How to Grow Melons and Water Melons
How to Grow Melons
Melon – Cucumis mel
These plants have been in cultivation for centuries. They are easy to manage when grown in favourable positions and where they have the maximum amount of sunshine.
Sow seed in heated frames in spring or on hotbeds of about 22°C using pots or boxes. A mixture of loam and peat is suitable, a little wood ash and old mortar rubble being useful additions.
Place the seed edgeways, 12 mm deep, and keep the frames closed until germination occurs. Then give ventilation and water as necessary. When thehave two leaves, move them to the frame or Dutch light where a hotbed has been prepared. Handle them with care and give shade until they are established.
Collar Rot and root rot are sometimes a trouble. It is an advantage to plant on slightly raised to prevent moisture collecting around the base of the stem at soil level. Shade from direct sunshine and regular ventilation are important factors in culture.
Frequent syringings of water help to provide a moist atmosphere. When the plants have formed three leaves, pinch out the leading shoot preferably when it is sunny, to encourage quick healing. Once the laterals have formed four leaves, they too are stopped above the third leaf It is on the sub-laterals that the fruit is borne.
Plants produce male and female flowers, the latter being recognised by a small swelling at the base. The male pollen bearing flowers, are smaller. Pollen has to be transferred to the female flower. This is often done by bees but early in the season and with frame plants, it is advisable to hand pollinate. Do this by picking the male flower and lightly rubbing the pollen on to the stigma in the centre of the female flower.
The best time for this job is between 12 noon and 2 pm. Preferably when it is sunny. Then the flowers are fully open and are dry. After a few days, the swelling at the back of each female flower will begin to enlarge. When the fruitlets are the size of a walnut, select the best and cut off the remainder at one leaf above the fruit.
When of good size the plants can be placed in the cold frame or under cloches. Prepare a good hole for each plant, filling it with well rotted manure. Plant the melon on a little ridge to avoid the roots becoming waterlogged.
Signs of ripening are a crack on the fruit stalk, deeper colour and a real melon smell.
The group known as Cantaloupe, Cucumis melo reticulatus melons are the easiest to manage. These include Dutch Net and Tiger. For growing with little or no heat, there is No Name, (very odd and strange title!) also the F1 hybrid, Burpee Hybrid, which has rounded golden, netted fruit and thick juicy, orange flesh. It does well in frames or under cloches. Charantais is a small delicious variety, with scented flesh. Melon varieties needing heated or warm greenhouse treatment include King George, Hero of Lockinge, Superlative and the green fleshed Emerald Gem.
Water Melons can be grown where a little heat is available, while they are hardy enough for frame and cloche cultivation.
With heat, they can be grown in the same way as the Cantaloupes. Without warmth, sow the seed in spring using pots of peatystanding them in the cold frame. When the seedlings are ready for their fruiting positions select sandy soil, well mulched with good compost. Set the plants on little mounds about 75cm apart remembering that the plants will not be bushy specimens but will be kept to one main stem growing 1-50m or more. Make sure water does not settle round the plants or stem rot will develop.
Shallow furrows can be made both sides of the plants. These can be flooded as necessary during the summer or clay pots can be sunk in the soil near the plants and these can be frequently filled with water. After the fruits have set, carefully place them on pieces of asbestos or something similar to prevent slug or other pest damage.
Water melons are ready for cutting when the tendrils near the ripening fruits become dry and shrivelled. Florida Favourite is a good variety, the oval fruits of six pounds or more, having green skin and pink flesh.
See this fascinating article about SQUARE Japanese watermelons