Melons thrive in warm soil. Don’t plant until the ground temperature is above 70 degrees F. Melons typically are heavy feeders, so consider preparing the soil beforehand with generous amounts of compost, then every few weeks side dress the plants with a balanced fertilizer. Some gardeners take advantage of their compost pile (which provides warmth and adequate nitrogen for optimal growth) and plant their melon seed in hills, allowing the vines to freely cover the space.
Mound well-worked dirt into mounds or hills. Space plants 36 to 42 inches apart. I place a stake in the center of the mound so that later, when the vines have taken over the space I can water the plants at the roots, eliminating excess watering of the vines and fruit. If space is limited, melons can be grown on a trellis. If using this method, space plants 12” apart at the base of a secured trellis. Be sure to tie the vines to the trellis daily using soft material so as to not crush the stems.
Use straw mulch or other dry material to help keep weeds in check and to provide the vines and fruit a dry place to grow. Melons require a steady supply of water, but too much on the leaves or fruit may encourage fungus rot.
Melons typically ripen over a 3-4 week period. As soon as one melon is ripe, the others won’t be far behind. Reduce watering about a week before a melon is ripe, just enough to keep vines from wilting. This lets the vine concentrate sugars in the fruit. Too much water dilutes the sweetness and flavor.
You can judge a melons ripeness by skin color, stem, and weight. The rind usually changes color and the netting pattern becomes more pronounced. At the stem, a crack appears that encircles the base of the stem. A ripe melon should slip right off the vine.
Melons cucumis melo var.
Heavily netted with no ribs.
Extra sweet. Averages 4 lb. fruit.
Harvest 86 days.
Juicy, sweet, dark orange flesh & sparse netting.
Roughly textured muskmelon producing 6” round fruit
that weigh on average 2.5 lbs. Harvest 83 days.
Small round melon with sugary, deep orange, fine grained
flesh. Smooth, heavily netted rind. Harvest at half-slip
and ripen for 3 days at 70 degrees, then chill. Harvest 82 days.
Honey White Honeydew
Smooth, round to oval-round fruits are very sweet,
flavorful. Slow to crack. Early and cool weather tolerant.
3-3 ½ lb. Holds well. Harvest 77 days.
Melon culture –
Melons are members of the cucurbit family of plants that include cucumbers, pumpkins, squashes and gourds. Cantaloupe and honeydew are the most widely grown, but this group also includes watermelons, crenshaw, casaba, Persian, and canary type melons. *Note: because many members of the cucumis melo var. plant family can easily cross-pollinate, when planting different varieties of this fruit you should separate them in the garden to avoid cross-pollination.
Melons are normally eaten fresh, chopped in a salad, or as a dessert with ice cream or custard. Most melons grown in the average backyard are much more flavorful than the store bought counterparts. The key is plenty of moisture, sunlight and heat. Melons need at least 2-3 months of heat to mature to full sweetness. Full of vitamin C and antioxidants they combine great taste with nutrition.*Important note because the surface of a melon can contain harmful bacteria, it is always a good idea to wash and scrub the outside rind thoroughly before cutting and eating.
Harvest melons when vines are dry, and be careful not to damage them. The melons are ready for harvest when they feel full and heavy. Tap on the fruit and listen for a sound that is dull and deep. Press gently on the stem end where the vine was attached with your thumb. If it gives way slightly it is a good indication that the melon is ripe. If it is soft or squishy it is probably overripe. Smelling the bottom of the melon can also be helpful. Unripe fruit will have a faint to no smell at all, while a ripe melon will have a sweet aroma.
Once picked, melons will soften after harvesting, but will not continue to sweeten off the vine. You can store cut melons in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, wrapped tightly in plastic. If you have extra on hand, dice or cut the flesh into balls and freeze for slushies, fruit salads, cantaloupe popsicles, or cold soup.