Ampalaya is one of the vegetables you need to plant in your farm or garden. Aside from being a good source of vitamins and minerals, it is also a good source of income because it has a ready market. Almost all the parts of this plant are useful. Its fruits and leaves--and sometimes its stalks--can be sold.

There are two types of ampalaya: the white and the green types. The latter, however, is more popular among consumers. Among the varieties you can grow in your farm or garden are the following: Lagus Africa, Indang (or BPI Long Green), Iloilo Long, Santa Rita, Laur, Polo, Karela, and Silang.

The ampalaya vine is found everywhere in the country for it grows on different kinds of soils. However, for best result, plant it on a well-drained, sandy-loam or clay-loam soil which is rich in organic matter. Do not plant ampalaya in wet areas because it cannot tolerate too much moisture. You can grow ampalaya any time of the year as long as there is sufficient moisture.

Prepare the land thoroughly before planting ampalaya. Plow and PREPARATION harrow the field three times and then furrow it with a distance of two meters between rows. If you intend to plant ampalaya in your garden, be sure you prepare the plot thoroughly. Usually the ampalaya is planted in hills about one meter apart.

There are two ways of planting ampalaya: transplanted and direct seeded. If your area doesn't have enough water supply and ampalaya seeds are rather limited, it is much better to sow the seeds first in a seed box or seedbed. Press the seeds into sterilized soil and then water the seed
box or seedbed every day until transplanting time. (Sterilize the soil by pouring boiling water on the surface of the soil or by burning dried leaves of banana on top of the soil.) The seedlings are ready for transplanting when they have one or two pairs of true leaves. Seeds to be used for direct planting should be dried in the sun for two days. Then plant three to five seeds per hill five centimeters deep in rows. After several days, when sprouts are seen on the ground, thin out the plants leaving only two to three of the strongest looking plants per hill.

When the plants are about one foot long, you can erect two-meter high vine supports of either ipil-ipil or madre de cacao on each hill. Reinforce the supports with plastic twine or rope and weave one-foot square wire mesh to top the trellises. Later on, inspect the fruits to be sure they hang well. This is done in order for you to avoid harvesting curled or deformed fruits.

You can start doing a shallow cultivation with a hoe or "guna" or animaldrawn plow three months after planting.

This is very important in amplaya growing. Weeding is done in order to eliminate weeds, which will compete with your plants for moisture and nutrients.

Apply just enough water to keep the soil moist--not too wet but not too dry. Do not over water your ampalaya plants since, as stated earlier, they cannot bear too much moisture.

Proper watering coupled with adequate fertilization will increase plant vigor. At planting, apply a complete fertilizer (14-14-14) at the rate of two table spoons per hill eight centimeters from the base of the plants. When plants are three weeks to one month old, side-dress with one tablespoon of urea and two table spoons of ammonium sulphate.

The most common pests that attack ampalaya are the melon PESTS fruit fly, thrips and aphids. You can control melon fruit fly by using Foliafume-soap, which is available from your agricultural stores or from the Bureau of Plant Industry and its local agencies. Thrips can be controlled by spraying with Hamidop 600. To control aphids, Orthene 75 or Malathion may be used at regular intervals.

There are two common diseases of ampalaya: fusarium DISEASES wilt and anthracnose. Fusarium wilt can be controlled by crop rotation and by observing sanitation in the farm or garden. Control measures for anthracnose include spraying the plants with fungicides, sanitation, and disinfecting seed before planting.

You can start harvesting ampalaya when most of the fruits have reached marketable size and when seeds are still immature. This is usually 50 days after planting. Fruits are harvested every four days thereafter.

To prevent bruising and to prolong the freshness of ampalya PROTECTION fruits, place them in bamboo baskets lined with fresh banana leaves while harvesting.