Growing melons

by Adam Pasco

Last summer I tried growing a different melon outside, but the plants struggled to get going and yielded nothing at all. This year I'm trying again...

Melon flowerI've always assumed melons would be far too difficult or temperamental to grow in the UK, despite the Victorians' success at growing them in heated greenhouses.

But a couple of summers ago, I visited the Thompson & Morgan seed trials in Ipswich and saw some wonderful melons growing outside. The experts at T&M were putting some new seed selections to the test, and the results looked very promising. Visiting the trials in August, I could see that some of the plants growing in quite an exposed site outside had produced four or five fruits. Now this I had to try.

Unfortunately their melons were trial varieties, and until the trial comes to an end in a couple of years we won't know whether any of these will be introduced to the gardening public.

However, reading through seed catalogues last winter I discovered 'Emir', a brand new variety for 2008 from Mr Fothergill's, which had been bred specifically to be grown in our northern climate. A combination of tolerance to cold conditions and fast-maturing fruits meant this new variety was recommended for growing in an unheated greenhouse or even a warm position outside.

Last summer I tried growing a different melon outside, but the plants struggled to get going and yielded nothing at all. This year I'm trying again, hoping 'Emir' lives up to its catalogue description (though to be on the safe side I'm keeping two melon plants a little snugger in my greenhouse). So far, so good, and flowers are developing well. Now all I need is to cross-pollinate them, and keep my fingers crossed. Will I be cutting into sweet, juicy melons later this summer?

Just one problem has come to light this week. One of my melon plants is developing the characteristic white patches of powdery mildew on its leaves. If this spreads then my optimism may well be short-lived.

I could do with some advice from any melon experts out there on what to do next to ensure I get a decent crop. Just what is a reliable method for controlling mildew on melons?

I think I'll delay buying in the accompanying Parma ham just yet!

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Gardeners' World Web User 10/08/2008 at 20:29

Hi,I am growing melons too, I have made sure that i water at least twice a day, this does include damping down. but do not do this if you have just polulated them.So far i have at 10 Melons, some are the size of a small football. good luck.

Gardeners' World Web User 16/08/2008 at 16:06

We have never tried growing Melons, can you grow them in a small greenhouse or is it better outside with protection? any comments welcome.We have been trying to grow Butternut Squash,last year we started too late but this year the plants have done well and starting to produce fruit.(small) They are growing flat on the ground and there are lots of large leaves. We are watering and all this extra rain is helping too!Has anyone some advise as to how to grow bigger squash? Should we stop the plants producing too many flowers or does this not make any difference? I can find lots of recipes but not advise.They are fed miracle grow once a week and watered regulary.This is our first experiment with Squash, can anyone recommend any varieties we should try for next year? thanks.

Gardeners' World Web User 20/08/2008 at 20:47

I have had the same problem with mildew recently. Eventually the melon plants died, and I was distraught! But I found some info in an organic kitchen garden mag, and it told me to do this: Find a spray can, Fill it with 9 parts water 1 part milk Spary the leaves of the affected plant! I tried this method with some cucumber plants and a grape plant, and I do believe that cucumbers have a very similar structure of the leaves as melons, so it should work. I did find that the method worked.I hope this comes in handy!

Gardeners' World Web User 27/08/2008 at 17:52

I've got plants that look like day of the triffids and have had male and female flowers galore. I've watered the, cross pollinated them carefully with paint brushed and by putting the flowers together, I've tried stressing one by removing a third of the leaves to promote fruiting. All to no avail. I'm afraid with space being at a premium in my greenhouse they are off the menu for next year!!!

Gardeners' World Web User 04/09/2008 at 21:29

I tried melons for the first time this year and after a disappointing start (only two plants from a whole pack of seeds!!) They are now doing well in the greenhouse. I pollinated them with a feather. Have quite a few fruits now, one slightly smaller than a football. The only dilemma I have is knowing when to harvest! Anyone got any tips?

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