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General information and discussion about cultivating melons, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins and gourds.

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Old October 3, 2020   #1
GreenThumbGal_07
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Default Summer 2020 melon report from Sunset Zone 17

Well, I thought I'd finally post an update (see earlier Container Watermelons thread). It's hard to grow good melons in Sunset Zone 17 (Northern California with maritime influence) but it is worth it to try.

Melons: Ha'Ogen, Madhu Ras (both from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds).

Watermelons: Sangria F1 (local nursery), Bush Sugar Baby, Crimson Sweet (latter two from Burpee)

Containers: Madhu Ras and the watermelons were grown in Grow Pro Grow Bag 7 gal. fiber pots (Madhu Ras = 2 vines to a pot, watermelons = 3 vines to a pot), Ha'Ogen was two vines in a Grow Pro Grow Bag 15 gal. pot initially shared with the Sir Crunch a Lot F1 cucumbers, two vines of each).

Seeded: All were direct seeded except for the Sangria F1 and the Madhu Ras, which were transplants.

Soil: Soil used was SuperSoil or some similar organic potting mix, with no gravel or sand layer for drainage.

Fertilizer: Fertilizer was generally some organic fertilizer such as Espoma Tomato Tone or Down to Earth or Alaska Fish Fertilizer, applied every two weeks, though I did add some Jobe's Tomato Spikes and Miracle Gro as well.

Situation: Plants were situated at a back cinderblock wall that initially received about 6 hours of good sun at the beginning of summer but was shaded in late summer. Trained up the wall on a nylon netting trellis.

Diseases: Plants were subject to powdery mildew in late summer, with Ha'Ogen being hardest hit. Madhu Ras was pretty resistant to it.

Pests: None really but I did have to cover the pots with black plastic bags to discourage digging animals.

Pollination: Honeybees LOVE Ha'Ogen melon blossoms, they liked Madhu Ras also, no need for hand pollination. Watermelons absolutely needed it as the bees seemed indifferent to these flowers, so I used a sable paintbrush when I saw an open female watermelon blossom.

Yield - melons: Ha'Ogen gave up about four little underripe fruit that were barely beginning to ripen, about the size of a softball, very seedy. Madhu Ras (I accidentally tore out one vine at the roots) yielded three little melons about the same size but were riper and a couple actually released from the stem by themselves or with a gentle tug, very large seed cavity and very seedy, but riper and sweeter with a pleasant flavor.

Yield - watermelons: Crimson Sweet produced two small fruit (24 oz. and 30 oz.) that were barely pink inside and had white seeds that were underdeveloped. Lightly sweet, sweeter than a cucumber. Bush Sugar Baby produced one 9 oz. fruit that though it was less ripe than the Crimson Sweet fruits, had a more pleasing flavor. Sangria F1 produced a 6.5 lb fruit that was true red inside with some black seeds, moderately sweet. Used the "brown tendril" test and "yellow ground spot" test to determine ripeness, no ground spot on a suspended melon, though.

Flavor: I would rank Bush Sugar Baby first in terms of flavor (disregarding the ripeness level), followed by Sangria F1, then by Crimson Sweet. I know these were grown under less than ideal conditions but I hope to give the melons more sun next time I grow them. Will try Sugar Baby (not Bush) and Blacktail Mountain, perhaps also Small Shining Light, next time.

Takeaways / lessons learned:
* Do not immediately discount growing the longer season melons just because one is gardening in a cool area. The Sangria F1 and Madhu Ras melons are supposed to be meant for a hotter climate, and I was surprised they did as well as they did.
* Transplanted melons have an advantage over direct seeded melons (do not disturb roots when transplanting).
* Two melon vines per 7 gal. pot MAXIMUM. I think the Ha'Ogen vines (planted along with the cucumbers in the same pot) suffered from having to share the space.

Anyhow, that's my summer 2020 melon report.


