Home grown Melons
A sweet slice of cold melon on a hot summer’s day – irresistible! Watermelons, rockmelons and honeydew melons are easy to grow in the backyard as long as you have a bit of space. The vines sprawl and scramble and among the tangle are globes of summer sweetness. Jake Byrne tells how it’s done.
Melons like a well-prepared garden bed, fairly deep, rich in nutrients and full of organic matter. Due to their sprawling nature, plant seedlings at least half a metre apart. Seedlings are available through spring and summer; and if you were ahead of the game you could have sown your own seeds in September. Take a note for next year: plant seeds around 1cm deep in seedling punnets or small pots containing a damp mix. Keep them inside, preferably in a sunny position until they germinate. A few days after that take them outside to harden off. When they are around 10cm in height, they are ready to plant.
Melons have both male and female flowers. These are easy to tell apart: the female flowers are swollen and round at the base. Bees and other insects should be sufficient to pollinate the flowers, but if your garden is low on bees you can do the pollinating yourself. Simply pick a male flower and remove the petals, then rub the male flower's pollen inside the female flower. Continue to do this until the vine is developing plenty of fruit.
When the vine starts to scramble, provide some support by lifting pieces onto upturned pots. Gently separate tangled vines. Make sure the soil is always moist: watering will be required almost daily. When fruit starts to form, begin to apply a liquid fertiliser regularly. Harvest or Maxicrop are perfect, and fertilisers especially formulated for tomatoes are also recommended.
Melons become sweeter the longer they are left on the vine, so be patient. Sweet melons should have a sweet aroma when they are ready to be picked; watermelons will give a hollow sound when tapped if they are ripe. Another sign is that the spot on which the melon rested on the ground will change colour to a buttery yellow when the melon is ready to eat. When the stems start to die or crack, harvest immediately. If left on the ground any longer they may begin to rot.
Pest and Disease
Melons can fall victim to pests such as two spotted mites and white fly. Regular applications of eco-Oil should prevent both. Powdery mildew may also pose a threat, as it’s important to keep the soil damp to keep the melons growing well. In cases of infection apply a spray of eco-Fungicide.
*'Hearts of Gold' – thick orange flesh, firm, juicy and highly flavoured
*'Oasis red seedless' - firm, crisp, sweet fruit with no seeds and thin rind.
*'Sugar Baby' - dark green with sweet and crisp red flesh.
*'Charleston Grey' - elongated fruit up to 60 cm long with grey-green skin and crimson flesh.
*'Green Flesh' - emerald green flesh with creamy white skin.
*'Golden Beauty' - white aromatic and spicy flesh, with a rind that matures to a golden colour