The Q&A Archives: Growing Tasty Melons

Question: Last year my watermelon cracked open and rotted before they became mature. My honeydew plants blossomed but never produced fruit. What elements are needed to grow ripe, juicy, sweet melon fruit?

Answer: It sounds to me like the honeydew weren't pollinated properly. And melons and other fruit/vegies crack open when soil moisture fluctuates. It may be related to nutrient levels, too - for instance, if calcium is lacking, flower and fruit development is adversly affected.<br><br>Try this method this summer, and see if it helps. Plant seeds after soil has warmed (or transplant seedlings you've started indoors about a month prior earlier) into soil that has been enriched with compost and/or aged manure. Apply mulch, which will supress weeds and help equalize soil moisture - water plants if rain is scarce. Spritz seedlings/vines with liquid seaweed two or three times during the growing season. Sidedress the plants with a complete fertilizer (5-5-5) asthe vines start to sprawl. To ensure pollination, invite bees to the garden with blooming plants or with bee scent (available from Gardener's Supply Co.,; ph# 800/863-1700). You can even pollinate them by hand with a paintbrush if you want!<br><br>There are several conditions that contribute to bland-tasting melons: too much nitrogen fertilizer, picking before the fruit is ripe, cool temperatures, and cloudy skies. Providing the right micronutrients can improve flavor as well. If you suspect your soil is lacking, have it tested. Try Burpee's home version (pg 100 of catalog) or contact your extension service (ph# 615/648-5725) for their extensive test, which includes recommendations.

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