CULTURE: A light, well-drained soil with a pH of 7.0 and southern exposure is ideal. Good soil moisture is important in the early stages of growth and during pollination when fruits are setting. After this point does not water the last week before fruits are ripe, as overwatering can cause bland fruit.
TRANSPLANTING: Sow indoors in 50 cell plug trays or 2-3″ peat pots in late April or one month (no sooner!) before transplanting outdoors. Plant 3 seeds per cell or pot, about 1/4″ deep. Keep temperature 80-90°F (27-32°C) until germination. Handle young plants carefully and never let the soil dry out. Grow seedlings at 75°F (24°C). Reduce water and temperature for a week to harden seedlings. When the weather is frost-free, warm, and settled, transplant 2-3′ apart in rows 6′ apart or thin to 1 plant/pot or cell with scissors and transplant 18″ apart. Even hardened melon seedlings are tender. Do not disturb roots when transplanting, and water thoroughly.
DIRECT SEEDING: Sow 1-2 weeks after the last frost when the soil is warm, above 70°F (21°C), 3 seeds every 18″, 1/2″ deep, thinning to 1 plant/spot.
ROW COVERS: Since melons like consistently warm conditions, plastic mulch and row covers (refer to Index) will make for earlier crops and better yields, especially in the North. Remove covers when plants have female flowers (tiny fruit at the base of blossom).
DISEASES: Choose varieties resistant to diseases in your area. “Sudden wilt” is a complex disease and cold weather stress syndrome in late summer when plants have a heavy set of ripening melons, can cause plants to wilt almost overnight. Keep plants healthy with good fertility and irrigation to avoid sudden wilt.
INSECT PESTS: Protect against cucumber beetles with floating row covers applied at transplanting, or control with pyrethrin or azadirachtin. (See index)
RIPENESS: Each variety is a little different. Most are ready when the grey-green colour begins to change to buff-yellow and when a light tug separates the fruit from the vine. Some melon types, like honeydew, charentais, canary, Spanish, and Crenshaw are overripe by the time the stem can be tugged from the fruit. These must be cut from the vine.
STORAGE: All melons should be stored at 85-95% relative humidity. Store ripe netted melons at 36-41°F (2-5°C); store other melons at 45-50°F (7-10°C) for 7-14 days.
DAYS TO MATURITY: From transplanting; add about 10 days if direct-seeded.