The Q&A Archives: Watering Melons

Question: Do you know of how much water is needed to grow 'Honeygirl' melons in southern California on sandy loam with drip tape at the rate of .17 gallons per hour (gph) per 100 feet?

Answer: Generally, melons need 1" of water per week for optimum performance. Since I don't know the emitter spacing of your drip line, I don't know how many emitters there will be over the given area, and therefore can't calculate the GPH of the entire system. But you can calculate this for yourself using this formula. This is the mathematical expression of the number of gallons of water in 1" delivered over 100 square feet of area:

62.5 gal. = 100 sq.ft. x 1"

1. Multiply 62.5 by the square feet of garden area, then divide by 100 to find the gallons of water needed per week.

2. The gallons per hour of your entire system = the flow rate (.17gph) x the total number of emitters.

3. Therefore, the number of hours to water per week = gallons needed per week divided by the flow rate.

You'll need to handle the soil yourself to determine if the calculated amount of moisture is correct and make adjustments accordingly. Dig a hole in the melon bed and handle the soil a few inches below the surface. Ideally, this area will stay reasonably moist, but not waterlogged. Break your the watering period into two or three sessions for best results.

Mulch is essential for maintaining even moisture in the soil. because it reduces evaporation. Uneven wetting and drying cycles stress plants as much as consistently inadequate moisture. Place the irrigation line first, then cover with an organic mulch, such as hay, straw, leaves, grass clippings, etc.

For best flavor, you'll want to reduce watering somewhat after fruit has reached two-thirds its mature size. Overwatering can produce bland, watery flesh in fruit. Some growers recommend that you cease to water once you've picked the first ripe melon. You'll need to experiment to find out if this really works in your situation. Have fun and enjoy those melons!

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