Melons require a very sunny, sheltered position – it’s possible to grow them in the open in warmer countries, but in temperate climates melons are best grown in cold frames or greenhouses. They require a well-drained, fertile soil with a pH of 6.5–7, a high humus content and high nitrogen levels from a general purpose fertiliser and well-rotted manure or compost.
April – May.
Sow melon seeds undercover in April in trays or in 6-9cm pots. Plant seeds in pairs, and weed out the weaker one when they have germinated. After 6 weeks, when the risk of frost has passed, harden the plants off by putting them out in the sun during the day and bringing them in at night for about 5 days.
Plant each plant on a slight mound and protect it from wind, cold weather and slugs. Cover with plastic tunnels until they have established. After five leaves have developed, pinch out each growing point to encourage further shoots. When these are well developed, reduce them to about four of the most vigorous shoots. Train two shoots on either side, between adjacent plants in the row.
Remove any protective covering when the plants begin to flower, to encourage insect pollination. Water regularly and feed every 10–14 days with a liquid feed as the fruit begins to develop. Plants should be grown undercover. Shade them lightly if weather is hot. Thin to one fruit per stem when the fruits are 2.5cm (1”) in diameter. Place some dried grass, tile or wood underneath each developing fruit, to protect from soil-borne diseases (commercially-grown sweet melons are suspended in nets in the air to reduce this risk!) Reduce watering and feeding as the fruits start to ripen.
Harvest 12–20 weeks after sowing. Cantaloupe and Musk melons are sweet-smelling, and their fruit stalks start to crack when mature. Separate the fruits gently from the stalks. You can store melons for 14–50 days at 10–15°C (50–59°F) depending on the variety.