What you're learning
Your decision to grow honeydew melons and cantaloupe in your own home garden is definitely interesting and rewarding. The reason is that such fruits have an explosive and delicious taste that’s incomparable with the ones brought in stores.
Let’s familiarize ourselves with the process of growing melons through this article.
Short Description of Melons
Melons refer to fruits belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family. These fruits are closely related to squash and cucumbers. Also, melons grow in vines spreading across the ground but you can also grow melons upright provided they have the proper support.
A native to Africa, melons come in different types and varieties. Some examples are cantaloupe, watermelons, and honeydew which are all delightful and interesting to cultivate in the ground if you are fond of gardening, provided they receive proper heat and sunlight as well as fertilization.
As climbing and spreading vines, these melons can also add a more visual appeal to your gardens. Moreover, you have an assurance that the fruit is rich in nutrition while also being incredibly delicious. With that, it is no longer surprising to see this fruit delighting a lot of gardeners for several years.
If you want to grow melons, then note that you can expect their rambling vines to grow and survive well in warm weather. It is also possible for its texture and fruit taste to improve significantly if the rain is no longer that frequent during the time when the fruits mature.
Also, note that melons are available in various colors, shapes, and sizes. This makes them capable of giving you several options, especially when it comes to your summertime fair. One fact about melons is that they prefer well-drained and fertile soil. The soil also needs to have a pH level of around 6.0 to 7.0.
Melon Types and Varieties
The melon plant belongs to the Cucumis genus. It is recognized for its fleshy and sweet fruit. An essential fact about this fruit is that it has different varieties and types – with each one having several different cultivars suitable to their varying growing conditions.
Different types and varieties also have various shapes, flavors, and colors, so expect to be able to find a melon, which is suitable for you and your gardening preferences. To give you an idea, here are some of its famous varieties:
- Athena – It refers to a cantaloupe recognized for its ability to resist Fusarium wilt, cracks, and powdery mildew. The shelf life of Athena is also admirably long. Moreover, this cantaloupe variety can mature within 79 days.
- Milan – This juicy Italian cantaloupe features an oval-shaped fruit as well as green lines that you can find down their ribbing. Every fruit produced by the Milan cantaloupe variety is around five pounds. Similar to Athena, this is also capable of resisting powdery mildew and Fusarium.
- Sugar Cube – Many love the sugar cube as it is a cantaloupe recognized for its sweetness. This round fruit is approximately two pounds. It lacks the ribbing but expect this cantaloupe to have a consistent netting while having the ability to resist diseases.
- Honeycomb – The honeycomb refers to honeydew, which boasts of its cream-colored and smooth skin covering the fruit shaped like a globe. You can transplant this variety outdoors once the soil becomes 60 degrees F. Every fruit of this honeydew weighs around 5 and ½ pounds and features medium-firm and crisp pale green flesh.
- Moonstruck – This variety refers to a Japanese honeydew with great physical features, including its tender white flesh and smooth white skin. It also has a globe-shaped fruit, which can grow across as 7 inches and weighs around 5 to 6 lbs. It would be best to cultivate it in an area that has a longer season. It will mature within seventy-five days.
- New Queen – This watermelon that tends to mature early can be easily recognized through its bright orange and crisp and juicy flesh. The fruit of this watermelon is shaped like a globe while growing at around 5 to 6 lbs. The skin of the New Queen is also light green along with stripes that ate dark green.
The Best Time to Grow Melons
You can start melons from their seed indoors one month before the predicted or exact date of the last frost. To do that, one of the most useful tips is you should grow three melon seeds per pot or cell containing a sterile-seed starting mix. They should be around one-quarter-inch deep.
After doing that, put the pot or container over a heat mat for seedlings that is around 85 degrees F. When in that temperature, there is a great chance for the seeds to germinate within just 3-4 days.
Make sure that you keep your planted seed beneath grow lights. This is so the melon plant no longer has to search for the source of light. In case you grow these plants in a low-light condition, it is possible for the plants to turn weak and leggy.
