By Jannie Vaught
The (Cucurbitaceae) along with cantaloupe, honeydew, and cucumber originally domesticated in West Africa. This is a vining flowering plant with over 1000 varieties. The health benefits are Beta carotene and phenolic antioxidant found in the red to orange colors and it gets better as the melon ripens Low in calories and full of hydration, vitamins, and rich in iron.
Planting and choosing the variety:
They like warm night temperatures, 60 and above. They like sandy loam soil with good drainage so if your soils are heavy add some sand. Chose the variety you like. Small variety fruit in about 80 days with 1 to 2-pound fruit, medium in 100 days and weigh in about 8 pounds and the large 120 days weighing in up to 33 pounds. The larger they are the longer they take to ripen. Plant in later spring when the soils are warm at night. Plant in mounds and place 3 to 4 seeds per mound, thinning to 3 plants per mound. Although they are mostly sweet water they do not like to have Wet Feet or boggy clay soil you can add sand and compost if you have abundant small melons on one vine you can carefully snip off the ones toward the base or the small ones so you have a chance at a few bigger melons and not many small melons.
Make sure they are well watered and gauge this by the wilting of the leaves. If the leaves are wilted by 10 am they need more water in the evening and if they are wilted in the early morning they need a good long slow soak. This goes for squash, pumpkin, cucumber also. A hot afternoon will have wilted leaves, but this is normal it is the early hours that you wanting to notice.
They need a high nitrogen feed to get them started such as a 12-12-6 or if you’re using organic or making your own liquid feeds to make sure they have composted comfrey leaves, then as they set fruit they need more phosphorus such as 6-12-6 to bring the fruiting on and not feed the leaves. I make compost teas and simply by adjusting that nitrogen content when it is brewing I can adjust the content.
Here’s my rule, I always dilute, I can always re-apply if they are slow, but if I over fertilize there is no taking it back. Slow the water as they get ready for harvest. And the week prior to picking cut the water and this will bring the sugar content up for that ultra-sweet juicy melon. So, if your garden has small, yellow, red striped or that Big Green there is nothing like that melon coming into the kitchen and that first cut is a crack!
Growing Green and yes I have 2 varieties and a cantaloupe sprawling out with melons hiding under their leaves!!!!!