Growing Melons: Greenhouse Growing Guide

Melons can be grown either in the greenhouse or in frames, but the ideal conditions for their cultivation can best be achieved in a greenhouse. They require rather similar treatment to cucumbers, to which they are related, but it is important to remember that, after the earliest stages, melons like a drier atmosphere than cucumbers.

SOWING IN POTS

A good fibrous loam is essential for melons, and it is therefore advisable to add one part leaf mould and sand to three parts loam; the addition of a few smashed crocks will also be beneficial. In March, sow the melon seed about 1/2 in. deep in individual small pots. Water well, particularly if the weather is hot, and plunge the pots up to their rims in moist peat to encourage germination. Keep the peat moist and provide plenty of light. Do not let the night temperature fall below 65° F. (18° C.) at this stage.

POTTING ON

It is important that the young melon plants should not become starved, and they should therefore be potted on into 5-in. pots before they have completely filled the smaller pots with roots. The temperature may now be reduced to 60° F. (16° C.) at night, but do not allow it to fall any lower from now on.

PLANTING OUT

A good fibrous loam is the best soil for the planting bed, as for the pots. Make up the bed with small mounds, as for cucumbers, and plant in the same way. Do not ram down the soil too firmly, however, and do not leave a depression for water at the top of each mound. The soil round the base of melon stems should never be allowed to be too moist.

TRAINING AND STOPPING

Provide wires for training melons in the same way as for cucumbers. Stake and tie the plants as this becomes necessary. Train melons up canes until they reach the top wires of the greenhouse; only then should the tips be pinched out. Side shoots will then soon appear, which in turn will bear male and female flowers.

FERTILIZATION

Unlike cucumbers, melons must be fertilized if they are to produce fruit. Wait until about six female flowers have appeared on each plant; these can be identified by the tiny embryo melon at the base of the flower. Break off the petals of the same number of male flowers without disturbing the pollen, and place each one over a female flower, so that the stigmas receive the pollen. This operation is best carried out at about midday, when the female flowers are most receptive. The melons will swell quickly after fertilization, but do not allow more than three or four fruits to develop on one plant, and not more than one on each side shoot.

WATERING AND FEEDING

Keep the soil fairly dry during the period of fertilization, but water thoroughly once the fruits have set, always using tepid water. When the melons start to swell, feed with tepid liquid manure and give the beds a top dressing of compost if the plants’ roots start to show.

SHADING AND VENTILATION

Melons can never have too much light, so the greenhouse will seldom need shading, though the plants should be protected from the scorching rays of direct sunlight. Although melons like-heat, and the temperature may rise to as much as 90° F. (32° C.) without harm, they also need plenty of air, so give generous ventilation at all times.

DE-SHOOTING AND SUPPORT

Once the fruit has set, pinch out the tips of the side shoots. If there should be no fruit on these side shoots, however, pinch back as far as the fourth leaf from the main stem, and more flowers will soon appear. Before long, the fruit will become quite heavy, and should be supported by specially made nets attached to the wires of the greenhouse.

HARVESTING

Melons sown in March should be ready to pick by late July or August. When they are ripe, the stalks will start to crack near the fruit. Never be tempted to pick a melon before it is absolutely ripe.

If a second crop is wanted from the same plant, prune back all shoots as far as the latest new growth, add some fresh loam to the bed, and water well with liquid manure to restart growth. Do not attempt to obtain a second crop from an old plant.

VARIETIES:

The following are recommended for cultivation in the greenhouse:

Emerald Gem, green flesh.

Hero of Lockinge, white flesh.

Ringleader, green flesh.

Superlative, scarlet flesh.

16. February 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, Garden Management, Gardening Calendar | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Growing Melons: Greenhouse Growing Guide

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