You may also want to run a fan over the melon seedlings. This should help in preventing damping-off disease, a fatal condition to seedlings prior to them growing their first actual leaves.
Start hardening off the seedlings around seven to ten days before planning to plant outdoors. Put the melon seedlings out in the sun. Do this for just a short period during the first day – around thirty minutes of sunlight exposure would be fine at first.
After that, you can slowly increase the amount of time every day that they have spent outdoors. Soon enough, your melon plant will become ready to gain one full day of sunlight.
If you are living in a place with a warm climate, you can direct sow seeds instead of starting them indoors. Once you are in a place with a cooler climate and the growing season is considered shorter than usual, you have to give melons sufficient head-start indoors, so you can provide them with sufficient time for fruit production.
Where Should You Plant Melons?
Melons like to be in a spot that has plenty of direct sunlight and features fertile soil. Ensure that the soil you have chosen drains well. It should not also get waterlogged with excessive watering and after a rainstorm. The soil also contains a lot of organic matter and should have a pH level of around 6.0 to 6.5.
Caring for the Melon Plant
Since melons are part of the cucumber family, expect the two to have the same care requirements. Take note that you can enjoy sweet melons if you continuously provide them with enough warm temperature and sunlight. Never expose the plants to stress as any form of it can lessen the sweetness of the melons you harvested.
Make sure that you care for your melon plant through the following tips:
Water the plants around an inch or two every week. Water from beneath all the time to ensure that the foliage does not get wet. This is a good thing as too much moisture and water may only increase her risk of developing some diseases.
Reduce the frequency of watering upon noticing the fruits starting to mature and becoming ripe. The result would be a much sweeter harvest. Note that excess water during the latter phase of your melon plant’s growing season may only result in cracks and bland taste once it’s time to harvest the fruits.
To avoid problems in growing and caring for melons, weeding diligently should form part of your plan when caring for the plant. Be diligent in weeding as this can assure you that the plant’s shallow roots can easily access their required water and nourishment. This also guarantees that the competing weeds will not outplace the melons.
You also need to mulch your melon plants. In this case, the best choice for you would be the plastic mulch. The reason is that the black plastic mulch can help in ensuring that the soil remains warm while conserving moisture.
It is also advisable to prune the melon plants regularly. This is necessary for maintaining the neatness and tidiness of the plant. Moreover, you need to remove some fruits from the plant regularly so it will only hold around 4 melons.
Harvesting Plant Melons
For you to harvest sweet-tasting melons at the right season, it helps to reduce the number of them per vine. What you should do, in this case, is to choose the best-looking ones and sacrifice the others. By doing that, you have an assurance that the melons left behind will only be the ones that will utilize the vine’s resources, especially when it comes to sweetening and ripening them.
If what you are growing are cantaloupes, then they will be ready for harvest once you notice their rind changing their original gray-green color to dull yellow.
While the melon has to remain firm, you will notice that gentle pressure applied by your thumb on the skin is usually enough to get a hold of the ripe fruit. If it does not happen, just be patient and wait for a couple more days before trying to harvest again.
As for the honeydew, expect them to be ready for picking upon noticing their skin turning fully yellow or white. You have to remove any ripe honeydew from the vine using a pair of garden shears. Never pull the fruit from the vine as these melons require a different method of picking and harvesting compared to the cantaloupe.
If what you have are watermelons, then you also have to follow a different approach during harvest. You will know that your watermelon is already ready for picking by spending time examining the tendrils that are close to the exact spot where the stem and fruit meet.
You can finally pick the watermelon using shears upon noticing that the tendrils already turn brown and dry. To determine if it is indeed ripe, listen to it after knocking. Knock on it to determine if it indeed sounds hollow, which is an indication that the watermelon is already ripe.
In most cases, you are allowed to harvest melons before their actual ripeness. You can then store the harvested ones at room temperature. Once they are already ripe, you can choose to enjoy them right away or continue keeping them in your fridge so you can serve them for several days.
Pests, Diseases, and Other Potential Problems
A few kinds of insects and diseases may infest and attack your melon plants. Among them are the following:
Squash Vine Borers
These are pests that tend to tunnel through the vining melons and if left unhandled, they may kill your plants. One sign that your plants are infested with the pest is when the vines come with wilts.
