Growing and Saving the Seed Of Melons
Melons range widely in appearance, climatic requirements and flavor. They are all members of the Cucurbitaceae, or cucumber, family. For growers with a short growing season, look for short-season varieties like Minnesota Midget. If you are interested in an ornamental variety for a unique display, try a vibrantly striped variety like Tigger. There are many unusual, long-season varieties like the snake gourd or the Cassabanana Melocoton for adventurous gardeners who like a fun challenge.
Melons are believed to have originated in the Middle East and Central Asia. This comes as no surprise, considering the staggering number of varieties of melon still cultivated in Asia, which is in the thousands! Early melon fruits averaged no larger than an orange, but they have been bred for size over the years. Today there are gargantuan varieties, such as the banana melon. Melons spread from Iran to Egypt, where the fruit has been referenced back to 2400 B.C. Ancient Romans spread the fruit to the Mediterranean.
- The climatic growing requirements can vary greatly in this diverse family of fruit; however, all melons are known for their love of sandy loam soil.
- Choose the best variety for your season length.
- Melons are very frost-sensitive, so be sure to plant once the soil has warmed and the nighttime low has reached above 50 degrees.
- Melons grow best when direct-seeded, but it is advisable for those folks with a very short growing season to start plants indoors. Just be careful not to leave plants in pots longer than 3 weeks; cucurbits hate becoming root bound!
Sow seeds 1 inch deep.
Seeds germinate in 7-14 days
Ideal germination temperature is 75-90 F.
- Plant seeds or thin seedlings to 2 feet apart with rows six feet apart; these vines love to sprawl!
- Melons are very frost sensitive, so be sure to plant once the soil has warmed and the nighttime low has reached above 50 degrees.
- Melons prefer slightly sandy, very rich, well-drained soil. Be careful not to over water vines, especially as fruit is approaching maturity.
- Weeding around the vines without damaging the plants can be nearly impossible. For this reason, most growers mulch around plants with straw.
- For growers in northern climates, black plastic mulch will suppress weeds and warm the soil.
- Do not overwater melons; they do not like wet feet. Instead, just water when the soil becomes dry.
- Related to cucumbers and squash, melons have the same insect pest issues, such as cucumber beetles, melon aphids and pickleworms.
- Melons are insect pollinated and will readily cross with other melon varieties. They will not, however, cross with their close relatives, watermelon or cucumbers.
- To ensure pure seed, isolate different melon varieties by 1⁄2 mile or try caging and hand pollinating.
- Harvest seeds by cutting ripe fruit in half and scooping the seeds into a large bucket; add water until the seeds and pulp are just covered. Allow this to ferment for 2-3 days, being sure to stir the mixture daily.
- After the seeds have fermented, add water, stir and pour off the pulp. Good seeds sink to the bottom. Discard the nonviable, floating seeds.
- Continue to change the water and skim off the rotten pulp from the seeds until water runs clear and only good, clean seeds are left.
- Spread clean seeds out on a piece of cardboard for 12-15 days to allow them to dry.
- Store in a jar in a cool, dry location. Seeds will remain viable for up to 5 years if stored this way.