Melons: A Quick Growing Guide

Some quick and easy tips for growing the best tasting melons.

By Matt Ernst

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Cucumis melo

  • Soil Preparation: Melons prefer soils with a pH between 6.0 and 6.8, which indicates adequate calcium availability—an important guard against blossom-end rot. Work 2 to 3 inches of finished compost into your melon beds before planting. Adding compost provides nutrients to your melons, helps distribute moisture evenly, and furnishes oxygen for root growth.
     
  • Timing of Planting: Soil temperature must reach at least 60°F before you plant—about a week after the last frost.
     
  • Spacing: If you direct-seed, sow seeds in clusters of five to six, planting each cluster in a hill—a mound of soil (1 foot high by 2 to 3 feet wide)—to increase drainage. If you're using seedlings, plant 2 or 3 per hill. For muskmelon and honeydew plants, space hills 1.5 to 2 feet apart, leaving 4 to 6 feet between rows. For watermelons, add another foot or two to these guidelines.
     
  • Watering: Melons need about an inch of water each week. Water your plants carefully by hand or use drip irrigation, because wet foliage promotes the spread of diseases such as angular leaf spot and downy mildew.
     
  • Fertilizing: Mix a solution of 1 tablespoon of fish emulsion in 1 gallon of water and apply it weekly when the plants are young. An application of a kelp-based foliar spray when the plants are in full flower will complete fertilization.
     

Pest Watch
Squash bugs, cucumber beetles (which also carry bacterial wilt), squash vine borers, and aphids (carriers of mosaic viruses).

Disease Alert
Powdery mildew, mosaic viruses, angular leaf spot and other fungal and bacterial diseases.

Harvesting
Pick cantalope when the stem separates easily from the melon. For netted melon varieties, the skin between the netting will turn from green to yellow at ripeness. Honeydews will soften slightly on the flower end of the fruit when ripe, along with a slight change in fruit color. Check the belly of watermelons for the best indicator of ripeness. The belly turns from greenish white to buttery yellow or cream at maturity. This change is most noticeable on watermelons with dark green skin.

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