Step-by-step Guide to Growing Melons
Cucumis melo (fam. Cucurbitaceae) Half-hardy annual
Sowing to harvesting time: 4 months Size: plants 30-45 cm (1- 1-1/2’) tall, 1 m (3’) across, up to 1. m (5’) long in a frame or under cloches; up to 1.8 m (6’) tall in the greenhouse
Yield: 2-4 fruits per plant
On a hot summer day, few fruits are as refreshing as fresh, juicy melon. In Mediterranean climates they grow abun-dantly outdoors but in temperate climates most varieties must be given the protection of a greenhouse—although hardier varieties can be grown successfully in cold frames or under cloches. These varieties are generally smaller than the large musk melons which can be grown in the greenhouse, but many people think their slightly stronger flavour is even more delicious.
The melons normally grown in temperate climates are very closely related toand require similar conditions. They probably originated in tropical Africa, although they are now best considered as sub-tropical plants. The watermelon is something different altogether. It is a tropical plant belonging to an entirely different species and is difficult to grow, even in greenhouses, in temperate climates.
Given the right conditions, melons grow prolifically, even luxuriously, and must be pruned to keep their growth in check.
If melons are to be grown outdoors in temperate climates, they will need to be grown in cold frames or under cloches, unless the garden is exceptionally warm and sheltered. A greenhouse probably gives a better and earlier crop, and such plants will not be so reliant on the summer being a good one. In subtropical climates there will, of course, be no need for protection of any kind, and plants can be grown outdoors throughout their lives.
A well-drained fertile loam is the bestfor melons. Prepare the soil one month before planting. Dig a trench 30 cm (1’) wide and one spade’s depth 30 cm (1’) deep and add one or two bucketfuls (depending on the richness of the soil) of well-rotted garden or. Leaf-mould per metre (yard) to the bottom. Cover with the soil removed from the trench and leave it in a mound so that water will drain away from it.
Alternatively for outdoor melons you can dig holes at 1.2 m (4’) intervals, again : to 30 cm (1’) deep, and add the compost to the bottom of these, half-filling the holes. Once again cover with the removed soil and leave in a mound.
A little slow-acting fertilizer can be given, but do not give large dressings of nitrogenous fertilizer, in particular, as this will encourage sappy growth of stems and leaves at the expense of the fruit. A good general rate is 90 g (3 oz) of five parts by volume hoof and horn plus two parts sulphate of potash per square metre (yard).
Melons do not like acid soils.
Growing in frames In cold temperate climates, some melon varieties will not grow successfully except in a greenhouse, but the usual method of growing hardier varieties is in frames. The frames should face south- wards so that they enjoy the maximum amount of sunshine.