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All about melons – How to grow muskmelons and watermelons

Gurney's Li'l Sweet Hybrid Cantaloupe

Gurney’s Li’l Sweet Hybrid Cantaloupe

Confession time: I used to be a melon drop-out.  Each year I would happily place a few melon plants in my garden, dreamily reading the tag from the nursery, excitedly thinking of how adorable my kids would look as they checked on the progress of our melons. And the pride I would have in serving my own home-grown melons! We slowly watched our melon plants through June, encouraging them, waiting for them to really grow; then in July as the sun beat down and the heat crept up, I’d watch my melon plant wither and then die. What was I doing wrong? I felt like it should have been simple- stick the plant in the ground, watch it grow, harvest melons.

Melons need a few key elements to grow successfully- and this includes both muskmelons and watermelons.

Sugar Baby Watermelon

Sugar Baby Watermelon

Space

Watermelon vines sprawl- some up to 100 feet, and only producing a few fruits. Muskmelons can produce well in more compact spaces, or you can look for bush varieties. My mistake was not giving my melons enough space to grow, and then trying to adjust and push the vines into the area where I did want the melons to grow. Melon vines are very delicate and must be moved gently.

Warmth

Melons need 3 to 4 months of warm weather. You can help speed things along by laying down black plastic or plastic mulch a few weeks before planting. Also make sure to plant your melons in a very sunny spot.

Sugar Cube Hybrid Melon

Sugar Cube Hybrid Melon

Water

This one should go without saying, but I certainly failed at giving my melons adequate water. Instead, starting with planting, melon vines should get generous amounts of water.

Nutrients

I was working with poor, sandy soil. I should have worked some compost in at the start to give my melon plants a boost; then once fruits appeared, applied some compost.

Protection

Weeds take water away from your main plant, and since melons need quite a bit of water, they need to be kept weed free. Apply a layer of mulch around melon hills. Also, there are quite a few pests that prey on melons. Plant marigolds as a companion plant to keep nematodes away, and check your plants regularly for any signs of pests or mildew

I did have a successful year- once I actually learned how to grow melons. We grew Sugar Baby watermelons, which were perfect for my small space and the kids did enjoy watching the progress. We made melon lemonade, melon sorbet, and froze cubed melon for use in smoothies in the winter time. Interested in trying to grow melons this season? Check out Gurney’s for varieties like Sugar Baby Watermelon and Gurney’s Lil Sweet Hybrid Cantaloupe.

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