Melons (Cucumis melo)
For the best melons, there is a short window of time between the transcendent flavor of perfectly ripe and perfectly rotten. To catch a melon at its peak, check the patch every other day when it's getting close, looking for tell-tale signs of cracking around the stem and full aromas. Those fruits must absolutely be harvested and eaten on the same day. For a more failsafe harvest indicator, fruit is ready when it slips easily from the vine. Beware! Deer loooove perfectly ripe melons too, so guard your patch well!
Nutrients: vitamins A and C, (very high in both), K, B6, niacin, folate, potassium, magnesium, manganese and copper.
How to Grow Melons from Seed
Cantaloupes and muskmelons are frost sensitive annuals that prefer full sun and fertile, evenly moist soil. Mulch around seedlings to suppress weeds and conserve moisture.
Direct seed after last frost and when soil temperatures are 70-90˚F. Seeds can also be started indoors 2 weeks before the last frost date and transplanted outdoors once the danger of frost has passed. Avoid disturbing the roots as much as possible when transplanting.
Sow seeds 1/2" deep and 5” apart in rows that are 4-5 ft apart. Seeds will sprout in 3-10 days. Thin seedlings so that mature plants are 18-24" apart.
Depending on the variety, melons may take up to 90 days to ripen. Vine ripening will increase the sweetness of melons. If you pick them before they are ripe, the melons will soften but won't get any sweeter. To determine ripeness, look for the melons to change color and tendrils near the fruit to dry and turn brown. Twist melon to remove from vine. If ripe, the melon's stalk will easily separate from the vine.
How to Save Melon Seeds
Melons are an insect pollinated annual that will cross readily with other melons of the Cucumis melo family. This does not include watermelons, but does include certain gourds. Leave melons on the vine for as long as possible to ensure good seed development. When ready to harvest, you will scrape out the seeds into a jar or bucket and add an equal amount of water to seed/pulp mixture, making sure that all of the seeds are covered. Ferment for 2 to 3 days and then rinse very well to remove all of the melon goo that might be holding on. Allow to dry very well on screens or several sheets of newspaper, this could take a few weeks.