In this category I include cantaloupe, muskmelon (which is what most people think of when one says 'cantaloupe'), watermelons, and honeydew. These are mostly eaten raw, possibly cut and mixed, unlike something like summer squash, pumpkin, or cucumber, all in the same family.
Now, I labeled this as a 'fruit', and botanically this is correct. However, tomatoes and peppers also are 'fruits' in this sense. It is just as appropriate to call melons 'vegetables' - we grow them by planting seeds and harvesting on a yearly cycle (unlike apples, which you don't replant yearly). Whatever. We eat them like fruits.
Planting Time: MAY-JUN (in central Maryland)
Harvest Time: AUG-OCT (in central Maryland)
Melons can be planted after the last frost, as a hard frost will kill them. They should be planted surrounded by black plastic mulch -- once growing, it's impossible to keep up with weeds, and they enjoy the extra ground heat until the mid-summer.
Melon care instructions vary wildly - some sites say you can plant within one foot of one another, some suggest spacing 6-8' apart. Also, many suggest starting the seeds indoors 2-3 weeks early and transplanting, but this is unnecessary in Maryland - perhaps you'll harvest a week earlier, but I don't know if that's worthwhile.
When watering, do not water the leaves, only the place where the stem comes out of the ground. Watering the leaves promotes the growth of mold, 'powdery mildew'.
Harvest when the melon sounds hollow when you knock it with your knuckles. Either cut the melon off at the stem, or even better, just pull the melon off the vine - if it easily pulls away then the melon was ripe.
Ag extension links:
Fertilizer notes in the internet are found as the following:
- 10-10-10 at 1.5 lb/100 sq. ft. when vines are spreading, and again when fruit sets. (BVG)
- 5-10-10 at 15 lb/500 sq. ft. before planting, 33-0-0 at 1/2 lb per 50 sq. ft. when vines are spreading and again when flowering(sfgate)
- 1/4 lb 10-10-10 per plant after fruit is starting to set (UMD)
I think the reasonable middle ground is to throw a handful on the melons then creeping and then when starting to set fruit.
Not much to speak of. Will store a few weeks in a cool room if undamaged.
Matt's Garden Notes:
Matt's 2013 Map
2013: Planted most in the beginning to middle of MAY. Spreading well by mid-JUN. Those doing best were direct-sowed, not transplanted. Fruit set by early JUL.
Recipes using Melons: