Growing melons such as cantaloupe and honeydew require a few things: plenty of sunshine and lots of room to grow.
We tend to think of edible gardens as those that grow vegetables but there are also many fruits that can be grown just as easily at home. There are several types of melons that are right at home in a vegetable garden.
There are many types of melons available but those most often grown in a home garden are watermelons, cantaloupe, and honeydew.
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Cantaloupe vs Honeydew Melons
Both melons are round and have lightish colored skins but the center of them looks very different. Honeydew melons are sweeter than cantaloupes and have a light green or white colored flesh. Cantaloupes are less juicy and have orange colored flesh.
Honeydew melons also have a smoother skin and cantaloupes have the traditional dimpled look to the surface.
Even though they look quite different when cut open, the two melons are much more similar than they are different. Both contain about the same amount of calories fiber and nutrients fiber and both are tasty and fairly easy to grow.
See those seeds? Those are basically baby plants! I’ve even had melons growing in a compost pile and the seeds came from kitchen scraps!
Tips for Growing Melons
Melons are both delicious and packed with nutrition. They are a giant in the garden, with rambling vines that grow best in very warm weather. If you want freshly grown melons with your morning breakfast plate, follow these growing tips.
Give them room to grow
Melons like sunshine and they like to roam around the garden. The plants send out tendrils that will produce more and more leaves and will actually climb if you give them a support.
Each of the yellow flowers will eventually grow into a baby plant. You will need at least a 4 x 6 foot area in order to grow melons, since they turn into creeping vines.
It is suggest to give the plants 36 to 42 inches apart if you want to grow them on the ground, or 12 inches apart if you plan to have them grow up a trellis.
Be sure to choose a sunny location. Pick a place where the plant will get full sunshine for most of the day (6-8 hours is ideal.) The summer heat will encourage the plant into rapid growth as their vines spread around the area where you have them planted.
It is a good idea to test your soil. Many state agriculture departments will test it for you for free, or you can purchase a soil testing kit.
Melons like a soil pH that is between 6.0 and 6.8. This will make sure that there is enough calcium in the garden, which the plants need. Calcium encourages a thick fruit wall and helps to keep the fruit from splitting.
Adding organic matter such as compost to the soil will give the melons a growing environment that is full of nutrients.
Melon Planting Guide
Melons like a ground temperature that is above 70 º F before you plant the seeds or they will not germinate. Plant the seeds after the expected last frost since they won’t survive this amount of cold.
This could be as early as April or as late as early June for most zones. Check with your local departments to get the dates of frost for your area.
Plant in Mounds
My experience with planting melons is to plant the seeds in mounds. Make the mounds about a foot high and about 3 feet wide.
Be sure to leave at least 1-2 feet between the mounds. This will ensure that the melons have plenty of room to grow. I usually plant about 6 seeds in each mound.
Melons grow from the pollinated flowers on the plants. Once this flower has been pollinated, it will grow into tiny fruit.
Keep on top of weeds
Be sure to keep the area around the plants well weeded, especially in the first month. Mulching with straw, composted leaf mulch, newspaper or grass clippings will not only keep the soil moist, but it will also keep weeds from growing.
Fertilize monthly when the vines begin to run and then again when the fruits form. The plants like a balanced organic fertilizer or natural organic matter such as compost.
Watering needs for melon plants
Melon plants need about 1-2 inches of water a week. This could mean watering daily if the temperatures are very hot like there are here in North Carolina without much rain.
Usually every few days is sufficient but it depends on your climate.
On the other hand, don’t over-water the plants, or the melons could rot. Adding mulch around the plants helps to control the water needs.
As the plants start to produce fruit, hold off of the watering a bit. This will encourage the plant to be sweeter with more flavor.
Harvesting melon plants
Melons have a long growing period – about 90 days from seed to ripe fruit, so they generally will be ready to harvest in late summer or early fall.
The time from pollination to ripe fruit is usually about 40 days. For cantaloupes, as the plant gets nearer to a ripe state, a netting like appearance will be more pronounced.
How to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe
A good indicator that the melon is ready to harvest is when you can smell it through the skin although not all varieties do this. The rind will also change color to the shade that we expect to see on melons in stores.
Once harvested, the melon will not grow any sweeter, so it’s good to be sure before you cut it off the vine.
Melon Plant pests
There are a few insects that seem to be attracted to melon plants. Some are:
- Spider Mites. Tiny spider like pests that Spider mites. A forceful jet of water is often enough to dislodge and remove them.
- Squash Bugs. These lay eggs that feed on the leaves of curcubits such as squash, pumpkins and melons. See my tips for eliminating them here.
- Melon Aphids. These aphids feed on melon leaves. Strong water jets help to keep them under control. Also plant flowers near melon plants to attract natural predators.
- Pickle worms. Their larvae feed on buds, flowers and fruit of melon plants. To control them, destroy affected leaves and plant melon varieties that mature early so you can harvest them before pickle worm infestations get too bad.
Whatever you do, don’t Move the Melon Plants once they are established!
I once tried to move melon plants that were growing when I enlarged my vegetable garden. Big mistake!
Melon plants don’t like to be moved once their roots are actively growing. Even with lots of added organic matter, the plants that I moved just got yellower and yellower and didn’t produce fruit.
Can you grow Melons in Containers?
It is possible to successfully grow melons in planters but there are a few things that you will need to consider.
- The planter needs to be quite large – Whisky barrels, 40 gallon drums or similar sized planters are needed.
- Dwarf varieties work best
- Support is needed for fruit. Trellis will hold the vines and you will also need netting, or old pantyhose to support the fruit once it starts growing. ]
What has your experience been with growing melons? Did you get a lot of fruit?
Admin note: This post first appeared on my blog in April of 2012 and discussed moving melon plants. I have updated the post to add growing and harvesting tips for melons.
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