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How to Grow Melons

Melons are a delicious part of every Summer! Here I’ll walk you through exactly how to grow melons on your own homestead, or garden or container!

Melons originated in Africa and Southwest Asia, and so prefer long, hot days. Recent discoveries point to them being domesticated around 1300 BC.

They were some of the first crops to be developed in the new and old world. Early European settlers reported growing melons in the new world as early as the 1600’s.

And a number of Native American tribes in New Mexico have developed their own cultivars, descended from melons originally introduced by the Spanish.

honey dew melon

While there are dozens of different types of melons, the care for them is all very similar.

This quick and dirty 30-second guide to Melons should help you answer all those questions quickly, without having to sort through article after article. I’ve always wanted a quick cheat sheet like this, so hopefully you’ll find it useful too!

honey dew melon with seeds scooped out

Nutritional Benefits of Melons

The nutritional benefits of melons vary by varietal. Here are the highlights of my favorite melons:

Cantaloupe is an important source of Vitamin C (1 cup contains 120% recommended daily value) and Vitamin A (108%)!! And let’s be honest, who can stop at one cup??

One cup of honeydew contains only 2% DRV of Vitamin A, but 53% of your Vitamin C and 12% of your Potassium.

watermelon cut up into cubes

One cup of watermelon contains 18% of your daily Vitamin A, and 21% of your Vitamin C. But that makes sense – watermelon contains more water than other melons.

In addition to basic vitamins, however, melons also have a substaintial amount of polyphenols. Many polyphenols are powerful antioxidants that neutralize free radicals, reduce inflammation and slow the growth of tumors.

In addition to the flesh, eating melon seeds provides an additional source of omega-3 fatty acids.

How to Grow Melons

Melons are a versatile family, with very different flavors. Watermelons, honeydew melons, and cantaloupes are all great melons to learn to grow.

They need a lot of space, and a lot of water, so to avoid crowding out or drowning other plants, you should plant melons in their own private neighborhood.

watermelon growing on a trellis

If space is an issue, try training them up a trellis like the picture above. You’ll have to keep an eye on them to harvest before they fall and get bruised, but if you’re urban or apartment homesteading, this is definitely an option.

Water

They can also crack easily if they get too much or too little water, so heavily mulching the area around the plants will ensure that water is spread evenly.

The mulch will absorb the water if there’s too much, and then gradually release it to the soil when the soil becomes too dry.

Compost

They’re also heavy feeders, so make sure you fertilize the soil before planting your melon plants. Once the vines begin to grow it will be more difficult to fertilize well.

Ideally, you’ll plan your melon patch in the Fall by laying down a thick layer of composted manure and covering that with straw or mulch. This will give Mother Nature enough time to work the compost down into the soil and prep it for Spring.

This will also ensure that your soil’s pH is above 6.0, which melons need. For several FREE ways to test your soil’s pH, check out my post.

bee pollinating a melon plant

Pollination

Cantaloupe and honeydew vines produce two types of flowers: male and perfect flowers (which have both male and female parts).

Watermelons have separate male and female flowers, usually on the same vine.

For all melons, the pollination window is one-two days. Pollen needs to be transferred from a male to a female or a perfect flower in this small window or else the plant won’t set fruit,

To increase the chances of this happening, make sure you’ve created a healthy environment for pollinators.

To do that, we make sure to have a watering station for bees and surround our vegetable garden with companion plants that attract pollinators.

For a complete list of companion plants, check out my post Top 60 Companion Plants and How to Use Them.

Insects

The biggest pests to melons are squash bugs, squash vine borers and striped cucumber beetles.

Squash bugs you’ll be able to see on the underside of your leaves and are easy to control with diatomaceous earth or neem oil if you catch them early.

Squash vine borers are the worst! By the time you know you have them, it’s usually too late. They bore holes through the base of the melon plant and roots.

If you’ve kept up with your watering and notice one of your plants has droopy leaves, cut it open at the root.

If you have an infestation, pull the affected plant and throw it far far away. Keep a close eye on the rest of the plants as well to see if they’ve traveled. And next year, rotate where you plant your melons.

Diseases

The biggest disease issue we’ve had with our melons is powdery mildew. It looks just like it sounds. Luckily, a 1:1 ratio of milk to water, sprayed all over your garden (affected and non-affected areas alike) works well against powdery mildew.

To avoid powdery mildew and other diseases, use drip irrigation or a soaker hose instead of getting the leaves wet. If irrigation isn’t in your budget this year, make sure to water your plants in the morning, only on hot days when the water will have a chance to evaporate.

watermelon cut in half

If you’re growing Melons this year, here’s what you need to know:

How to Grow Melons Cheat-sheet

Soil pH

6.0-6.8

Sunlight

6-8 hours

Water

1-2 inches per week

Planting Time

Direct sow 3-4 weeks after last frost (or after the soil temperature remains over 60 degrees F).

Compatible With

Corn, Radishes, Beans

Avoid Planting With

Cucumber, Zucchini, Squash, Potatoes

Spacing

2-3 seeds per mound with mounds spaced 24 inches apart in rows 4-6 feet apart.

Maintenance

Keep an eye out for pests and and disease. Slide a piece of cardboard under the fruit where it touches the ground to prevent rot.

Spray with a 50/50 mixture milk and water at the first sign of powdery mildew.

Harvesting Fruit

70-100 days

Saving the Seeds

Simply scoop out the seeds from a ripe melon and allow to dry for about three weeks. Store in a cool, dark place.

Or if you’d like this and many other vegetables’ info in beautiful printable, check out my Vegetable Monographs in the store.

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