10 Tips to Grow Great Melons

Melons are one of the most popular home-grown fruits for good reason. You can easily grow your own sweet, delicious melons by following a few simple tips.

1. Get to Know Your Melons

The most commonly grown melons in North America are watermelons, cantaloupe and honeydew. Different varieties are available for all of these melons, ranging from tiny to giant sizes. And each has its own individual flavor and sweetness.

For example, ‘Garden Baby’ is one of the smallest varieties of watermelon that only grows 6 to 8 inch large fruits, whereas ‘Crimson Sweet’ will grow fruits from 30 to 35 pounds. Watermelons with yellow or white flesh are also available.

Cantaloupes and honeydew melons have many different types and colors you can explore as well. Check if your local garden center has seeds or seedlings for lesser-known varieties of melons, such as muskmelon, crenshaw, casaba, galia or charantais.

Juicy slice melon on rustic wooden table background.

2. Start Them Off Right

You can start melons from seed or buy young seedlings in spring. Varieties that mature within 75 days or less are perfect for northern gardeners and short growing seasons. The seed package or seedling tag will tell you the required days to maturity.

Plant seeds indoors about a month before your last frost date. The seeds will typically send up their first set of young leaves in a couple weeks. The best time to plant them out in your garden is once they grow their second set of true leaves in another week or two. They don’t like to become root-bound in pots, so plant them out as soon as possible at this stage.

You can direct sow seeds in your garden beds if your area has a long enough growing season. But keep in mind most melons require a soil temperature of 65 degrees Fahrenheit (18 degrees Celsius) or higher in order to germinate. By the time the soil is warm enough, it’s often too late in the season in northern gardens.

Buying seedlings is another good option. Look for the youngest seedlings you can find that aren’t root-bound yet.

3. Amend Your Soil

Melons love fertile, well-drained soil rich in organic matter. Add lots of compost, manure, alfalfa pellets or other nutritious amendments to your soil before planting your seedlings.

A soil pH of 6.0 to 6.5 is ideal for melons. But don’t worry if you don’t have a pH test kit, topping up the organic matter will also naturally help the soil acidity.

If your soil is particularly poor, it’s beneficial to provide ongoing fertilization throughout the growing season as well. Top dress with more organic matter or apply another fertilizer of your choice.

4. Maximize Heat

Night temperatures should be averaging around 50 degrees Fahrenheit (10 degrees Celsius) before you plant out your seedlings. Try using removable row covers or frost blankets to keep new plantings warmer overnight.

Heating the soil throughout the growing season is also important. Studies have shown that melon plants will yield 20 to 30 percent more fruit when the average soil temperature in the morning is 70 degrees Fahrenheit (21 degrees Celsius) or more.

A good way to heat the soil is to cover it with black plastic or landscape fabric. Lay out the plastic before planting, cut holes where you want to plant, then put in the seedlings.

5. Water Heavily

Melons like a thorough watering once or twice a week rather than small amounts daily. Aim for 1 to 2 inches of water per week.

Adding an organic mulch layer on the surface of the soil can improve water retention.

6. Help Pollination

Encouraging bees and other pollinating insects in your area will help your melon blossoms get fertilized. Growing organically is one of the best ways to help pollinators. Plant lots of wildflowers, herbs and other blooming plants near your melon beds to attract beneficial insects.

You can also pollinate by hand if you want to ensure good fruit set.

Cantaloupe

Cantaloupe

7. Less Is More

Each plant should only be allowed to produce 2 to 3 fruit. Pinch off any flower buds the vine makes after that. It’s also helpful to trim off the ends of the vines and extra branches. You want the plant’s energy to go into developing a few top-notch fruits, not on further blooms and vegetative growth.

Keep in mind the first flowers on a melon plant are typically male. The second flowering will be the female flowers that produce the fruit. So give your plants enough time to have at least a couple bloom cycles and set fruit before you start to pick off any buds.

8. Raise Them Up

Melons can develop unsightly soil spots and rot where they directly touch soil. This likely won’t be a problem if you put down plastic or a clean mulch over the soil surface.

If you still have bare dirt, try placing developing fruit on rocks, spare bits of concrete, small piles of wood chips, etc. Suspending melon plants completely off the ground is another option. You can train the vines onto frames, strings, fences, trellises or other structures.

9. Understand “Slip” and Picking Times

The term “slip” refers to the time a melon has reached full ripeness. This is when the sugar is highest and the fruit is ready to harvest. Commercial melons are typically picked early at ˝ to 1/3 slip, which means they will never be as sweet as a home-grown melon picked at maximum slip.

Muskmelons, honeydews and cantaloupes are usually ripe enough to pick when you can smell the melon’s sweetness through the skin. They also will often start to change color from a dark green to their natural brighter shades. A good indicator of ripeness in watermelons is when the melon sounds deep and solid if you knock on it.

Another good sign is when birds start to peck at your melons. Don’t wait until the melons naturally separate from the vine. This is typically too late and they will have started to rot inside.

Sliced watermelon

Watermelon

10. Eat Them!

Melons don’t store well for very long. Once they’re at a good ripeness, you can store most melons in the fridge for about a week. Watermelons will keep for several weeks when stored around 55 degrees Fahrenheit (13 degrees Celsius).

But a better option is to eat them right away. A bowl of freshly cut chunks is an excellent way of eating melons. Or you can try some of these great recipe ideas:

Related
15 Delicious Melon Recipes
7 Amazing Things You Can Do With Watermelon
5 Ways Getting Dirty Can Make You Healthier

91 comments

Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

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Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Nina S.
Nina S2 years ago

ty

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Angela K.
Angela K2 years ago

thanks for sharing

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Janet B.
Janet B2 years ago

Thanks

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Danuta Watola
Danuta W2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Elaine W.
Past Member 2 years ago

Noted!

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Dave C.
David C2 years ago

thanks

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Karen F.
Karen P2 years ago

Have great genes! (my bad).

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Janet B.
Janet B2 years ago

Thanks

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