GTG
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Old October 3, 2020   #2
greenthumbomaha
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HI GTG , we share a namesake ! I loved your report. You didn't mention what your soil mix was in the grow bags. I would think it would need a heavy hand of compost to produce well..

My former growing partner insisted on growing Sugar Baby and only Sugar Baby, all plants grown inground in clay soil amended with a handful of compost at planting and leaves at the end of each year.
Year after year we had a plethora of melons but never one ripe enough to eat. Some started in fiber pots indoors, some planted direct seed.

Blacktail Mountain was spectacular this year in MY garden. Not really amended for this year clay soil. Started in 4 inch plastic pots and transplanted. The first few were huge (larger than a bowling ball which is huge for me) and so sweet. Of course we broke heat records for the summer and severe drought in the midwest. (remember last year the flood cut off the roads ) Relentless beautiful sunshine.

I also grew an heirloom from my library garden called Petite Yellow. It was the size of a junior bowling ball. Very sweet, but I only got to eat two. The rest rotted on the vine at various times (overripe or fungus have no idea). One smaller melon split in half when it slipped out of my hand and it was fantastic too. I ate it with the dirt on and scoped it with a used spoon from my car. I am still here!

I had one purchased plant of Crimson Sweet. I honestly don't remember eating it.

At some point the 20* age kids made a day of it and were allowed to pick a melon. They picked EVERY melon. I found a few 6 inch or so discards strewn about. No idea if they actualy ate any.

They did leave the all the honeydew! I snagged a few before the free for all. The last smaller melons are still in my garage trying to ripen. If I picked to allow for ripening on my counter, they never got a sweet smell and eventually rotted.

I did get tons of cantaloupe, mostly Burpee hybrid seeds started in pots. My one trip to the garden center this covid year also yielded a purchased Athena or Hales best. I was happy with either . Actually the melon area was so tangles I would barely be able to tell.

All the butternut on the other side of the bed gave up the ghost. Last year was my first year for butternut and they did spectacularly and I had them thru the winter. I replanted in the same spot and the plants took off and then gave up. Produced a few pale undersized squash and fini!

- Lisa
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Old October 4, 2020   #3
GreenThumbGal_07
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Hi, thanks for reading my lengthy report.



I've had basically no luck at all with growing melons so this year was a big deal for me, it was the most success I've ever had.


Growing mix in the pots was either SuperSoil, Espoma Organic Potting Mix, or Black Gold Organic Potting Mix. I didn't add compost but did add some bone meal along with the organic fertilizers.


The thing about picking watermelon (so I have learned) is that for people who only see a watermelon at the market, they think the "thump test" (pong rather than ping) will indicate a ripe melon. But the melon has been picked already! How to pick a ripe melon on the vine? Brown tendril next to the melon stem, plus yellow ground spot, plus "pong" sound when thumped. I can understand how it would seem size is a good indicator but that's not all of it. Also some melons really change color when ripe. Bush Sugar Baby starts out light ash green and turns very dark green when ripe.


And the cantaloupe is another story. Ripe one should have a lightly soft blossom end, stem cracks off the fruit by itself or with a very light tug, fruit should be very very fragrant.



If you had success with Blacktail Mountain, you should have also had success with Sugar Baby, right? Days to maturity is about the same. I don't know why your melons did not get ripe.


I'm glad you had luck with the hybrid cantaloupe. Don't know what to say about the butternut squash planted in the same place. Should there be crop rotation?
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Old October 4, 2020   #4
Tormato
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Mine's a quick report.

I planted Honeymist in a garden that I have at a neighbors. There's not a lot of room, so vining plants run a bit onto the lawn. Her grandson ran it over with the lawnmower.
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Old October 4, 2020   #5
GreenThumbGal_07
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tormato View Post
Mine's a quick report.

I planted Honeymist in a garden that I have at a neighbors. There's not a lot of room, so vining plants run a bit onto the lawn. Her grandson ran it over with the lawnmower.
Wow, so sorry to hear that! Was it a total loss, or did you get to taste any melons?
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