Long, hot summers with ample moisture yield juicy, flavor-rich melons with a high sugar content. Not all regions provide the necessary long stretch of warm weather and adequate moisture to grow great melons. But if you live in a region that does, plant a packet of seeds and get ready for a bountiful harvest. Melons don’t all ripen at the same time, so you will enjoy a long season of harvest with many melons to share with friends and family.
Types of Melons
Melons are round fruits with a strong aroma and netted skin. Their flesh is usually orange, but green-flesh types are also available. Honeydew melons have smooth skin, and their pale flesh may be white, green, or orange. When choosing which melons to grow in your area, note the length of your growing season. If you garden in Zones 6 and above, any type of melon can be planted in spring and ripen before the threat of frost. In Zones 5 and below, look for varieties that require 65 to 80 days to harvest. This is called "days to maturity"; info can be found on the seed packet.
Melon grows best in full sun and moist, well-drained soil. Plants thrive when they receive at least 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. Quick-draining soil is also essential. Not only will seedlings struggle to get established in clay and slow-draining soil, but fruit that develops will have a higher chance of rotting when it sits on moist soil. Plant melons in raised beds if drainage is a problem.
Melons can be started from seed planted directly in the garden after the last chance of frost passes. Melon seed germinates when the soil temperature is above 65ºF. Seeds planted in cold soil are more likely to suffer from disease and rot. Plant seeds in group of two or three seeds 18 to 24 inches apart. Space rows 5 to 6 feet apart. After the seedlings emerge, choose the strongest plant and remove the others. Melons produce long vining stems. Be sure to give them plenty of space to spread in the garden. Melons can also be started from transplants purchased at the garden center or from transplants started indoors 6 to 8 weeks before the last spring frost. Melon transplants are sensitive to root disturbance. Transplant young plants carefully to prevent breaking or damaging the roots. Water melons carefully. Plants demand 1 to 2 inches of water per week during the peak growing season. Water plants with a drip or soaker hose, saturating the soil but keeping the foliage dry. Gradually reduce watering as the fruit ripens. Too much watering during the last two weeks of ripening can cause the fruits to split.
Pick muskmelons when the stem end separates easily from the fruit. The ripe fruit will also give off a sweet melon scent when it is ready to pick. Pick honeydew when the rind turns pale yellow and the blossom end of the fruit softens slightly.
More Varieties of Melon
Cucumis melo 'Ambrosia' has outstanding flavor. The 5-pound fruits have salmon-color flesh, and the plant is resistant to powdery mildew. 84 days
'Golden Beauty' casaba melon
This cultivar is an heirloom casaba melon that produces 7-8 pound fruits with white flesh and golden rind. It is best adapted to the Southwest. 110 days
This variety bears 5-6 pound fruits with sweet salmon-color flesh. It has good disease and crack resistance. 79 days
'Early Crenshaw Hybrid' melon
Cucumis melo 'Early Crenshaw Hybrid' has teardrop-shape fruits with a golden rind and succulent salmon-pink flesh. 85 days
'Savor' charentais melon
Cucumis melo 'Savor' is a small-fruited melon with deep orange flesh with a gray-green rind. The highly aromatic and sweet flesh is a gourmet treat. 78 days
'Sugar Nut' canary melon
This type of melon bears fruits with a bright yellow rind and creamy greenish-white flesh. The 2-pound fruits are a nice size for singles or small families. 77 days
'Super Dew Hybrid' honeydew melon
Cucumis melo 'Super Dew Hybrid' bears 6-pound fruits that have fragrant white flesh with a green tint near the rind. 80 days