Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southwestern Deserts
July, 2001
Regional Report

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Melons grown on a trellis need to be supported or they will fall off the vine when ripe.

One Great Melon

Last year, a local farmer told me about an incredibly sweet melon from France called the Charentais. I'd never tasted one, so I ordered some seeds and planted them in late May. I harvested my first two melons last week, and I'll be growing these every year!

Growing Your Own

Melons do best sown in warm temperatures in a soil enriched with plenty of organic matter. They're also sensitive to fluctuations in soil moisture, so apply water consistently. Keep soil moist to a depth of about one foot for mature plants. Add several inches of mulch to reduce soil temperatures and help retain moisture. Mulch also helps keep the fruit off of damp soil. Charentais mature in about 75 to 78 days. I haven't noticed any pest or disease problems with these melons

Sweet Flavor

Scooping into one of these melons is like dipping into a container of orange sherbet. The flesh is soft, smoothly textured, and seemed to melt in my mouth. And sweet - it's the best-tasting melon I've had in years.

Good Looking, Too

Charentais melons look similar to cantaloupes but smaller. They're about the size of a softball and weigh one or two pounds, perfect for one or two servings. Catalog descriptions say they have a grayish green rind, but mine seem to be more beige. Perhaps that's due to the stressful growing conditions in the low desert, but they haven't seemed to affect the flavor.

Easy to Harvest

So far, this melon has been incredibly easy to harvest. I've barely touched the melons that looked ripe, and they fell away from the vine as if they'd been waiting for me. The vine actually separates itself, barely clinging to the fruit. At first I thought this was a fluke, but it's happened with all of the ripe melons so far.

Sweet Fragrance

Charentais melons are also extremely fragrant, even before being cut open. I had one sitting on my desk at work, and the aroma filled the room. Everyone wants one - I have a waiting list to be filled - but I don't know if I want to share this harvest.

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