Melons are a summer garden staple that offer high yields and tasty fruits. With proper soil, watering, and feeding habits you can cultivate a lush crop of juicy and delicious melons in your backyard garden with ease.
Learn our best tips for growing successful melons in the garden this summer!
Ideal Soil for Growing Melons
All that deliciousness comes from somewhere, right? You got it — melons are heavy feeders, and their fruit will taste best if the soil is fertile. Before planting, add several inches of compost to your planting bed. Poultry droppings are great as well, but be sure they are well-rotted so they add valuable nitrogen to the soil without “burning” the plants.
Starting Melon Seeds Indoors
While you can certainly direct sow your melon seeds into the garden soil, starting them indoors a month before your transplant date improves germination rates, prevents cutworm damage, and discourages damping off.
You can start seeds indoors under grow lights, then set them outside after about three weeks. If you’re planting directly in-ground, do so after your last frost. Whichever way you start your plants, the soil temperature should be above 70 degrees. Space them out 36 – 42” to allow plenty of room for their vines to grow, or plant them 12” apart at the base of a large and sturdy trellis.
Trellis-grown melons will have the benefit of not sitting atop of soil, which can add to the risk of rotting. One way to combat this if you choose to grow your melons on the soil surface is to put an overturned plant saucer underneath each melon as it develops.
When To Fertilize Melons
Always fertilize melons after transplanting. You’ll want to give your little babies some added nutrients without overwhelming or burning them, so try a product like Organic Plus Fish and Kelp Fertilizer.
How to Water Melons
Water consistently, but not abundantly. Over-watering will rot your melons out. While melons need a steady supply of water, your aim should be for the soil to be moist but not wet. Melons are particularly sensitive to drought conditions between planting time and when the fruit starts to develop, so be sure to water consistently.
Avoid overhead watering if you can — drip irrigation or soaker hoses are best, but if you’re using your handheld hose, water earlier in the morning and try to avoid getting water on the leaves.
When to Cover Melon Plants
Ever heard of the dreaded cucumber beetle? Turns out they don’t prefer just cukes — they’ll go after your melons, too. Gently place a row cover over your transplants to protect them.
Remove covers at the right time. Look for growing vines and the appearance of your first bloom, then remove the cover. You’ll want pollinating insects to have easy access to your melon plants in order to get a great harvest.
Northern Climate Melon Growing Tips
Because melons need a good 2-3 months of heat to produce, you may find growing them to be a challenge. One way to heat up your soil quicker is to add a permeable black tarp or landscape fabric on top of the soil, then cut holes for your melon plants at planting time. Floating row covers also do a good job of trapping warm air, but remember to remove them as flowers develop so they can be properly pollinated.
Harvesting Melons in the Garden
Harvest at the right time. Look for a slight softening of the fruit, a change of skin color, shriveling of the leaf closest to the stem, and shrinking where the stem connects with the fruit.
Harvest the right way. Some melons prefer to be cut (honeydews, for example), while others prefer a slight tug or “full slip” (cantaloupes), and still others need a firm push or “forced slip” to remove them from the vine (Canary melon).
How To Store Melons
- Most melons store for a few days unrefrigerated.
- After a couple of days, you’ll want to pop them in the fridge until it’s time to eat them. Know what type you have, because different melons require specific storage temps and humidity to hold up well.
- Netted melons have different storage needs than other, smooth melons.