sanWang(z6 MD)

True, for that matter, plant Bitter Melon when it is good time to plant "melons". One thing, for example, watermelon doesn't like too much water, but Bitter Melon does.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2005 at 1:25PM
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Check with your local extension service to determine optimum time to start indoors. I'm in zone 6A and start melons indoors because melons are usually take at least 120 days for optimum yield and they take a long time from getting them established in their permanent location (direct sow or transplant) to actual melon production. So the earlier the better so you can have melon production for a longer period of time during the warm months.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2005 at 2:34PM
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Looking forward to a new season of planting!

    Bookmark   March 31, 2006 at 11:20AM
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sanj(Rocky Mtn Z5)

I have very limited garden space. I would love to grow bitter melon. Could I possibly grow it in a container. I am thinking about 5 Gal, Home Depot paint bucket. Will that be enough.
Anyone with experience growing bitter melon in a container?

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 1:22PM
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Yes, you can grow it in a container, make sure you use good soil with nutrients Fafard or even Miracle Grow. Keep it watered regularly. If you're going to start them, start them now because they need a long growing season.

    Bookmark   April 3, 2006 at 1:48PM
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zeedman Zone 5 Wisconsin

Like most tropical gourds, bitter melon seeds (Momordica charantia) take 7-14 days to germinate, and germination can be very erratic; so plant perhaps twice as many seeds as you need. Nicking the seed coat helps. I start seeds in peat pots (to minimize planting shock) indoors, 2 weeks prior to the recommended planting date for soybeans (or melons). Transplant them outdoors (or move to a coldframe) _promptly_ after germination, they become leggy quickly.

I have been growing a bitter melon variety once carried by Evergreen Y.H. as just "Thailand" (no longer carried). It is a smaller variety, semi-wild, best suited to pickling immature. First harvest for me in Zone 5 has been ~70 days, and leaving one per plant to mature for seed has no effect on yield. At 2 foot spacing, the vines will completely cover a 6 foot trellis by the end of summer.

Bitter melon has a vigorous root system, so planting in pots may stunt it somewhat... but as long as you keep the plants moist & fertilized (a mulch on top will help), you should get several per plant. I recommend one plant per 5 gal. container, with a minimum of 2 plants (for better pollination). I may experiment with this myself ;-)

    Bookmark   April 28, 2006 at 5:52AM
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    Bookmark   March 8, 2009 at 9:28PM
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Can you sow seeds freshly scoped out from the Melon? I have done that 2 weeks ago and nothing is happening, as I live in Scotland I have a job buying seeds.
My husband stir fry's bitter melon with Turkey and red Chillies, delicious he cooked that for me when I first met him, I knew then I would have to marry him.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 11:25AM
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Has anyone canned bitter melon in jars, the hot water process, to have some during off season or winter enjoyment. Thanks

    Bookmark   May 1, 2010 at 8:29PM
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I sowed bitter melon seeds in a 3" peat pot and placed it on a heating mat in a 3 tier green house. So far no result. Also I nicked the top of the seed to help it germinate. I am not sure if older seeds would germinate. Would a one year old seed germinate?


    Bookmark   May 2, 2010 at 2:09PM
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Bitter Gourd : Mormodica charantia L.
Bitter gourd is popular due to its medicinal properties. Origin of the crop is unknown, but it is widely spread throughout the tropics. The fruit is a good source of iron, calcium, phosphorus and vitamin B. In Sri Lanka Bitter gourd is eaten as a vegetable. It can be successfully grown on elevation from sea level to about 1200m.

Planting Spacing: 1.5 X 1.0

The fruit is used as vegetable as well as it can be used as a medicine for diabetics and vermifuge . Nutritional composition

    Bookmark   April 6, 2013 at 4:17AM
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