Turn Up The Heat For Melons
Kitchen Garden|October 2021
Nothing shouts summer like a home-grown melon, yet they can be a challenge to grow in the UK climate. All the more reason to have a go, says KG editor, Steve Ott
Steve Ott

The taste of a freshly harvested melonwarmed by the summer sun or chilled to eat on a hot day as a sweet treat is a real delight. So, every year I eagerly sow my melon seeds – usually in late April/early May – with thoughts of harvesting my first delicious fruit of the year.

This, however, is a sun-loving crop, so success depends in part on the great British weather, and as skilled as you may be in growing them, much depends on just how much light, warmth, and humidity they receive. To harvest good melons two years out of three is a good result.

Don’t let that put you off, however, since when they do produce you’ll not only be tucking into one of the best tasting and most refreshing fruits available, you’ll be glowing with pride at your growing prowess, too!

SOWING THE SEEDS

Sowing takes place from mid to late April and starting the relatively large, flat seeds is simply a matter of placing one or two into a 7cm (3in) pot on the surface of fresh seed or multi-purpose compost. If you have sown cucumbers, courgettes, or marrows before, then you’ll already know how to make a start with melons. Like their cousins, they like well-drained compost, so I use a loam-based John Innestype seed compost but add a little extra grit, perlite, or vermiculite to improve drainage and avoid compaction.

Sow on their edge as this is said to reduce the chances of rotting and bury the seeds about 13mm (½in) deep in the compost. Water well and label before placing the pots on a heated bench, mat or in a heated propagator set to 18-21C (64-70F). If you have a bright southfacing windowsill, your seeds should germinate well here, too.

Maintain watering without getting the compost too wet.

GROWING ON

If you elect to sow two seeds per pot, thin to the strongest as soon as possible and grow those remaining in a light, warm place – 15C (60F) is ideal for strong, healthy plants.

Plants are best grown in a polytunnel, greenhouse or cold frame as growing outdoors in most areas of the UK is just too hit and miss. If started inside plants should be moved to their outdoor homes once all fear of frost is past and when temperatures can be maintained. It is better to sow a little later than to try to grow them in temperatures much below 15C (60F) at night.

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