(Citrullus lanais) A large, sweet, red fleshed melon with a juicy flavor that is popular among gardeners.
Bred to have a tough skin and larger leaves to help prevent sunburn. Very drought tolerant.
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Start indoors or in the greenhouse 4-6 weeks before average last frost. To minimize transplant stress, use soil blocks or plantable pots. Sow outside 1-2 weeks after average last frost and only after soil temperatures have reached about 70 degrees or more.
In order to grow well, melons need a rich, sandy soil high in organic matter.
Keep well watered until fruits are about the size of a tennis ball, then water only if absolutely needed. Less watering, especially within weeks of harvest, will intensify the sweetness.
Melons are heavily dependent on pollinators. A good fruit set is largely dependent on a healthy population of pollinators like bees.
Harvesting at the right time is very important with melons. Melons taste their best when they are ripened on the vine because the sugars become more concentrated in the last few days of ripening. When harvesting, be sure to cut the fruit from the vine instead of pulling. Pulling creates a cracking wound that pathogens can enter and quickly destroy the quality of the fruit.
To tell if a watermelon is ripe, check the tendril. When the melon ripens, this tendril dries and turns brown or gray. Watermelons also develop a “soil spot” where the rest on the ground. When the melon is immature, the spot is greenish or white. As the melon ripens the spot develops a cream or yellowish color.
Cantaloupes, honeydew melons, and other small melons do not produce the tendril like watermelons, and often do not form a soil spot. However, there are other indicators to look for. The cantaloupes with netted rinds will have a color change below the netting. When this color changes to a golden brown color, the melon is ripe. When many of these smaller melons are ripe, the stem just naturally separates from the melon. This is called "slipping." When choosing a melon in the garden, the surest way to pick one which is ripe is to wait until the stem "slips" from the melon easily. A ripe melon will also have a pleasant, fruity aroma at the blossom end.