It would be better to prevent the squash vine borers from coming in contact with the vine as once they infest, it would be harder to fix the problem. Any plant matter exposed to the squash vine borers even has to be immediately disposed of.
To prevent squash vine borers, put some yellow sticky straps in your home garden. Find out if moth adults are present, too. If they are, then get row covers and put them over your plants.
You may also use these row covers as preventive measures for the squash vine borers. Just don’t forget to take the row covers off once the plants start blossoming.
Squash bugs refer to pests feeding on melon leaves. The presence of these squash bugs is problematic as they may harm your juvenile plants. One sign that your melon plant is dealing with a squash bug infestation is when its leaves start having spots and discoloration.
Striped Cucumber Beetles
You also have to watch out for the presence of striped cucumber beetles. The reason is that they are very damaging to your plants. They will cause damage by eating the fruits, stems, and leaves of your melons.
Aside from that, these striped beetles may also bring bacterial wilt to your plants. Some signs of striped cucumber beetle infestation are wilt and holes found in the leaves, fruits, and flowers.
Prevent these beetles from coming near your melon plant by using row covers. Aside from the usual row covers, you may also use sticky traps. If you can see them, you can also handpick them, especially if the infestation is just light.
This is a common disease affecting not only melons but also other plants. They create flour-like and white patches on the foliage of your plants. One way to prevent powdery mildew from occurring in the first place is to invest in disease-resistant varieties.
If some of the leaves of your melon plant are already infected, then trimming them away can help. Moreover, you can use neem oil. Just spray the plants with neem oil so you can slow down the spread of this disease.
Bacterial wilt refers to an infection that may cause the melon plant in your garden to wilt, and worse, die. Note that this infection is kind of hard to fix and cure. That said, it would be much better if you just toss the infected plants so you can prevent the disease from spreading.
One sign that bacterial wilt is already around is if the leaves have dark green patches. Toss the infected parts right away; otherwise, the entire plant will begin to wilt entirely.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How long does it take to grow a melon?
It actually depends on the variety. If you are growing honeydew melons, then expect them to bear fruits within 45 to 60 days. Watermelons, on the other hand, require warm weather for a long period to grow and produce fruits.
What is the best way to grow melon plants?
Probably the most effective method of growing and cultivating melons is sowing their seed. What you should do is to get the soil prepared for the planting of melon around two to three weeks before the usual frost date of the last spring season in the place you are living in.
Once you have finally prepared the soil, use compost pile then put on some fertilizer. Create raised beds that are around 6-inch to 8-inch high. This should help in speeding up the process of keeping the soil temperature warm and promoting good drainage.
After that, begin planting the melon seeds with a depth of around one-half to one inch. You can then start sowing around two to three of the seeds in groups. Make sure that the seeds are apart by around 18 inches to 24 inches.
Are melons easy to grow?
Generally, you can easily grow and plant melons. For them to grow healthily, you just have to try supplying them with everything necessary for their survival. Basically, melons prefer humid and hot climates.
It would be unlikely for them to taste good and grow well if you do not provide them with a lot of sun and warmth. Out of all the melon varieties, watermelon is considered the easiest to grow in your garden. The reason is that they can resist diseases and pests, making them perfect for your organic garden.
How do you take care of a melon plant?
Part of caring for your melon plant involves providing it with what it needs. As mentioned earlier, the melon is more in favor of hot and long summer, so ensure that you give it that. You also have to make sure that the soil where you cultivated the melons is well-drained and fertile while the pot is positioned under full sun.
One more thing you should do when caring for your melon plant in your own garden is to water it only at the time when the soil where you cultivated it dries out. Upon the development and production of fruit, set the plant over the ground, a piece of wood, or on a container or pot as a means of protecting it from potential damage.
With the many varieties and types of melons, you can definitely pick one that suits you and your garden. The good news is that growing melons is not that difficult. Just research what the melons need the most so you will be able to make them grow in your garden as healthily and abundantly as possible.