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Melons are members of the cucurbit family, which includes pumpkins, zucchini, cucumbers, summer squash and winter squash. Being closely related, melons have similar growth requirements, however they will not cross-pollinate with cucumbers, squash or pumpkins.
Melon quality is a function of the sugar content of the fruit. High sugar content is achieved by avoiding all stress during the growing season. Stress comes from foliar diseases, insect pests, weeds, poor nutrition, and excesses or lack of water.
Muskmelon Planting & Care
Melons prefer hot, sunny locations with fertile, well drained soils, and can be either transplanted or direct seeded. Transplanting can add 2 to 4 weeks to the growing season, but melons are particularly sensitive to root disturbance and growth will be retarded if transplants are not properly managed.
Sunlight: Full sun Full Sun
Soil: Muskmelons grow best on well-drained, sandy loam soils with a pH level between 6.0 and 6.5. Soils with a pH less than 6.0 will produce plants with yellowed foliage and fewer perfect flowers. If drainage is a problem, plant in 6 to 8 inch high beds.
Water: Water deeply and infrequently, 1-2 inches per week. Use drip irrigation if possible. Mulch around the plant will conserve soil moisture and reduce weed growth.
Fertilizer: Plow or till well-rotted manure and fertilizer into the soil before planting. If you use manure or compost, additional fertilizer applications may be reduced or eliminated, depending on how much organic matter you apply. Do not use “Weed and Feed” type fertilizers on vegetables. They contain weed killers that will kill vegetable plants.
Harvesting: Cantaloupe requires 35-45 days to mature from flowering, depending on the temperature. As the fruit matures the skin surface netting gets coarse and rough, the background color of the fruit turns from green to yellow, the surface color becomes dull, and the tendrils near the fruit (which look like curly strings) on the stem dry and turn brown. Harvest the fruits by twisting the fruit at which point it will separate from the vine. Do not wait for the melons to separate from the vine on their own. At full maturity and peak flavor the stem breaks (slips) away from the vine easily. This stage is called “full slip.” Commercial melons are harvested at "1/2 to 3/4 slip" to reduce shipping damage. This removes the fruit before it has reached maximum sugar content, and sugar content will not increase after harvest. This opportunity to harvest at maximum ripeness is one of the advantages of growing your own melons. Pick melons as they ripen as they will not all ripen at the same time. Cantaloupe will store for 1-2 weeks if held at 45-50°F. Identifying ripe watermelon and honeydew melons is more difficult as most of these fruit types do not slip from the vine.
Use a combination of indicators to determine ripeness.
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