Growing Ivy gourd lets you enjoy this delicious veggie fresh at home! Using this guide, you’ll have all the details on How to Grow Kovakkai Plant!
Native to India, ivy gourd has a close resemblance to cucumber in terms of taste and appearance. Crunchy and mild-flavored kovakkai can be eaten raw, but people, mostly, consume it as a stir fry veggie in India. There are numerous benefits of eating Kovakkai like it keeps diabetes, obesity, and cholesterol levels on check. This gourd grows on a creeping vine trained on vertical support. Let’s have a look at How to Grow Kovakkai Plant and enjoy its fresh harvest.
Botanical Name: Coccinia grandis
Other Names: Kundru, Kunduli, Kova, Tindora, Telakucha, Donda kaya, Scarlet Gourd, Calabacita, Watermelon gourd
You can grow it either from seeds or stem cutting. But, most gardeners choose a cutting method, as it gives yield within 3-4 months. Whereas, in seed sowing, it will take one year to bear fruit.
For propagating from seed, you can either purchase seeds from a local seed supplier or use the seeds of the gourd. Just choose any ripe gourd, extract its seeds, and dry them for sowing. Now, fill the pot with potting mix, leaving some room at the top. Make a hole and insert the seeds about an inch deep and cover them with soil. After misting, cover it with plastic.
Choose a healthy semi-hardwood stem from a mature vine. Snip off 6-7 inches long stem. The stem should contain 4-5 leaves. Cut it obliquely with a 45° angle. Now, dip the cut portion in the rooting hormone. In a pot or garden soil, plant it 2-3 inches deeper and water evenly.
Note: You can sow seeds throughout the year in a tropical climate. But, spring and early summers (February – March) are the best seasons for sowing, whereas, for cutting propagation, prefer early monsoon (June – July).
You can transplant the seedlings in the garden in any season, except for the peak summers. Just choose any sunny location, plow and tilt the plot, and remove weeds, and debris. Amend the soil with compost or cow dung manure. Then, plant the seedling with some spacing.
Note: To facilitate pollination, gardeners suggest planting one male plant over 9 female plants.
Consider choosing 10-12 inches pot for growing ivy gourd, as the plant has invasive growth. Make sure the pot has at least one drainage hole at the bottom to let excess water escape. Go for a clay pot, as it’s and prevents waterlogging conditions. When the plant outgrows, transplant it in garden soil or a bigger pot.
Requirements for Growing Kovakkai Plant
Whether growing in a pot or in a garden bed, choose a sunny site for both. As the plant doesn’t produce fruits if grown in shades. Kovakkai gourd prefers 6-7 hours of full sunlight. But, provide afternoon shade to younger plants. For indoors, prefer a west or south-facing window.
Keep the soil evenly moist for the prolific growth, but not waterlogged. If growing in a garden bed, water it deeply at a one-week interval. Do not water during monsoon. And for pots, pay a bit more attention, as water evaporates sooner. Check the consistency by poking finger, 1 and a half inches in the soil. Water deeply if it looks dry until it starts coming out of holes.
This gourd can grow throughout the year in tropical areas, as it loves humid and warm climate. Also, it does well in a wide range of temperature, but the ideal temperature for optimal growth ranges from 20°C – 32°C (68°F – 90°F).
The gourd performs best in well-draining, fertile soil. Use loamy-sandy soil, and avoid heavy clay soil that hinders the drainage capability. Also, it prefers a neutral soil, but slightly acidic or alkaline will also work. And, for pots, use potting mix or DIY by mixing equal parts of peat moss, well-rotted manure or compost, coarse sand, and garden soil.
Kovakkai Plant Care
For a prolific growth, supplement the soil with well-rotted manure, compost or cow dung manure. Mix it with the soil before transplanting or sowing seeds. Also, side dress the soil with compost or cow dung manure twice a year, especially during flowering and fruiting period.
Kovakkai has invasive growth and can cover a lot of area if not trimmed. So, after harvesting, prune it back to control its growth. Using sanitized shear or knife, snip off the branches, leaving only 2-3 feet long stem vine.
Since kovakkai is a climbing vine, it needs vertical support to climb upon. You can install trellis, stakes, bamboo poles, or train them on pergola to support their growth.
Pests and Diseases
Always monitor your gourd vine, as these are susceptible to aphids, spider mites, and whiteflies attack. If any part looks infected, then remove them soon. Use a neem oil solution or sharp jet of a stream to treat the same.
The vine starts bearing fruit within 3 to 4 months of planting. But, it can differ in case of seed propagation, where it may take 1 year. Either handpick or snip them, when they are young and look green and bulbous. Don’t let them over-ripen, as the ivy gourd tastes best with a crunchy texture, when young.