How To Melon

Feb 10, 2022 | Gro Guide

Melon | Scientific Name : Cucumis melo

Native to central Asia, this plant is mainly cultivated and widely grown in warmer regions around the world. This plant is in the trailing vine gourd family, with many different varieties. This fruit is grown annually, and does not like frost or freeze. Strangely the large (usually 2-9 lbs) large round fruit is considered botanically as a berry.

The plant itself has soft hairy trailing stems, with tendrils that wrap around and grabs onto items as it grows. The leaves are lobed large and round, that produces yellow flowers that need to be pollinated and fertilized. Melons are a delicious fruit that is packed with nutritional value.

variety of cut melons

Melon Plant Varieties

There are many different varieties of melons. Some of the more known one are:

Watermelon – This melon variety has skin that is green and thick, with dark green accents. The flesh is red, juicy and sweet. This is the most popular variety of melons.

Cantaloupe – This is the most famous type of melon in the US. This type is juicy and delicious, with a thin rind and light orange color.

Honeydew – Very common variety with a sweet and juicy taste, and pale green smooth skin. This fruit is oval and usual weighs in at 2-6 lbs.

Korean Melon – One of the smallest of the melon varieties, this fruit has a delicious and unique flavor. The skin is yellow with white stripes along its length.

Bitter Melon – This is a vine growing variety that is extremely bitter to eat. Sometimes considered a vegetable, this melon originated in an Indian subcontinent, and is very popular in Indonesia and Asia areas.

Crenshaw Melon – Ovoid in shape with a greenish-yellow skin, this variety has a sweet, juicy orange flesh that is very popular to eat.

How To Grow Melon

When it comes to growing melons, you want to remember a couple key points. First and foremost, melons love water, and needs a lot of it. Drip irrigation is the best way to ensure even watering for your melon plants.

I highly recommend a drip irrigation system for your melon plants.

Second, your melon plants will love sun and room to grow. Melon plants are runners, and take up a lot of space. This space can be in the form of trellises off the ground. If you decide to grow up on a trellis, make sure the ladder is strong and will be able to support the heavy melons.

Melons all like a little different soil pH levels and NPK levels. For the most part as an overall rule, melon plants likes slightly acidic soil at 6.2-7. Watermelon loves this pH level, and a NPK of 6-4-5. I have seen arguments that NPK should be 15-15-15, but I personally found 6-4-5 is good, and not too much nutrients for them.

Growing conditions

Growing conditions such as frost and went to actually plant will change depending on where you live. Even so, there are a few common denominators when it comes to melons in general. First, melons do like not winter soil freeze. Melons really needs to have warm soil to thrive. You will see how happy your plants will get once the days are longer, the temperature is hotter, and the sun is bright. Once summer hits, the long hot days will really develop the plants vines, flowers, and fruit.

The biggest problem with melons are stress. This is because a vine can grow sometimes 10-20 feet, and it can have many many flowers that turns into fruit on a single vine. Poor nutrition, not enough sun, or too much, too little, or bad watering habits will stress your plant. Too much, too little, or flooding the soil will destroy the sensitive root structure of the plant, and either kill the vine, or cripple its nutrient uptake. Long story short, do not stress melon plants, they do not do well if stressed.

For better fruit production and overall taste, give your plant a lot of full sun, warm temperatures, plenty of water (but not drowning) and freedom from insects and disease. If you accomplish this, your fruit will have the most flavor, aroma, sweetness and texture then you can believe. Again I cannot stress enough, do not stress your plants.

Growing Melon From Seeds

If you want to start your melons from direct seeds, sow them into he ground after the last frost has come. Remember, your melon plant garden should be placed where they can perform the best, in hot, sunny locations, with fertile well drained soil. You can sow as late in some areas in the United States as beginning of May. Some places you can even start in early June. This will give you a mid to late September harvest.

As a general rule, do not plant a transfer, or sow your seeds before the last frost. Wait until 10 days after the projected last frost of the season has hit. Use a thermometer to take accurate temperatures of the top two inches of the soil. The melons will thrive germinating between 70-90 degrees. The soil should be above 70 degrees, and not go below 65 degrees, even at night. Planting in too cold of soil and weather will stunt your plants growth, or worse cause soil-borne disease. Keeping the plant and vines happy will ensure you a good taste harvest.

