Sun-sweetened melons

Plant heirloom varieties now for a juicy harvest this summer

Diced melons
Photo: Rob D. Brodman

How to grow melons

The warmer your climate, the better melons will grow. Where the growing season is long, sow seeds directly in the ground. In cooler coastal areas or where growing seasons are short, choose fast-maturing varieties, use season extenders, and start seeds indoors in small pots. Plant the seedlings outdoors after the soil has warmed to at least 60° (raised beds warm up faster than flat ground).

Planting Choose a site in full sun and with good drainage. Mix a 2- to 3-inch layer of compost into the soil. Plant two or three seeds (or one plant) per hole, 1½ feet apart in rows 4 to 6 feet apart.

Season extenders In cool coastal climates or areas with short growing seasons, lay black plastic over the soil and tuck in the edges, then cut an X for each plant. Use floating row covers until the weather warms or plants begin flowering.

Watering Use drip irrigation or a soaker hose to avoid wetting the foliage. Water often enough to keep plants healthy. When melons reach full size (but before they're mature), cut back on watering to avoid splitting and bland taste.

Harvest When fully ripe, cantaloupes slip off the vine easily. Pick honeydew types when their color changes or when the leaf where the fruit attaches turns yellow.



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