It is debatable whether melons should be regarded as a fruit, which they strictly are, or as a vegetable together with marrows (zucchini) and cucumbers, to which they are closely related. However, since they are grown to be eaten as fruit, they have been treated separately from their relatives.
Melons are tropical fruit and therefore need plenty of warmth, both during germination and for their subsequent growth. In temperate climates, therefore, they are really suited only to greenhouse culture, unless they can be grown in a
particularly warm position. It is possible to grow them in cold frames in the same way as in a greenhouse, except that they are grown horizontally over framework (or even on the ground) rather than vertically up canes and wires.
There are several types of melon.
The cantaloupes are often considered the sweetest and best flavoured, but the honeydew, or winter, melons are popular with some growers because they can be kept for up to a month after harvesting.
Seed is sown in individual pots in a
propagator at about 18ºC/64ºF. When the plants are large enough to handle, plant them in the greenhouse border or into
containers, such as growing bags. Grow them as single cordons, when they should be 38cm/15in apart, or as double cordons, when they should be 60cm/24in apart. The temperature in the greenhouse should be 30ºC/86ºF during the day, dropping to 24ºC/75ºF at night. A framework of canes and wires or plastic netting should be erected to provide support. Pinch out the top of single cordons when the plant reaches 1.8m/6ft. Pinch out the leader for a double cordon low down and allow two shoots to develop. As the fruit develops support each in a net.
Harvesting and storage
Harvest melons when the fruit is ripe. A good indication of this is that the stems will start to crack and the fruit has a sweet smell. All types of melon can be stored for a few days, but honeydew melons can be kept for up to a month.
Pests and diseases
Aphids, whitefly, red spider mite and powdery mildew are likely to be the worst problems.
- ‘Amber Nectar’
- ‘Blenheim Orange’
- ‘Hero of
- ‘No Name’
- ‘Ring Leader’
- ‘Sweet Dream’
- ‘Sweet ‘n’ Early‘