Melons

This section includes cantaloupe, honeydew, and watermelon. Nichols, Seeds of Change, and Shumway all offer outstanding melon collections. Small cantaloupes can be as quick as 65 days to maturity; watermelons may take as long as 95 days. Good varieties for the north are honeydew and Persian melons.

heat: Melons grow best where the summer is hot, dry, and almost constantly sunny—the hotter, the better the flavor. (Cloudy, rainy weather literally stops melons' growth.) Squash are the hardiest cucurbits; cucumbers, a little less hardy; cantaloupes, less hardy; and watermelons, still less. Melons have deep taproots, so they're good at finding water on their own. And direct watering cools off this heat-needing plant and slows down its growth. So if you live in a marginal climate for melons and want to help them'along, don't water them—or water only around the edge of the hill, not on the plants. If you don't have plenty of subsoil water, you do need to water them somehow when the weather is hot, at least 1 to 2 inches per week.

planting: If you live in a northern temperate zone, plant your cantaloupe and watermelon seeds as early as you dare. If the seeds rot, plant them again. If those seeds rot, plant again. The longer the season you can manage to give your plants, the better your harvest will be. Allow plenty of room between plants. Keep out the weeds, and you'll get fine melon crops.

You can get a head start on the summer heat by starting plants from seed indoors, several weeks before your last frost date. Transplant after a week of hardening off or set out under a plastic cover, which will keep your ground warm. If you plant in succession every week, you might get a jump on the season if there's a warm spring. You can plant 1 or 2 cantaloupes or bush watermelons in a container the size of half a whiskey barrel; use 5 gal. soil per plant, 12 inches deep and 2 feet between plants. Near harvest time, when frost is coming, pick and discard any little melons that aren't going to make it. Then the plants can concentrate their energy on ripening the hardier melons.

Now on to more species-specific info . . .

Continue reading here: Cantaloupe

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