Melons and Watermelons Growing Guide
From Honey Rock and Hearts of Gold to Jenny Lind and Queen Anne's Pocket, there are so many melons out there to enjoy for as many different reasons. Vigorous melon and watermelon vines are easy to grow and are very generous yielders, treating you to plentiful crops of beautiful, juicy, refreshing fruit that's perfect for summertime snacking, salads, juices, and more.
Sowing: Start melon and watermelon seeds indoors four weeks before the last expected frost date in spring (watermelon seeds should be soaked for 24 hours before planting). Before transplanting the seedlings to the outside, mix generous quantities of compost or organic fertilizer into the soil. In general, plant the seedlings in hills spaced 4 feet apart, each hill with 3-4 plants spaced 12 inches apart. (For specifics regarding seed depth, row spacing, and thinning as related to particular varieties, please refer to each melon's individual product page.) Melons and watermelons grow best when their garden patch is covered with 6mm black polyethylene plastic. Even though the plastic isn't the prettiest to look at, it keeps the soil warm, conserves moisture, retards weeds (and the disruption that results from weeding), and keeps plants clean and free of rot. As a result, your melons and watermelons will grow faster and produce more fruit.
Growing: Growing your own melons is so much better than buying them in the store. Not only are vine-ripened melons bigger and juicier, they're also more fragrant and flavorful. This is because growing them yourself allows them to stay on the vine, where they can soak up all those amazing nutrients and sugars until the very last minute before harvesting. Melons require a long, hot, dry growing season of 80-120 days, with some watermelons requiring 150 days. Melons like 60 degree nights and 80 degree days and will not tolerate frost. They prefer sandy loam soil that is slightly alkaline; watermelons prefer a slightly acidic soil. Melons and watermelons need a consistent supply of water until the fruits are roughly the size of baseballs. After this, do not water unless drought conditions exist. Depriving the plant of water encourages ripening and makes the flesh sweeter and more flavorful.
Picking: You'll know your melons and watermelons are ready to be picked when the ends are softer and the blossom end has a wonderfully fruity aroma. Gently tug on the fruit, and if it detaches without much effort, it's ready to enjoy. Some melons will actually just fall off the vine when ready to harvest. The right conditions change from climate to climate and season to season. The very best way to gauge when it is time to harvest is to take a melon and try it.
Eating: Melons are extremely high in carotenoids, which have been shown to be very powerful in preventing and fighting cancer. Their also packed with lots of other healthful vitamins and minerals, making them pretty impressive powerhouses when it comes to promoting heart and digestive health, fighting kidney disease, helping with weight loss, boosting energy, and maintaining healthy skin.
Knowing: Though it is not known when melons were first cultivated, it is believed that prehistoric man may have gathered and saved the seeds of the sweetest melons. Seeds and wall paintings found in Egyptian tombs indicate that melons and watermelons were under cultivation in Egypt at least 4000 years ago.
Container Friendly? While it's been said that anything can be grown in a container provided the container is big enough, melons and watermelons aren't really considered to be in the realm of container-friendly plants. Their vines sprawl and the fruit gets rather large, making them best suited for garden growing.