Melon Growing

I am always surprised that more gardeners do not grow melons in their greenhouses or garden frames. It is an exciting crop to grow and it is impossible to buy a melon with a flavour approaching that of homegrown fruits.

Greenhouse Cultivation

Melon seeds are sown singly in 3-in. pots at any time from January to the end of May, but I would recommend the average greenhouse owner to wait until April before making a sowing. Alternatively, sow two seeds in each pot and remove the weakest seedling of each pair when these emerge. Before the plants become pot bound they must be planted out.

Planting

Make a ridge of soil more than one if necessary – on the greenhouse bench, first placing polythene sheeting (or old polythene fertiliser sacks) on the bench to stop the soil coming in contact with the shingle base. The bed should be 2-1/2 to 3 ft. wide and have a 6 in. depth of soil spread over it with a narrow ridge of soil a further 6 in. deep towards the back on which the plants will be set 2 ft. apart. John Innes No. 3 Potting Compost is a suitable growing medium and the plants must not be planted too deeply. The cotyledons or seed leaves must be well clear of the soil or foot rot may be experienced.

Training

The plants are trained as single stems to wires strained from one end of the house to the other, 6 in. away from the roof glass. When the plants have reached a height of about 30 in. the tops are pinched out. The laterals which develop are reduced to between four and six and are pinched out beyond the second leaf.

Pollinating

The female flowers which form – they can be recognised by the small embryo fruit just behind the flower – must be fertilised with pollen from the male flowers. All the female flowers on one plant should be fertilised at the same time. Four fruits per plant should be considered a good crop to carry, and any extra fruits which form should be re-moved. The fertilising should be done at midday when the pollen is dry. Removing the petals of the male flower and running the stamens inside the female flower.

Feeding

Regular feeding with liquid or soluble fertiliser is necessary from the time when the fruits begin to swell, and I topdress the bed with well-decayed manure at this time.

Young melon plants growing on the greenhouse staging. The stems are supported with the aid of bamboo canes and strained wires

Supporting

As the fruits develop and become heavy they must be supported, either with melon nets or raffia bags which can be obtained for this purpose. Spraying. It should be remembered that the melon, like the cucumber, is a tropical plant which likes warmth and moisture. The plants will grow better if they are sprayed over in the morning and after-noon on fine days, with the ventilators closed to raise the temperature.

Ripening

When the fruits are nearly ripe they give off a characteristic aroma and at this stage watering – formerly given freely – must be reduced, indeed almost stopped, or the fruits will split. Frame

Cultivation

Seed sowing for frame cultivation should be done in April or May and the plants set out early in June. Two plants can be housed in a 6-ft. by 4-ft. frame and they should be planted in John Innes No. 3 Potting Compost. Stop the plants at the fourth rough leaf and retain four side growths for flowering and fruiting. In other respects cultivation is the same as in greenhouses. Growing the plants over soil-warming cables or in a raised bed made by mounding up the compost is an advantage.

Varieties

There are numerous varieties to choose from and everybody will have their personal choices. The white-fleshed Hero of Lockinge is a variety well suited for greenhouse or frame cultivation, and the Cantaloupe variety Dutch Net – an early, large-fruited kind with orange-pink flesh – is especially well suited for frame cultivation as well, together with others of this type. Other varieties for greenhouse cultivation include the green-fleshed Emerald Gem, with an especially fine flavour, and the scarlet-fleshed Superlative.

01. March 2012 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Featured Articles, Greenhouse Gardening, Plants & Trees | Tags: , | Comments Off on Melon Growing

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