Nothing says summer quite like biting into a ripe, juicy melon. By learning how to plant melons, you can have backyard access to the freshest produce.
Ribbed netting, smooth netting, orange flesh, and green flesh – there are so many kinds to try!
In this post, I’ll go over everything you need to know about how to start melons.
Let’s dive in!
Why Plant Melons
Melons may be low in calories, but they are packed with nutritional value. One serving of melon is filled with vitamin C, vitamin B6, vitamin K, and potassium.
Starting melon seeds may seem like a lot of trouble compared to picking one up at the grocery store. But nothing is quite as rewarding as learning how to plant melons yourself.
Melons are easy to grow when given enough light and warm temperatures. They’re an ideal warm-season vegetable for central and southern growing zones.
Popular Varieties of Melons
Part of learning how to plant melons is finding the best variety to grow. There are several different kinds, each differing in shape, texture, color, and flavor.
The main categories are cantaloupes, honeydew melons, Crenshaw melons, and canary melons.
Let’s briefly discuss each type, including which varieties are the best to grow.
Cantaloupes, or muskmelons, are known for their sweet orange flesh. The oval melons have a heavily-netted rind with slight ribbing.
Cantaloupes can weigh between three and six pounds. Shelf life is typically shorter than other melons, but the sweet flavor is hard to beat.
Popular cantaloupe varieties to try at home:
- Honey Rock – This award-winning heirloom variety has a consistent, sweet flavor. And it produces a heavy, early yield of three to four-pound fruits.
- Hales Best – This heirloom variety produces four-pound, disease-resistant fruit. The tasty orange flesh will surely add a sweet aroma to the garden.
Honeydew melons have a sweet flavor that is comparable to cantaloupes. But, depending on the variety, the flesh can be white, orange, or green.
Honeydews also have a smooth rind with no ribbing.
The melons are smaller, staying between two to three pounds. But their shelf life is excellent.
Popular honeydew varieties to try at home:
- Saturno – This delicious hybrid variety produces smooth fruits with light green flesh. The flavor is both crisp and sweet.
- Green Flesh – This variety has one of the sweetest honeydew flavors. It grows especially well in hot climates. The seed cavity is small for optimal flesh.
If you’re wanting to grow the largest melons, Crenshaw is ideal. Crenshaw is a hybrid variety derived from the casaba melon.
These oblong yellow melons can easily reach six to eight pounds. And the orange flesh packs one of the sweetest flavors of all melon types.
Popular Crenshaw varieties to try at home:
- Lilly – Lilly boasts up to eight-pound oblong fruits. The pale yellow skin and light orange flesh have a deliciously sweet flavor profile. It’s a great choice for those with short growing seasons.
Canary melons are similar in appearance to Crenshaw melons. But, their yellow rind opens to crisp, white flesh instead.
The taste of canary melons is sweet with a slight tang. Depending on the variety of canary, the melons grow anywhere from four to 10 pounds!
Popular canary varieties to try at home:
- Halo – This hybrid variety can reach up to nine pounds. The white flesh is tangy and sweet. And it’ll keep on your cooler shelf for months when stored properly.
When to Plant Melons
Melons are warm-season vegetables that need lots of heat. Ideal soil temperatures are between 70 and 90 degrees.
So, gardeners should wait until after the last frost to start melon seeds.
If you’re wanting to get a jumpstart on the melon harvest, start seeds indoors two to four weeks before the last frost. This is a great idea for gardeners with a short growing season.
How to Start Melons Indoors
Starting melon seeds outdoors is the easiest, most straightforward way to plant melons. But that can limit some growing zones from seeing mature melons.
Luckily, starting melon seeds indoors is easy to do!
What You’ll Need
If you’ve never started seeds indoors, you’ll need a few things to get started.
Here are the essential seed starting products I recommend:
And don’t forget the seeds! Check out Hoss’ melon seed selection for a wide variety of quality melons for your garden.
If you don’t see what you need at Hoss, True Leaf Market is another great resource for melon seeds.
Starting Melon Seeds
Melons are fast-growing seedlings that won’t stay inside for very long.
So, it’s a good idea to start them in a four-inch pot. You can use plastic or biodegradable pots.
Note: biodegradable pots can be useful if you’ve struggled with transplant shock in the past. These pots can be planted directly into the garden soil.
Fill several pots with a lightweight seed starting mix. The mix should be flush with the top of the pots.
Press down on the mix to remove any air pockets in the mix.
Melon seeds need to be planted at a depth of ½-inch, so make an indention in the mix accordingly.
Place the melon seed in the ½” indention, and lightly cover the seed with mix.
