Melon

This succulent tropical fruit can be grown without much planning in warm parts of the Bay Area. In cool areas, it makes sense to plant varieties that are smaller and take less time to mature.

Select a spot with full, bright sun. Ideally, melons need hot weather to produce sugar needed for sweet fruit.  In cooler areas you will need to give them as much sun and heat as possible, and also, shelter from cool winds. To do this, place weed block fabric over the soil so that the black fabric can increase the soil temperature and also deter weeds.

Planting: Like cucumbers, Melons are often planted in hills, slightly elevated above the surrounding soil. This helps the soil warm faster and provides better drainage (melons rot easily in wet soil). To make a hill, remove 2 spadeful of soil, dump in compost, and then replace the soil.  Mix together and shape into a low mound. The soil should be fertile, well-drained and rich in organic matter.

Water: Melons are shallow rooted, and so they need constant water.  This is most critical when the fruits are getting larger.  When they have reached full size, reduce watering so they don’t split.  Avoid overhead watering. Water delivered by soaker hoses, drip emitters or bubblers is best.

As the fruit begins to ripen, place it on top of an over-turned board or large, flat rock so it stays off the ground and the underside does not rot if the soil becomes overly moist.

Signs for when a melon is ripe: it develops a very strong fragrance, the blossom end gets soft, and they will develop cracks around the stem. The spot where the melon was resting on the ground will turn from white to yellow. Homegrown melons are often smaller than those from the market.  Don’t leave them too long in hopes that they get bigger.

Eat as soon as possible.  Treat like tomatoes — keep at room temperature.

Varieties that grow in 90 days or less:
— “Icebox” watermelons: Minnesota midget, Sugar baby
— Muskmelons (cantaloupes) – Ambrosia, Haogen, Honeydew Sweet delight