All melons, except for watermelon, are in the same cucurbit family, Cucurbitaceae - Cucumis melo. Watermelon are in a different genus, citrullus. They are a warm-season, vine plant that grow best in warm areas with a long growing season.
There are many different types of melons available around the world but here in North America the most popular melons are the cantaloupe and honeydew.
It is common for long vine varieties of melons to have fruit with superior flavor and texture because they have more leaves and can put more energy into fruit production than short vine or bush varieties.
Most gardeners that choose bush varieties are doing so because of space restrictions. There are two ways to insure your melons are sweet under these circumstances.
The vine peach cantaloupe is also commonly known as mango melon or glass melon. These small, peach-sized melons have a low sugar content and a bland flavor, grown to be pickled or preserved, not eaten raw. Vine Peaches make excellent preserves and pies, they have the flavor and texture much like a mango.
Cantaloupes often called muskmelons because of their musky, sweet taste. Probably the best know and most grown of the melons, typically with orange flesh and a corky "net" on the skin.
Minnesota Midget Melons are great for small gardens. These "extra sweet" melons that grow to about the size of a softball grow on 3-4 foot vines and produce 5-8 melons per plant. They are perfect for growing in containers.
Honeydew melons have a longer growing season (up to 120 days) than many other melon varieties.
The fruit have a round to slightly oval shape and are 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) long. They typically weigh 4-6 pounds (1.8-2.7 kg).
Honeydew has a smooth outer rind that changes from pale green to yellow as it ripens. The flesh is usually pale green in color and very sweet.
Melons are a warm season, fruiting vegetable that likes full sun, at least 8-10 hours of direct sunlight daily. Plenty of hot days and warm nights are in order to grow these garden sweets.
So its essential to be patient and wait until at least 2-3 weeks after the last average 32 F (0 C) freeze in your area and not before soil temperature are consistently 70 F (21 C) or above before sowing seed or setting out transplants.
Melons really dislike extremely acidic soil, so choose a spot that has a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Add to that a soil that is moderately rich and well-drained with high content of organic matter (Cow or steer manures is one of the best fertilizers you can use for melon crops) and you are heading for an excellent crop.
Raised bed are good for growing melons. Mulch around the bed and if you have the space let the vines grow where they want.
Soil temperatures and air temperatures differ greatest in the early spring. While air temperature might be in the range for planting or sowing seed it will take consistently warm temperature during the day and night for the soil temperature to follow suit.
Direct sow or Seedling transplants;
In colder regions with shorter summers, you'll be more successful with transplants than directly seeding.
You can use rows or hills to plant your melons, neither method is any better than the other, it just depends on what suits you best.
The most important aspects of caring for melons are;
If using hills: plant two to four plants per hill with the hills spaced 2 to 3 feet (.5 to 1 m) apart.
If using rows: plant 8 to 12 inches (20 to 30 cm) apart in rows and make sure the rows are 6 to 10 feet (2 to 3 m) apart.
Growing melons need plenty of water while they are young. A steady supply of moisture, drip irrigation or soak hoses are the best way, is especially crucial during the first 3 to 4 weeks that the vines are growing in your garden.
Once the vines have started setting fruit, reduce the amount of water, but not to the point where the plants are under stress.
Don't forget the mulch to conserve moisture and reduce weeds. With vine varieties a good thick mulch will need to applied to the full growing area before the plants begin to run.
2 weeks before sowing or transplanting apply 5-6 quarts per 100 sq feet (5.5-6.6 liters per 9.3 square meters) of All-Purpose 5-5-5 Organic Fertilizer.
When transplanting use liquid starter fertilizer.
Side-dress just as the vines start to run and finally as fruit begin to set with the same rate as initial application.
Good crop rotation is important when growing melons. Plant melons in an area that previously had legumes, tomatoes, peppers, or leafy greens, but not after other cucurbits or corn.
Squash bugs, cucumber beetles (which also carry bacterial wilt), squash vine borers, and aphids (carriers of mosaic viruses).
Powdery mildew, mosaic viruses, angular leaf spot and other fungal and bacterial diseases.
Cantaloupe and honeydew melons are two great melons for the home garden.
It is sometimes difficult to tell when melons are ready to pick.
Musk melons develop a thick netting over the rind, and the rind beneath becomes a lighter shade of green or even yellow.
Many other melons will slip from the vine attaching them to the plant when they are ripe.
Most summer melons are fragrant when ripe. Sniff the skin, if you smell the flavor of the melon it is ripe for the picking.
Melons will keep for several weeks simply in the refrigerator or a cool location.
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