Organic Melon Gardening Basics

What better on a hot summer day than a melon, fresh from your garden? Although they are fruit, melons are generally planted in the vegetable garden.

Robert Goyette from The Canadian Illustrated Guide to Green Gardening

A close relative of the cucumber and the squash, the melon grows on vines and needs a lot of room, warm weather and plenty of moisture to grow properly.

Watermelon© iStockphoto/ThinkstockMelons are common in vegetable gardens
Which type should I grow? Melons take a long time to mature, usually from 3 to 4 months. For this reason, most varieties of melon — watermelon, honeydew, Crenshaw, Persian and casaba — are grown in gardens in warm areas. Only the cantaloupe, properly called the muskmelon, matures fast enough — in 75 to 85 days — to be suitable for planting in areas with shorter growing seasons. In recent years, horticulturists have developed hybrid varieties of honeydew, Crenshaw melons and miniature watermelons that mature in 80 to 90 days and so can be grown in many cooler regions. Melons will not flourish in areas where temperatures fall below 55°F (13°C) at night and below 81°F (27°C) during the day. Unless you can count on these temperatures for 3 months, grow quick-maturing varieties.

How do I start? Gardeners in areas with short growing seasons have plenty of tricks to naturally encourage melon growth; chemical aids are unnecessary. They usually start the melon seeds indoors, in pots, to get the longest possible growing season. They also plant their melons against a south-facing wall or fence that will reflect the sun’s warmth, grow them in cold frames or set them out in large tubs in warm, sheltered spots.

Tip: Gardeners often use black plastic mulch on the soil in which the melons grow. Plastic mulch warms the soil with the heat it absorbs, and by acting as insulation also helps keep soil temperatures from dropping at night.