Summer Crops: How to Grow Melons

Melons are created for long, lazy summer days … and not just because these sweet, juicy fruits are really refreshing in hot weather. They grow best when these days are warm (even hot), when they could get plenty to drink and where there is lots of room for them to spread out. Sounds like the perfect description of summertime.

Melons are broken up into two classes: muskmelons, a class primarily dominated by what most people call cantaloupes, and late melons. Cantaloupes are known for their orange flesh and ribbed, spotted or nettled skin. They ripen earlier than the aptly called late melons. Late melons incorporate the recognizable honeydews, casabas and crenshaws. Although they take longer to grow, they may also be saved for a longer period. As more and more hybrids are emerging and types from all over the world are gaining popularity, the boundaries between the two types are blurring.

Since melons sprawl, consider growing them on a really sturdy trellis or support, ideally 8 feet tall and around 20 feet broad. Another choice is planting smaller kinds in a container.

The New York Botanical Garden

When to plant: In spring once all risk of frost has passed and the soil has reached 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius). Or begin melons inside.
Days to adulthood: 70 to 115
Light requirement: Full sun
Water necessity: Regular


Cantaloupes: Ambrosia, Amish, Athena, Bella Tuscana, Bush Star (mini), Eden’s Gem (green flesh), Hale’s Best Jumbo, Hopi, Jenny Lind, Minnesota Midget, Pride of Wisconsin, Sweet ‘n’ Early

Other melons: Asian types, Canary, casaba varieties, Charantais varieties, Crenshaw, Crane, Galia, honeydew varieties (Earlidew, Honey Ginger, Sweet Delight), Persian, Schoon’s Hard Shell

Mildew- and disease-resistant varieties are your Very Best Option for temperate and humid areas. Hot climates are generally preferred by melons.

Photo courtesy of Seed Savers Exchange

Planting: search for a warm spot in full sun with very wealthy, well-drained soil. For extra warmth, plant close to a wall which reflects heat, surround with black plastic mulch or use row covers. A hot compost pile is an established site for encouraging melon seeds to sprout, though it might not be your idea of the perfect gardening place.

A couple of days before you plant, cultivate the planting location and mix in approximately 4 to 6 inches of a mix of fertilizer, fertilizers and organic matter. (Adding fertilizer in too high an amount may result in plants that are burnt)

You can grow melons in hills or in rows, but many experts recommend hills. These flat-topped mounds should be 3 to 4 inches high and 2-3 feet in diameter. Produce a watering basin around each hill and leave 4 to 8 feet.

Sow four or five seeds per hill, 1 inch deep. Thin to two plants per hill when seedlings reach 3 to 4 inches tall, or set out two transplants per hill. Set up any supports, such as trellises, when you sow or place out plants.

Rows should be constructed around 4 inches above the surrounding soil and 12 to 15 inches broad. Produce 3- to 4-foot-wide irrigation furrows along all sides of the rows and space the rows 5 to 7 feet apart. Sow seeds in rows 1 inch deep and 1 foot apart; lean to 2 to 3 feet apart following seedlings reach 3 to 4 inches tall. Set out transplants 2-3 feet apart. Establish any support structures now too.

If you’re growing melons in a container, then look for one at least 18 inches deep and wide, and grow smaller varieties. Follow the planting guidelines above.

Photo courtesy of Seed Savers Exchange

Care: Keep the soil moist but not soaking wet. When seedlings are little, use enough water to reach the shallow roots. Once seedlings are established, you normally do not have to water daily as long as items are not too dry. Fill out the watering basins or furrows with sufficient water for a deep skillet while keeping the foliage and fruit dry. Water deeply in case the leaves are wilting in the beach, but do not worry if they wilt in the midday sunlight.

Remove row covers once the plants begin to flower (male blossoms appear a week before feminine blossoms; both are required to set fruit). Remove any flowers that look less than 50 days prior to the first expected frost to maintain the energy concentrated on present fruit production.

Feed every six months using a low-nitrogen fertilizer. Tie up vines if you’re growing the fruit onto a support. Shield Crenshaw melons from sunburn by creating some shade on the southwest side of this fruit.

Place a brick or piece of foam or wood beneath every fruit as it grows to keep it off the ground. If you’re developing on a support, once the veggies reach about 2 inches, use stockings or pliers to create a sling to support them.

Melons face a variety of pests and diseases. Aphids, cucumber beetles (which transmit bacterial vaginosis), mites and squash vine borers can all cause problems. Shield the young seedlings from birds and other animals.

Keeping the foliage and fruits dry may stop downy mildew and rot. Other diseases that could occur include powdery mildew.

Photo courtesy of Seed Savers Exchange

Harvest: Cantaloupes are the easiest to harvest. When ripe they are fragrant, they look as though a piece of netting was slid over their skin, and they separate easily from the stem when lightly lifted and pulled.

All other melons should be trimmed from the stem when they’ve a solid yet sweet aroma and the blossom (not stem) end is a bit soft. Another hint is the rind has begun to dull and the melons have started to change colour.

Photo courtesy of Seed Savers Exchange

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