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VEGETABLE GARDEN: SELECTED VEGETABLE CROPS [continued]

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  MG Manual Reference
Ch. 10, pp. 104 - 107

[Selected Crops: intro | asparagus | beans | broccoli | brussels sprouts | cabbage | cauliflower | sweet corn | cucumbers | eggplant | lettuce | melons | onions | peppers | potatoes | squash | tomatoes | herbs | herb use ]

Melons
MELONS Top

ENVIRONMENTAL PREFERENCES
Light: Sunny.
Soil: Well-drained with moderate organic matter; sandy.
Fertility: Medium
pH: 6.0 to 7.5
Temp: Hot (70 to 85° F).
Moisture: Average.
CULTURE Top
Planting: Seed after all danger of frost is past and when soil warms. Begin transplants in peat pots 3 to 4 weeks before this time.
Spacing: 24 to 36 inches by 5 to 7 feet for muskmelon hills; 6 to 8 feet apart for watermelon hills.
Hardiness: Very tender annual.
Fertilizer Needs: Heavy feeder. Use a starter solution for transplants. Late maturing varieties, however, may need some sidedressing at fruit set.
CULTURAL PRACTICES Top

Muskmelons and watermelons are warm season crops requiring a long growing season of 80 to 100 days from seed to fruit. Most present varieties are not well suited to small gardens because of the space requirement. Newer bush varieties are being developed for use in small gardens.
Melons can be produced from transplants or planted directly. Those grown from transplants can be harvested as much as two weeks earlier than melons grown directly from seed, since the gardener must wait until danger of frost is past to plant. Plant or transplant muskmelon in rows five feet apart with hills spaced every 2-3 feet, two or three plants per hill. Watermelon hills should be 6 to 8 feet apart, and rows 7 to 10 feet apart if a path is desired between rows. Seed should be sown 1/2 to 1 inch deep after danger of frost has passed and soil is warmed.
Muskmelons and watermelons are well suited for growing on black plastic mulch. The black plastic absorbs heat readily, allowing the soil to warm quickly. It tends to keep the soil moisture level from fluctuating greatly. In addition, the mulch is very effective in controlling weeds, decreasing the labor necessary to care for melons.
Male and female flowers are separated on the same plant. Bees must carry pollen from flower to flower to insure good fruit. Use insecticides late in the evening to prevent killing bees.
Melon plants can be trained in rows for easy harvesting. Growing on a trellis allows closer spacing (rows three feet apart), but each trellised melon must be supported by a sling made of a material which dries quickly to prevent rot. Old nylon stockings, cheesecloth, and other net-like materials make good fruit slings. Very large watermelons probably should not be trellised at all, since the weight of the fruit, even if supported, would likely damage the vine.
COMMON PROBLEMSTop
Diseases: Mosaic virus, fusarium wilt, powdery and downy mildews, alternaria blight.
Insects: Cucumber beetles, squash vine borer, squash bug, leafminer, aphids, whitefly.
Other Pests: Nematodes.
Cultural: Poor flavor and lack of sweetness due to poor fertility, picking melons unripe, low potassium, magnesium or boron. Poor growth due to cool temperatures, wet weather, poorly adapted variety, loss of leaves from disease. Poor pollination caused by wet, cool weather, lack of bee pollinators, and planting too close resulting in excessive vegetative growth. A heavy rain when melons are ripening may cause some of the fruit to split open. Fruit in contact with soil may develop rotten spots or be damaged by insects on the bottom. Place a board or a couple inches of light mulching material such as sawdust or straw, beneath each fruit when it is nearly full-sized. Placing newly developing fruit on a buried tin can with the ends cut out will promote ripening.
HARVESTING AND STORAGE Top
Days to Maturity: 70 to 130 days.
Harvest: Muskmelons are harvested at full-slip; i.e., when the stem separates easily at the point of attachment. Honeydew, Crenshaw, and Casaba melons are cut off after they turn completely yellow. These melons will rot if left on the ground for too long. For water melons, become familiar with the variety being grown to determine the best stage for harvesting. The best indicator is a yellowish color on the underside where the melon touches the ground. A dead tendril or curl near the point where the fruit is attached to the vine is used by some as an indicator that the fruit is ready for harvest. You may also thump the fruit, listening for the dull sound of ripe fruit, rather than a more metallic sound; however, this technique takes practice, and if you have just a few fruit, it is wise to include all of the above ` when making your decision.
Approximate yields: 8 to 40 pounds per 10-foot row, more if trellised.
Amount to Raise: 10 to 15 pounds per person.
Storage: Medium-cool (40 to 50º F), moist (80 to 85% relative humidity) conditions.
Preservation: Cool, moist storage; may freeze muskmelons.

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