Do you like to eat melons? With a little bit of a green thumb you can grow melons yourself. It isn't as hard as it might seem. Here are 5 tips on how to make it work.
Tip 1 - Cultivation
High-quality melon seeds are offered in garden centers in local green stores. They need to be first sown in small pots on the windowsill or in a greenhouse, similar to tomato plants. Ideally, about 4 weeks before you plant them outside, put them in seed starter pots or containers with potting soil and cover them with a plastic wrap or transparent foil.
It is important that the containers or pots are kept warm. New seedlings don't like getting "cold feet." You can place those starting containers or pots in front of a window with sunlight coming in or alternatively on top of the refrigerator. To avoid those containers from getting cold, you can place them on a piece of Styrofoam.
After about 10 days you will be able to recognize that the seeds have germinated and grown into little seedlings. Now you can remove the foil. From this point you need to water the melon plants regularly, but be careful to avoid water logging. This will prevent building mold around the delicate roots. It is also important to move the seedlings away from direct sunlight, unless you have a greenhouse with special foil or glass that breaks the sun rays.
If the plants seem to grow slowly too big or are growing too close to each other in the pots or containers, then you may want to re-pot them again to allow a proper growth and development.
Tip 2 - Transplanting in the garden
After about a month or so, or with an outdoor temperature of at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit (typically mid May), the melon plants can be transferred to the outside. As for the choice of location in the garden, you should select a sheltered, but sunny spot where your melon plants are protected from forceful winds. Assure a planting distance of about 2-3 feet apart. Take good care of those sensitive roots when moving the seedlings outside.
To prepare the new environment, loosen the soil well and add some compost or manure to help the plants getting a good start in their new location. If you use compost, I recommend incorporating it in the soil about 2 weeks before planting. If you expect some cold nights, you can also cover the plants with a frost protection blanket or a garden foil.
Tip 3 - Fertilizing
Add some previously well-enriched soil or manure. You can also use fertilizer just before flowering and when the fruits are just developing. Use a specialty fertilizer for fruit trees or alternatively a tomato fertilizer.
Tip 4 - Melon plant maintenance
You have two options. Either have the melons grow vertically on a trellis or let them branch sideways which will require more space. If the latter one is your choice, you can promote entwining by cutting the main stem after the 6th leaf. Assure your melons get watered regularly, but not excessively, because they do not tolerate constant moisture too well. You must also be sure to avoid water logging. If possible, water the melon plants in the morning. Slightly lukewarm rainwater will make those plants really happy!
Once melon fruits are recognizable, it is important to prevent the fruits from resting on the moist ground. Also here, you can use those Styrofoam sheets. Place the sheets under the melons to avoid rot.
Tip 5 - Harvest
Depending on the plant variety, the melon fruits ripen differently. Fruit ripening is recognizable by the wilting of the leaves, the incomparable melon scent and the sound. Tap on the fruit. If it sounds like a low dull tone, then it's a sign the fruit is ripe. If the fruits are ready, use a sharp knife to separate them from the branch. To make sure the melons will last longer, cut an inch or two of the branch to leave on the fruit.