Harvest tips: Discerning ripeness in honeydews is an art. At least two or three of the following signs should align before you cut fruit from the vine: 1) Fruits are free of fuzz or minute hairs that denote immaturity. 2) Stems dry at tendrils. 3) Fruits assume proper coloration (different for different varieties). 4) Light firm pressure applied to fruit bottom results in a slight give or rubbery rebound (pick soon). Give extends into the curve outside of the blossom scar (pick now). Do not wait for full slip—fruits will develop cracks and get over-ripe. Cure 1–4 days off the vine for best flavor, until it develops a very subtle sweet smell of perfumed honey indicative of melting juicy full-flavored flesh.
Days to maturity are from date of transplanting. 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.
Most Years You Can Vine-Ripen Melons In Maine Melons are a tender crop with high nitrogen requirements. 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.
Pest: Striped Cucumber BeetleCultural controls: use tolerant or resistant varieties, rotate crops, till under crop debris soon after harvest, use floating row covers or insect netting until flowers appear, use plastic mulch, perimeter trap cropping (Black Zucchini and Blue Hubbard make particularly good trap crops), use yellow sticky strips, hand-pick early morning when beetles are very sluggish.Materials: Surround, Pyrethrum (PyGanic), Mycotrol ESO.Disease: Powdery MildewControls: Use small plots to slow spread, plant indeterminate (viney) varieties, control weed competition.Materials: sulfur and whole milk, mineral or other oils in combination with potassium bicarbonate, Actinovate.Disease: Bacterial WiltCultural control: Striped Cucumber Beetle is vector—control it; choose resistant varieties.
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.