Fascinated by heritage melons? Amy Goldman’s Melons for the Passionate Grower (ISBN 1-57965-213-1), a mouth-watering journey through her 100 favorite varieties, is an indispensable identification and cultural aid in trials work. Goldman says we routinely discard the most nourishing part of the melon: the seeds. Watermelon seeds have been an important part of African and Chinese diets. The watermelon rind, another oft-overlooked feature, makes good pickles.
Melon seed lives more than 10 years with proper storage. 18th- and 19th-century growers preferred to sow 4- to 10-year-old melon seed, believing that such seeds produced plants that spread less and fruits with a finer perfume.
Days to maturity are from date of transplanting.
Cantaloupe And Muskmelon
Cucumis melo 1/16 oz packet, about 60 seeds, sows 20 hills. 1oz=about 960 seeds. Cantaloupes are named for the papal gardens of Cantalupo, Italy, where some historians say the first cantaloupe was grown. They are smooth-skinned or lightly netted with few ridges. Some are warted. Muskmelons are usually heavily netted and deeply ribbed with larger seed cavities than cantaloupes. Both have orange flesh unless otherwise indicated. Jason Kafka observed that deeply netted muskmelons have better flavor than those without full netting. Melons produce highest sugars when daytime temperatures exceed 80° and night temperatures are 60–75°. 2012 met those conditions to a T, so it was a great melon year. Not 2013.
Minimum germination soil temperature 60°, optimal range 75–95°, optimal temperature 80°, emergence takes 8 days at 68°, only 4 days at 77°.
Vine-Ripening Melons In Maine
Melons are a tender crop with a high nitrogen requirement. They love heat, cannot stand frost, and may be damaged by night temperatures below 40°. Though they require some extra fussing, the results are sure worthwhile!
• Note days to maturity and select varieties that will ripen in your climate. Diplomat, Halona, Alvaro, Blacktail Mountain, Petite Yellow, Peace and Gold Flower are surest bets.
• Start indoors in early May (later if the spring is slow to warm) in plastic or peat pots, 2 or 3 seeds to a pot. Melons resent transplanting but will take if their roots are not disturbed.
• Prepare hills in advance with liberal amounts of well-rotted manure or compost. Don’t place melons next to vigorous crawling plants like cucumbers, gourds or winter squash.
• A cold start can permanently stunt growth, so wait for a warm spell after all danger of frost to transplant, usually between May 20th and June 20th. Water heavily and, if soil is dry, place a temporary hay mulch around plants until a soaking rain comes.
• Melons are much more sensitive than squashes so use low tunnels with floating row covers that do not abrade plants. If you have sandy soil, check daily and irrigate when needed.
• Use blue, black or clear plastic mulch between plants.
• Use a foliar feeding program to speed ripening.
• Remove row covers before buds open. Replace them when you don’t desire any more fruit to set.
• To reduce rot loss, rotate ripening melons occasionally. To reduce mouse damage, place ripening melons on bricks.
• Inspect your patch daily at ripening time. Check fruits for aroma and color and pull gently on those that appear to be ripe. Most muskmelons are ripe when the pressure causes them to slip from the vine. Galia types are ripe when they blush yellow well before full slip. For Petit Gris de Rennes, see above; for honeydews, p. 28. For watermelons, thumping should produce a low, hollow sound. Spread thumb and forefinger and press hard on fruit. If you feel any give, watermelon is ripe.
• Enjoy an incomparable taste treat!