Melons are popular with gardeners who have plenty of space to accommodate the spreading vines under glass. A greenhouse or cold frame are needed in cooler climates but in warmer areas, a sheltered South facing spot may allow outdoor success for growing this delicious crop. Of all the many varieties of Melon, Cantaloupe are reputed to be the sweetest, but do not tolerate cool temperatures well, and Honeydew Melons store particularly well.
Where to grow
Melons can grow outside in sheltered locations but will generally do better undercover.
Clear an area with fertile, well drained soil that is not too rich a few weeks before sowing, and prepare a 'planting pit'. Each pit should be 30cm square. Place a good spadeful of well rotted manure in the base before backfilling.
Water the pit well and then cover to warm the soil in readiness for planting. A Giant Easy Poly Lantern would be perfect for the job.
Sow seeds in early to mid Spring. Plant in their final positions - either outside or under glass - when they have developed four leaves and all danger of frost has passed.
Allow at least 1.5m between plants and plant with the pot soil just above the ground level as a precaution against stem rot. Water the plants in, rather than firming them in.
'Stop' Melons at the fourth or fifth leaf to encourage the production of fruiting side shoots. Keep the four strongest side shoots then remove the rest after 2-3 weeks.
Ground growing plants should be trained into an 'X' shape or supported on a frame such as the Ornamental Square Frame. As fruits develop they may need supporting in a sling - old tights work well!
If bees can't access your plants easily, pollinate by hand and with a soft brush. Once the crop has set, pinch out the growing shoots and side growth.
Regular feeding and watering are key to a good crop. You may find thinning the fruits to concentrate on just one or two pampered melons is a good approach to avoid overloading the plant.
Harvesting and Storage
The fruits are mature when there is a characteristic melon scent and circular cracking appears near to the stalk. Eat straightaway, preferable warm from the vine.
Pests and Diseases
For an exotic crop Melons are relatively free of pests and disease. Powdery mildew and stem rot can be a problem if there is not sufficient ventilation. so watch out for this.