As a home gardener and market grower I have had my share of failures, to say the least. On the other hand, almost every year has brought a crop of delicately sweet melons. The first melon of the season, which I am proud to report was harvested on August 20th this year, is treasured in our home almost as much as the first strawberry. If you have not tried to grow this summer treat, maybe this will inspire next year's experiments.
Here's how to grow melons in the Adirondacks.
- Plant short-season varieties. I grew Halona Muskmelon and Orange Honey Honeydew this year, with seed purchased from Fedco Seeds. These hybrids are more dependable and a bit more productive than open pollinated varieties, but there are also many heirloom melons available.
- Start plants no earlier than a month before the last frost date. Melons need warmth to germinate; set trays, covered to keep in moisture, on top of the fridge or on a heating pad until three quarters of the seeds have sprouted.
- Set transplants after frost danger has passed in well-amended soil. Melon vines can cover a fairly large area – I plant in 3 foot wide beds with 2 foot paths on each side. Floating row covers during the early season buffer the temperature swings of cool nights. Remove the cover when the plants begin flowering.
- Consistent and adequate watering is key; drip irrigation with one or two lines run along the row is best. Don't let the plants dry out.
- Muskmelons are ready when they pull easily from the vine. Honeydews will not slip; the stems should be cut when their skin turns golden and the blossom end is slightly soft. Cantaloupe flesh is deep orange and fairly soft; honeydews retain a crispness that is perfect for cutting into cubes. And if too many melons ripen at once freeze them in chunks for later- melon sorbet, anyone?