Melons need warm temperatures to germinate, so a heat mat is a must. Having a full-spectrum grow light above also helps with germination.
You should see melon seedlings sprout within four to seven days.
After the seedlings sprout, keep them moist until transplant time.
Tips for Transplanting
Melons can suffer from transplant shock if you don’t properly prepare them for the transition.
Melon seedlings should be hardened off one week before being transplanted. Simply place the seedlings outdoors for increasing amounts of time every day.
This will get the seedlings used to your average outdoor temperatures and weather conditions.
How to Plant Melons Outdoors
Direct sowing is best if you’re situated in USDA hardiness zones 8 through 10.
This means you have a long, warm growing season. And melons can easily germinate outdoors and mature before temperatures cool down.
Let’s dive into how to plant melons outdoors!
Choose the Planting Site
When choosing the perfect planting site, look for areas with the most light. Melons need a minimum of eight hours of sun per day.
Melons are vining plants that can trail three to five feet. So, you will need a large space for starting melon seeds.
You may want to set apart a large section of your garden for melons.
Sandy loam is the best soil for starting melon seeds since it has the best drainage.
Melons also prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.
To amend your soil, mix in composted organic matter and manure. This will improve soil pH, texture, and drainage.
Direct Sow the Seeds
To direct sow melon seeds, place a seed every 24 to 36 inches.
To help with drainage, you can form a hill of soil to plant the seeds in. Place two seeds in the hill. When the seedlings are two to three inches tall, thin to one seedling per hill.
If you wish to do multiple rows of melons, make sure to leave five to six feet between rows. This allows enough room for vines to trail.
Caring for Melons
After starting melon seeds successfully, caring for your plants until harvest is important.
Melon plants should be adequately watered, fertilized, and inspected for pests and diseases.
Melons need approximately one inch of water per week.
When watering melon plants, be sure to soak the soil, not the plant. This will prevent the spread of disease.
Once melons begin to mature, water less frequently to prevent splitting fruits.
Healthy soil is the best fertilizer for melons. If you’ve amended your soil with compost, your melon plants may not need any additional attention.
But you can apply a well-balanced, all-purpose fertilizer to the soil if your plants need a boost.
Apply the fertilizer as the plants begin to develop foliage.
But avoid applying too much fertilizer after that stage. The addition of nitrogen at this point can cause more foliage than fruit to form.
Common Pests and Diseases
Melon plants can have many fungal diseases, including downy mildew and root rot.
Symptoms of downy mildew include yellow spots and white growth on foliage. This is caused by water on leaves that cannot dry properly.
Avoid downy mildew by watering plants in the morning at the soil level.
Root rot causes melon plants to turn yellow and wilt. Eventually, the plant will die because of this disease. Be sure to plant melons in well-draining soil to avoid a waterlogged plant.
Melons are also subject to many pests, including squash bugs.
Squash bugs are flat and grayish-brown, measuring about a half-inch long. They feed on foliage, which can eventually cause plant death.
You can remove the bugs by hand or apply insecticidal soap or neem oil.
When and How to Harvest Melons
Harvesting melons is arguably the best part of starting melon seeds. You’re able to see the fruit of your labor – literally!
Melons typically mature within 70 to 90 days.
There are a few ways to detect if a melon is ready to pick.
First, observe the color. The melon should be representative of its mature color, whether that’s light yellow or tan.
You should also smell a sweet aroma coming from the fruit.
The melon should detach from the vine easily. This is because the vine will start to split from a mature melon.
If a melon has adequately matured, all you need to do is gently pull it from the vine. If it puts up a fight, it’s not ready yet.
Once you’ve harvested melons, it’s essential to store them properly for ideal shelf life.
Melons should be stored in the refrigerator unwashed.
Melons can also be stored at room temperature on your countertop. But you’ll often get the best shelf life when storing them in the refrigerator.
Expect freshly harvested melons to last one to three weeks. Although, some types, like canary melons, can last up to a few months.
Companion Vegetables for Melons
While learning how to plant melons, it’s a good idea to start planning the rest of your garden.
Luckily, melons grow well with just about any vegetable. If your melon plants have enough room to spread out, they’ll be happy campers.
It might be helpful to avoid planting other cucurbits near your melon plants to prevent pests. Other popular cucurbits include pumpkins, winter squash, summer squash, and cucumbers.
Wrapping Up How to Plant Melons
Are you ready to have fresh cantaloupes and honeydew melons this season?
Learning how to plant melons is easy! And it makes an excellent addition for zones with long growing seasons.
Take a look at the other seed starting posts on our website. We’ll help you get your whole garden started and we’ll show you the best products to use to accomplish it!