Gardens - Fruit & Vegetable Gardening

Sweet satisfaction: Growing melons

By
Larry Hodgson
Photography by
Roger Yip

If you can trick melons into thinking they’re in the tropics, they’ll grow happily for you in Canada


When to harvest

Once baby melons start to form, they grow quickly. Even if they’ve started forming weeks apart, all the fruits on the same plant tend to be ready within a few days of each other. Slip some straw under fruits to keep them clean, and turn them slightly as they ripen, so all sides are exposed to the sun.

Melons grown on a trellis or fence need extra support, or the weight of the fruit will tear the plant off its structure. As the fruit matures, make a sling out of old pantyhose, attach it solidly to the trellis, then nestle the fruit into it.

Now comes the hard part: deciding when to harvest. True melons change to their final colour when ripe. If in doubt, lift and twist slightly: the fruit will slip right off the stem when ripe. Watermelons aren’t so easy. Usually the tendril nearest the fruit turns brown when the fruit is ripe. Apparently, letting melons dry out the week before harvesting helps improve their flavour, but there’s no chance of testing that in my rainy climate. Melons are ready to eat as soon as they’re harvested.

Watermelon tips
Watermelons require care similar to that given melons such as honeydews and muskmelons, but need no watering at all once they’re established; native to the desert areas of Africa, watermelons like even more heat and are even more resistant to drought.

Quite new on the market are early watermelons, most of them smaller and more rounded than you may be used to. These are a good choice for growing in short-season areas.

Seedless watermelons (actually, the fruit contains tiny, edible, transparent envelopes where the seeds would have been) make an interesting subject of conversation, but so far there are no short-season types. Also, they’re expensive—the seeds cost three times more than other, normal watermelon seeds. Seedless watermelons result from hand-pollinated triploid seeds; you need one normal diploid watermelon plant for every two triploids to ensure pollination.

 

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