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Sagers Rules for Melons

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Larry Sagers Horticultural Specialist Utah State University Extension Service Thanksgiving Point Office © All Rights Reserved

The following are the Sagers Family rules for growing melons. If you have never grown good melons in your own garden, follow these suggestions for tasty treats from your garden.

First, start with the right variety. Growing up, I tried in vain to get melons to ripen. The only seed sold locally came from warm season areas. Varieties like Congo, Striped Klondike, Jubilee, Charleston Gray, and other long season varieties do not ripen here.

Look for selected varieties that do well in our area. These include Family Fun,Yellow Baby Hybrid, Mickylee, Sweet Favorite Hybrid, Mirage Hybrid, Crimson Sweet, Cal Sweet, and Golden Crown. Most commercial growers in Green River plant Crimson Sweet type melons. They are more round than oblong. The variety grows well with sweet flavorful flesh. It is worth the effort to plant varieties that are adapted to our area. Hybrid seeds are more expensive, but production is usually better.

Selected cantaloupe varieties include Crenshaw, Summet, Burpee Hybrid, Magnum, Ambrosia, Classic, Harper Hybrids, or Mission. Rocky Sweet is an excellent green fleshed variety.

Plant seeds or transplants when the soil warms above 70 degrees. Seedless varieties need temperatures above 80degrees to germinate. If you prefer transplants, do not get those that are too large. Transplants should not be starting to vine. Those that are stressed or damaged while transplanting seldom produce good vines or fruits.

Melons need good, well-drained soil. Clay soils do not raise a good crop. If your soil is bad, create raised beds by adding organic matter to improve the drainage and aeration.

Melons need full sun and grow well when the soil is very warm. Clear plastic mulches raise soil temperature by as much as 10 degrees. This helps melons come into production two to three weeks earlier than normal. Besides producing earlier melons, individual melons are larger. I strongly recommend that you use clear plastic to accelerate the maturity.

They do not name watermelons that for nothing. They require adequate water. If they are stressed, they stop growing and do not set fruit. Overwatering fruiting plants causes them to collapse from lack of oxygen. Check the soil moisture regularly and reapply as necessary before the melons start to wilt or go into stress.

Use a high phosphorus fertilizer to promote fruiting. They need large vines to produce sugars to sweeten the fruits. Weak, neglected vines produce spindly, poor quality fruits. Fertilizer with a ratio of one part nitrogen to four parts phosphorus is ideal at planting. Make your own by mixing fertilizers together or purchase a high phosphorus product.

Add nitrogen 30 and 60 days after planting to keep the vines growing. Large vines result from plenty of water and fertilizer, so allow plenty of room. Minimum spacing essential for all but bush-type melons is two by four feet, but most like even more room. Close planting results in little or no fruit production.

Melons are not good competitors and do not do well if weeds shade them or compete with them for moisture and fertilizer. Remove small weeds to avoid stunting or stressing the melons. Avoid disturbing the root by cultivation as this will weaken the vines and keep them from producing fruit.

Melons are not the easiest plants to grow, but they are worth the effort. The hot summer days are made a little easier with melons as treats for the perfect refreshment.

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