Cool, delicious and nutrient-packed melon slices accent salads, serve as side dishes and lighten picnics. Growing melons is also a fun and simple way to learn how to self-pollinate plants. Read on to learn how to pollinate, care for, and harvest your melon patch
By mid-summer, melons should be spreading their vines through the garden and flowering. The first bloom will be dominated by male flowers. You can identify female flowers by the tiny bulge of fruit growing at its base. Female flowers only open for a short period - in some melons, only a day. Check your melons every morning. When you see a female flower open, pluck a male flower, strip its petals and swab the pollen-coated anther onto the stigma structure inside the female flowers. Because melon flowers are most receptive to pollination early in the day, be sure to pollinate in the morning.
Melons of all types are heavy feeders. Grow in rich soil and mulch heavily through the warm months. It's a good idea to amend your soil with organic material such as compost, well-seasoned manure, fish emulsion, or Miracle-Gro® Organic Choice® Garden Soil. Feed your melon plants with plant food regularly through the growing season. Miracle-Gro® Shake 'n Feed Tomato, Fruits & Vegetables Continuous Release Plant Food Plus Calcium feeds your plants for up to 3 months.
Knowing when to pick melons can be tricky. Various tests reveal when different types are ripe. Muskmelons, known commonly as cantaloupe, are the most common variety of netted melons. Test for ripeness by pressing gently on the blossom end. Ripe melons have some give, unripe ones none at all. The fruit should smell like melon and slip from the stem with gentle pressure. Honeydews will soften slightly on the blossom end when ripe, along with a slight change in fruit color. Watermelons are ripe when the skin is dull not shiny, the small spot that touches the ground is yellow instead of white, and the tendrils on the stem are withered. If you strike the plant with the flat of your hand, it should give a deep, satisfying thump - the sound of good growing.