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During the summertime, a slice of sweet, juicy melon tastes so fine. Growing them in the home garden can make them so much better. However, deciphering which types of melons to sow and when to plant them can be a little daunting.
Cultivating melons at home is much more of an undertaking than sniffing them (is that how we know they are ready?) at the supermarket. First of all, there are far more species to choose from, and secondly, choosing the right species may mean the difference between success and failure.
But, they are a lot of fun to grow. They are magnificent sprawling vines that can take over a garden space or drape themselves on a trellis. They have pretty flowers that attract bees, and watching the young fruits develop into treats is so rewarding.
With the right attitude and information, melons could be a part of almost anyone’s edible landscape or annual garden.
Different Types of Melons
Generally, when we think of melons, we conjure images of cantaloupes, honeydews, and watermelons. Probably, they are stacked on a produce display. Well, these only come in a few varieties of what’s actually available.
In essence, all the melons we are shopping for are from the same species: Cucumis melo. Muskmelons have several subspecies Cucumis melo cantalupensis, Cucumis melo inodorus, C. melo reitculatus, etc. And, each subspecies has numerous varieties to choose from.
Watermelons are actually something completely different: Citrullus lanatus. And, of course, there are tons of different types of watermelons, including massive ovoids, small spheres, and yellow-fleshed watermelons.
Regardless, all types of melons are members of the Cucurbitaceae family, which also includes squashes, pumpkins, cucumbers, and gourds.
Choosing the Right Melon for Your Garden
Source: Epic Gardening/Youtube
When it comes to melons, the general rule of thumb is that size, in fact, does matter. Normally, the larger the melon is the longer the growing season it will need. Melons need warm soil (at least 65 F) to germinate, and they cannot tolerate frosts. What this means is that growing massive watermelons outside in Minnesota is not going to work.
Different cultivars will have “days to harvest” listed in their description, and it is important to be able to fit this into the local growing season. A melon that takes three months or more to produce might not be the best choice for cooler USDA Zones. Good melon varieties for cooler climates include Sugar Baby and Blacktail Mountain watermelons and Minnesota Midget and Athena cantaloupes.
Warm, wet climates with summer growing seasons longer than four months probably have a solid chance with just about everything. However, growing a mound or two of the cooler climate varieties can provide early harvests for a longer melon season.
Tips for Getting Sweeter Melons
Source: Growing In The Garden/Youtube
Watermelons and melons require a lot of heat, a lot of water, a lot of fertility, and a lot of space. With these elements in place, the chances of producing some serious sweet berries are all the better.
- Melon plants do best when morning temperatures are above 70 degrees, and they of course want daytime temperatures even higher than this. For cooler spots, it might help to create microclimates with rocks, bricks, or compost to create heat.
- Water melon plants heavily but infrequently while they are growing and setting fruit, but as the fruit nears its ripening time, cut the water back to a minimum so that the sugars are more concentrated in the fruit.
- The sugars we want in our melons come from the leaves via photosynthesis, and the leaves come to develop from nutrient-rich soils. Plant melons in spots that have a lot of high-quality compost covering and feeding into the soil.
- Melons are huge, sprawling plants, so they need space to roam. They grow well from large mounds, with about three vines sprouting from them. The vines, then, should be kept to around three fruits per plant to make sure there are plenty of sugars to go around.
When to Pick That Melon
Source: Slightly Rednecked/Youtube
Commercial melons are usually picked too early, which is why they aren’t as tasty as homegrown melons and, of course, another reason why it is worth growing melons at home. When melons ripen off the vine, they don’t have access to the sugar that the plant would be providing during those final crucial days.
The last tip for harvesting the sweetest melons is doing it when the time is right, not before and not too late. Melons left on the vine so long that they naturally separate from it are more likely to be rotting. On the other hand, melons picked too early won’t have all of their sugars. The berry should have a slightly fruit smell, a slightly softened rind, and a hollow sound when knocked with a knuckle.
Then (and only then), it’s time to eat!
- How to Grow Your Own Watermelons
- 12 of the Most Unique Things to Do With Watermelons
- Cantaloupe and Listeria: An Estimated 85% of Cases are From Deli Meats, Not Melons
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