The term melon is commonly used to describe fruits from two distinct genera of the family Cucurbitaceae – Cucumis melo, the cantaloupe or muskmelon and honeydew; and Citrullus vulgaristhe watermelon. Heirloom melons, as long as they are ripe are always a popular treat. Heirloom melon seeds are a great addition to any garden and are also fun to grow.
Raising Heirloom Melons from Seed
A method for getting heirloom melon seeds off to a running start is to sprout them first by putting them between two pieces of wet paper towel, put them in a warm spot until they begin to sprout. Do this about a week before you would normally sow the seeds, indoors or out. Do not let them dry out but be sure not to drown them also. Be careful not to break the fragile sprouts when you go to plant them. In warm climates sow heirloom melon seeds directly into the garden bed two weeks after the last frost. In cool climates you must sow seeds indoors in early spring, if you do sow them indoors do not transfer them out of doors until all frosts are past and summer has definitely begun.
Care While Growing Heirloom Melon Seeds
Heirloom melon seeds and seedlings are best planted on gently rounded mounds 6 feet wide, a few inches high at the center and as long as your garden will permit. Vines require plenty of moisture when growing vigorously and up to the time they are full grown. But hold back on watering during the ripening period. You should care for your melons in the same way you care for your cucumbers, they need plenty of water and should be kept weed free.
Soil and Climate
Melons like lightish soil with plenty of humus, not heavy clay. Melons also like an alkaline soil with a pH over 7 being best. In most situations you will need to apply lime to your soil in order to reach an appropriate pH. Melons love warm weather and in cool climates it is a race against time. During ripening time days should be 80°F (27°C) and nights of not less than 50°F (10°C).
Harvesting and Storing
Picking a melon when it is neither too green or too ripe is not easy. The sound of s thump is not reliable because the dull-dead sound is also the sign of over ripeness. Practice and experience will be your best key to unlocking the secret of ripeness. All fruits when ripe tend to lose the powdery or slick apperanceof the top surface and start to take on a dull look.
Pests and Diseases
Cut Worm: These pests eat through the stalks of young seedlings. If you get them in your garden, put paper or cardboard collars around the small plants when you plant them out in the garden.
Anthracnose: This is a fungus disease which causes brown spots on the leaves and ultimately causes the melons to go moldy. You can avoid it – along with other fungus diseases – if you avoid growing cucurbitaceous plants more than once on the same ground in four years.
Botrytis or gray mold: Very wet conditions may bring this on. Although the plants need constant moisture, keep the leaves as dry as possible. Use mulch to conserve moisture so you will avoid having to drench the soil. If botrytis strikes, all you can do is destroy all affected fruits and plant material.
Heirloom Melon Varieties
Sugar Baby Watermelon: Dark green with indistinct veining – bright red – early icebox for local market and home garden.