“To cramp these plants of spirit free, may seem to be a pity
But do without, and ivy dear, will overcome our city”
There are various types of gourds. This page has information relevant to ivy gourd/tendli. Click here for info on bitter gourd/karela or other common gourds (snake/padwal, sponge/gilki turai, ridge/turai and smooth/lauki). Ivy gourd is a highly productive fruiting veggie. It is known to be a farmer’s delight and an environmentalist’s nightmare. In fact it is so hardy and easy to propagate, that it has been classified as an invasive species and banned in places like Hawaii!
SEASONS: Ivy gourd is a perennial, and once planted, will probably outlive you! It is very well suited to Mumbai’s climate and can be sown and grown through the year, though the monsoons are preferable for propagating through cuttings.
PROPAGATING: Ivy gourd can be propagated by seed or cuttings. Seeds are not readily available in Mumbai. It is simpler to propagate cuttings obtained from farms outside the city. If using seeds then scoop out the gelatinous center of a fully ripe, reddened ivy gourd, and spread on a rack to dry in the hot sun. It may take several days for thorough drying. Once dried, brush off dried pulp residue, clean the seeds and store in a cool, dark place. If using cuttings, the process is super easy. Just plant sturdy, trimmed stems, about 6 inches in length, in soft soil near a climbing frame/pole. Then water well and daily. Within a week your stems will take root and start to climb.
GERMINATING: Ivy gourd seeds are best germinated in germination dishes/seeding baskets prepared with a mixture of compost and peat moss. Seeds can be sown in shallow, 1/4 inch deep holes or scattered on the surface with a sprinkling of soil above. Place in semi-shade and spray water evenly. Spray your sown seeds daily until seedlings emerge in 5-7 days.
PLANTING OUT: Transplant when your seedlings are sturdy in stem, about 2 weeks of age and as they start growing out tendrils. Choose well-composted, well-manured soil and plant your seedling creepers in about 4 inch deep holes and around a pole or trellis in full sun. Similarly, if planting out cuttings, plant near a support structure so your creepers can climb vertically. Ivy gourd is not fussy and will grow in acidic, neutral or alkaline soils as long as it gets easy access to nutrients and strong sunlight. It grows well on open plots and in large containers.
NURTURING: You don’t need to bother to mulch around this plant as it will so aggressively compete for resources that no other vegetation (excepting mint perhaps) will be able to grow around, under or near it. Water it deeply each day, twice a day in peak summer and keep feeding it compost and manure-rich soil toppings. Train it to climb the trellis in the beginning, and it will then manage its growth perfectly well without any assistance from you. Your plant will shock you with the aggressiveness of its growth, sometimes a few inches in a day, and will produce continuously as a perennial. Snip off yellowing or diseased branches and trim down the plant each year to about 6 inches above ground, to encourage new growth at the start of every monsoon.
HARVESTING: Ivy gourd will grow rapidly, produce plentifully and will need to be harvested regularly. Snip off bulbous fruit while still green in color. One ivy gourd plant is usually quite enough if you let it spread well, and feed it well – it will keep you and your family in good cheer through the year! When productivity declines or at the end of summer, cut it down, replenish the soil, and let the monsoons bring in a new set of shoots for a new season of ivy gourd.
Ivy gourd climbing aggressively across an overhead wire trellis
A delicate white ivy gourd flower….and the fruit that grows from it
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