Although the melons we buy from supermarkets are grown in warmer climes, it is possible to grow your own in a greenhouse.
Melons are closely related to cucumbers and require similar growing conditions to thrive. To grow them successfully you need to provide them with warmth, water and food.
They can be quite vigorous, so regular pruning is needed to keep them under control. Each plant should produce two to four melons.
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Follow the steps in this easy guide to grow your own delicious crop of melons.
You Will Need
- Melon seeds
- 9cm pots
- Seed compost
- A heated propagator
- 30cm pots
- Potting compost
- Plant supports
- Plant ties
- Liquid feed
- A pair of tights or netting
Sow two seeds per pot of seed compost in a 9cm pot. Water well, and then place the pots in a propagator at a temperature of at least 18°C (65°F). Keep the propagator in a well-lit position.
After germination, remove the weaker of the two seedlings and keep the compost moist but not too wet. After the first true leaves have emerged, reduce the temperature in the propagator to a minimum temperature of 15°C (59°F).
Plant out in late spring to early summer. Pinch out the main growing point to two or three buds, to encourage sideshoots to develop. Add a plant support, such as a bamboo cane, and water well.
As the plants establish, keep tying the long main stem to a plant support. Make sure the compost is kept moist at all times, which will mean checking the plants every day. Start to add a liquid feed once a week to encourage strong growth. To prevent the plant from becoming too crowded, pinch out sideshoots after three or four leaves, on a weekly basis.
Melons produce both male and female flowers. The female flower has a fruit developing behind the bloom whereas the male flower has a thin stalk. Insects normally pollinate the flowers, but in a greenhouse, you may need to hand-pollinate them. First identify the female and male flowers, looking for the fruit behind the female and the thin stalk behind the male.
Choose a warm, sunny day when the flowers are fully open. Pick a healthy male flower and remove its petals to expose the inside of the bloom where the pollen is produced. Gently move the male flower into the fully open female bloom, which allows the pollen from the male anthers to transfer on to the female stigma.
Thin out developing fruits, allowing just four melons to grow per pot-grown plant. As the fruits develop, water well and feed with a high potash liquid feed, such as comfrey solution. Support heavy fruits with a pair of tights, or netting such as the net bags you buy oranges in. As the fruits ripen they will give off a sweet aroma and will soften at the end opposite the stalk. The skin may also change colour. Finally, small cracks will develop on the fruit around the stalk, which means it’s time to pick.
Growing other melons
It is of course possible to grow other types of melons, such as watermelons and Canary melons, but cantaloupes and honeydew melons, like those in this guide, are the easiest to grow in the UK.