Melon – Cucumis melo

Although always considered to be an exotic fruit, Melons are quite easy to grow in the garden. However, they do need some protection, such as a greenhouse, cold frame or even a simple cloche.

Melons are annuals and must be grown each year from seed. They are tender, and those grown in cold frames or under cloches should not be planted out until after the threat of frosts has passed. The lights of the frames and the cloches must be kept in place during any cool weather, especially at night, but they can be removed altogether during warm spells.

Fruits on the plate (clockwise, from top right...

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One of the secrets of growing Melons is correct watering. The soil should be kept moist, but not over-watered, as this is likely to split the fruit. It is best to avoid watering the plant around the base of the stem, as it is vulnerable to Collar Rot at this point. A good method is to sink an empty flower pot on each side of the plant and fill these with water, which will filter slowly into the soil, directly around the plant’s roots.

If Melons are to be planted outside in a frame or cloche, plant out after the frosts have passed. Plant in the middle of a frame or 90cm (3ft) apart under cloches.

Melons need light and sunshine, but greenhouses should be shaded when it is really hot. Frames and cloches can be left open.

Don’t allow the soil to dry out, especially once the fruit has begun to develop. Feed, once a week, with a high-potash fertilizer, such as that used for Tomatoes.

Any moisture-retentive soil can be used, but don’t add too much manure, as this can result in too much leafy growth at the expense of fruit. Under glass, grow bags are ideal.

There are several different varieties to try from the various seed merchants. ‘Honeydew’ has a green flesh and yellow skin, while ‘Blenheim Orange’ has red flesh and a greyish-green, netted skin; ‘Sugar Jade’ is a Water Melon variety with a dark green skin and pink flesh. These are all best grown in a greenhouse. For growing outside in a cold frame or cloche, try ‘Ogen’, which has small fruits with yellowy-green flesh, or the sweet ‘Early Sweet’, which has a pink flesh and netted skin.

Sow the seed on edge in pots, putting only one or two seeds in each pot. Keep the pots in a warm propagator (I8°C/65°F). On germination, if two seeds were used, remove the weaker seedling. Plant on small mounds of soil to help prevent Collar Rot developing. J Red Spider Mite can cause problems in an enclosed greenhouse. Keep the atmosphere moist by spraying regularly with water.

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