It is good practice to prepare the soil a week or two before you plan to plant your seeds or transfer your plant. This way you can make sure the designated spot you have chosen to plant your vines will have adequate full sun, and drip system is up and running for equal continuing water.

If able, try to use compost either store bought, but preferably home made from you. Composting is very important and bring so mush rich nutrients to your plant, it will create the best tastes and fruit amount. If you are curious about how to go about composting, check out our blog on “how to compost.”

For best practice, sow the seeds on little mounds. Form around six to eight inch high raised beds. This will speed up soil warming and help with drainage. Plant the seeds ½ and inch to one inch in depth. I recommend sowing two to three seeds in each cluster, about 18-25 inches apart. They can grow to full term like this, or you can decide to thin out your crop if you wish. Thinning out your crop means plucking out the weaker of the seedling, and leaving the strong ones to grow to maturity. You do not have to do this though.

Try to space you row five to six feet apart. This will ensure there is plenty of room for your vines to grow. As mentioned before, you can also trellis these bad boys and grow up a little. It is harder to do this with heavy fruits like watermelons, but it works well for cantaloupe and honey dew size and weight.

harvesting ripe melons

How to Harvest Melon

You will know when your fruit is ready for harvest. The melon will be big and beautiful. It will be the size you see in stores, and the colors will be vibrant. Watermelons should have very sharp contrast in color between the green and the stripes on it. The color of the melon will change from creamy-yellow to dark green as it ripens. Honeydew will look creamy-yellowish all over the surface when it finishes ripening on the vine.

For honeydew, check for slight softening. Use your thumb, and very slightly squeeze the melon where the fruit meets the vine. The fruit should give very slightly when you press and apply pressure. For watermelons, wait for the tendrils closest to the melon fruit have dried up. The tendrils are the curly arms that comes off the vine to hold and wrap around a trellis or fence.

It everything looks good at this point, thump on the fruit. Tap on the fruit, and you should hear a kind of hallow sound. If you hear a echo like thud as each time you tap, it is another sign you are ready to harvest. Lastly, use your nose. The melon should smell like it is ready. If the smell makes your stomach juices start to run, and your mouth start to salivate, it is ready for harvest.

Use cutting shears or a sharp knife to harvest your fruit. Simply cut them off the vine where the fruit and the vine meet.

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Pests and Disease

Insects can be a big problem when growing melons. If you do not check your plants, you can have an infestation very fast. Some insects to be on the lookout for are:

Squash Bugs – You will find them on the leaves of your plant, and they can harm young plants trying to make a good start.

Striped Cucumber Beetles – These insects can damage the plant by eating the leaves, stem and fruit of your plants. They also harbor a lot of harmful bacteria that gets transferred as they eat your plants.

Squash Vine Borers – These buggers tunnel into and through the vines of the plant. As you can guess this is not good for the plant. This will lead to the death of the plant. You will see wilting of an area when they attack.

Not only do you have to watch for insects, but the main reason melon plants don’t survive is due to infection from bacteria or fungus. Melons are very susceptible especially when cold or damp. Some bacteria to watch for is:

Powdery Mildew – Fungal like disease that causes powdery white spots on the vines and leaves. If available try to find resistant varieties to this problem.

Leaf Spot – Brown spots and torn holes on the leaves, or sunken brown lesions on the vines.

Fruit Rot – Rotten fruit.

Things to consider:

• Fungi and bacteria thrive in humid conditions.

• Drip irrigation will help by not over saturating one area and disperse water evenly for better absorption and drying.

• Space plants away from each other enough so wind and sun can reach all parts of the plant.

• Stake vining helps them become strong.

• Do not tend to your plants when it is wet. Bacteria and fungus can easily spread when working in a wet environment.

• Keeps weeds clear from your crop. They steal nutrients, can bring disease or pests, and generally are considered a nuisance.

• Remove infected leaves or entire plants from your garden. You do not want viral disease to ruin your entire crop.

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