Growing and Caring for Melon Plants

Growing and Caring for Melon Plants
Very sensitive to frost, melons are grown around the world. In America, this is a common crop in all regions. They’re especially plentiful in the Imperial Valley of California.

The Latin name for the common melon is Cucumis melo. Members of the Cucurbit family, these species are related to cucumbers, pumpkins, and squash. Watermelons are a related species.

These annual trailing vines can have tendrils. The ridged stems are covered with soft hairs. The leaves are sometimes lobed or toothed. In some cases, they’re hairy. Those of watermelons are alternate.

The yellow blooms are monoecious. For many types of melons, the female blossoms are typically solitary, while the males are in small groups. Some varieties have hermaphroditic blossoms.

In the case of watermelons, the flowers open singly in the leaf axils. The male and female blossoms are on separate plants. They’re funnel shaped and1½ inches across. Pollination is generally essential with melons.

The appearance of melon fruits varies greatly, according to the species and variety. These can differ in the fruit size, the color of skin and flesh, and smoothness or roughness of the rind. The unripe rind can be green, tan, or creamy white. With the exception of watermelons, most are ovoid to spherical and range in size from two to ten inches in diameter. The weight varies greatly as well.

Growing Conditions for Melons

Most melon plants thrive in a sunny spot. These prefer a sandy, rich, well drained, loose loam that is high in organic matter. They dislike peat. Although most melons aren’t well suited to clay soils, there are a few exceptions. Watermelons prefer a pH of 5 to 7, which is fairly neutral. The other melons are adapted to a pH of 6.0 to 7.0.

Full sun is best. Raised beds are helpful, especially in cold climates as the ground warms up sooner in the spring.

Caring for Melon Plants

The use of plastic mulch or landscape fabric can simplify the routine care of melon plants and be very beneficial. Black and silver mulches are highly recommended. The mulch warms the ground up earlier, brings higher yields, and earlier crops. It is especially beneficial in Northern areas where the growing season is short. The plastic mulch also conserves moisture and reduces the need for weeding.

If the weather turns unusually cold after the melons are planted, it may be necessary to use row covers or Hotkaps to protect melon plants. Consistent, even moisture is best until the plants set fruits. This is especially important when the plants are young and until they’re pollinated. Stop watering once the fruits are full-sized. After that point, too much moisture can cause the fruits to split. Watermelons should only be watered late in the season if the top inch of the soil becomes dry.

All melons need a steady supply of fertilizer throughout the growing season. A balanced general purpose formula, such as 10-10-10, works well. Mix the first application of fertilizer into the soil before planting. Then, apply this on a regular basis about every four to six weeks throughout the season until the plants set fruits. Fish emulsion is a suitable alternative to chemical fertilizers.

Weeding is a concern for young melon plants of all types until the plants become large enough to outgrow the weeds. If you’re hoeing, do so carefully in order to avoid damaging the plants.

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