Planting Guide - Melon Seeds
Planting Melons in Your Garden
What we commonly call cantaloupes are actually muskmelons, characterized by their pumpkin-like ribbing and skin covered with a netting of shallow veins. Its fragrant flesh ranges from salmon to green and are popularly grown in home gardens as the taste is incomparable to store-bought excuses. Not to be outdone are our Honeydew varieties who take a bit more time to ripen their smooth rind and subtle taste.
When & How to Grow Melon Seeds
Choose the sunniest spot possible as melons require a long growing season of full-sun exposure. Loosen the soil down to 12” and work in 2 to 3 inches of compost prior to setting your seeds will create loose, moisture retentive but well-drained soil. Melon roots can extend 10 inches to several feet into the earth so this preparation can be especially helpful.
Have you ever thrown out a melon into the compost pile and then seen the melon seeds sprouting a few days later? This should tell you how much they love rich compost!!
Some gardeners plant cantaloupes and honeydews through holes in a landscape fabric or black plastic. This material traps heat and warms the soil (great for short-season growers) which will encourage growth at the beginning of the season. The fabric also keeps vines clean, helps to prevent your melons from rotting on wet soil, and deters weeds.
Get a head start by planting seeds indoors in 4” peat pots. Start them just 2 to 4 weeks before transplanting, because seedlings that develop tendrils or more than four leaves may have difficulty later in establishing roots. Sow several seeds ½” deep in each pot and bring the soil temperature to 75F by placing them in a south-facing window or providing bottom heat. Harden off your seedlings prior to planting outside.
Planting directly in the garden should be done no earlier than 2 weeks after the last frost date. Sow six seeds per hill (6-8” high, flat topped mound) and then thin to 2-3 plants. Seeds should be sown 1” deep. Space hills 3-5 feet apart. Use a trellis if gardening with limited space.
Growing Guide for Melons
As with all our summer crops, apply several inches of organic mulch just as the vines being to elongate. This covering will suppress weeds and help keep the fruits clean and disease free. Provide generous amounts of water, particularly right after transplanting and as the fruits develop. While melon plants are growing, blooming, and setting fruit, they need 1 to 2 inches of water per week. Water in the morning, and avoid wetting the leaves. Reduce watering once fruit are growing to produce sweet melons.
Though melon vines look very robust, they are actually quite delicate – always handle them carefully. If they start to sprawl outside the area where you wish them to grow, gently guide them back toward the center of the planted area.
You will see both male and female flowers with the male flowers blooming first, often weeks before the female flowers appear. Only the female flowers, with a small bulb at the bloom’s base, will develop into a melon. Despite the many female blossoms, each vine will produce only 3 or 4 melons. Most young melons will grow to the size of an egg then shrivel as they send their nutrients back into the vines. Fertilize with compost tea when the fruits set and again 2 weeks later.
Possible Problems When Growing Melon
If you’ve had an exceptional amount of rainfall during the ripening stage, this could cause the bland fruit.
Possible pests & diseases include aphids, cucumber beetles, squash vine borer moths, powdery mildew and Fusarium wilt.
Most melons naturally separate from the vine when ripe, which means you can pick your melons with just a gentle tug. You can often judge the ripeness of cantaloupes and muskmelons by scent alone.
Keep your melons at room temperature for 2 to 3 days after harvesting to help bring out flavors. If you haven't gobbled them up yet, you can then move them to a refrigerator.