Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Melon Mishap

As I'd mentioned in my latest harvest post, I picked my first melons of the year last week. This is my first year growing them. And as expected, it's been quite a challenge trying to judge their ripeness. Unfortunately, it seems I have much to learn.

unripe sugarbaby watermelon
This is what my Sugar Baby watermelon looked like when I cut into it. As you can see, it's not quite ripe. On a scale of 1 to 10, its sweetness was at a 4. Looking back, I probably should have waited a while longer before harvesting it. It had developed a yellow spot and made a hollow sound when thumped, but the tendril closest to the melon was still green. Hopefully the next one I pick will yield better results.

unripe charantais melon
And this is what the Charantais melon looked like on the inside. Again, I probably should have waited another day or two before picking. It's sweetness was at about a 6 on my scale. The leaf closest to the melon had turned beige and it smelled incredibly fragrant, but its skin had only just begun to take on a yellow hue. Strike two.

mice eaten watermelon
Finally, a while back I noticed that the field mice had gotten to one of my Thai watermelons. I felt sick just looking at it. What a waste. A closer inspection revealed that it was close to being ripe. Next year, I am determined to grow all of my melons on trellises. Not only would that make it easier for me to check the melons for ripeness, but it would also keep the mice at bay. Also, I need to come up with a strategy for dealing with cucumber beetles next year as my melon plants are slowly succumbing to bacterial wilt (which is transmitted by the bug).

How do you grow your perfect melons?

23 comments:

  1. Thomas, so sorry about your melon troubles. I came home from a trip to FL to discover I lost the two largest green french pumpkins. It is so upsetting, as we watch them grow and look forward to that day of harvest. I too am going to consider trellising more seriously next year. Will save space too.

    Your tomatoes are beauties!

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  2. Oh bummer on the mouse eating that melon. How annoying! That would make me so angry. Sorry about the other melons not being so ripe. Shucks.

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  3. The weather on the coast of southern California won't let us grow melons, so I'll just enjoy seeing yours. Hope you still have more getting ripe.

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  4. It's such a quandary... do you let them ripen fully and risk the squirrels and other furries getting them first or do you pick them a tad bit early just in case...

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  5. For the first time growing melons, you are doing great. I have tried to grow them this and last year - not one fruit was set.
    I am sure next one you will pick will be ripe.

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  6. Oh dear, I'm sorry about your melon-luck. I didn't try them this year and I don't think I will be ready for them next year either... maybe the year after that?
    ~Kimmi

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  7. I too found it was a bit tricky last year to judge whether melon that we were growing has ripen or not. Several time it got too ripe and it split, luckily ants were the only competitor that we have. So we could still have our share. I tried growing honeydew melon on trellis and ground. Fruit on the trellis was considerably smaller than the one growing on ground.

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  8. Thomas, I too am having a difficult time judging when the melons are ripe. My first two Charantais split they were so ripe. The flavor was so so and a little mealy/overripe. I like that the Fastbreak melons slip from the vine when ready.

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  9. I cannot grow melons in the climate I currently live and grow my garden. It's just too cool and too overcast too much - with only a brief dry and (relatively speaking) warm period in the summer. When I lived in hot dry central Washington state I grew watermelons and cantalopes with great success. The tendril and vine drying down and/or easily slipping from the fruit - smell, yellowing, and hollow sound are all part of the equation. You will get the knack of it and won't look back from there - but the first year is definitely a learning experience.

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  10. I'm so confused LOL! Here my Sugar Babies had green tendrils still and NO yellow spot and they were perfect! Take solace in knowing apparently it IS rocket science and it appears that even seasoned gardeners don't have the timing down! Must be one of those 2nd nature things we develop the knack for over time. Just remember: you whooped everyone's butt with that gorgeous corn this year!

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  11. Oh no! I'm really sorry for your melon troubles. Oh, you'll love growing them on trellises, though!

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  12. Hahaha...thanks everyone! It's somewhat comforting to know that others also share in my frustration and can relate.

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  13. I can imagine your frustration. We are dealing with deer and far too many rabbits. I wondered though, would a trellis actually stop the mice. Wouldn't they just climb up the trellis or the plant to get to the melons?

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  14. I'd be afraid that the melons would break off of the trellis before ripe, though I've heard of using nylons to provide a sort of bra to hold them. I've also read of setting melons on coffee cans to raise them off the ground, though I would think climbing varmints can get whatever they want from anywhere.
    And yes, ripeness is definitely not an exact science whether on the vine or in the store or farmer's market, haha. At least you have some to learn with. :)

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  15. Oh dang those critters, you probably know how I feel about them, grrrr. Chalk it all up to another garden learning experience, it's a never ending process out there. Pretty soon you'll be a melon expert.

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  16. Good luck with judging the next melons. I am struggling to grow just one... but I'll try again next year!

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  17. That is so sad about your melons. I usually don't grow them as it is often hard to do in our climate (not this year), but I keep seeing all the beautiful ones out there in the blogoshpere. Maybe I will try next year.

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  18. Durn mice! The charentais looks beautiful, sweetness or no. My lone roof watermelon turned out surprisingly well, but seems silly compared with your bounty.

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  19. i find melons a little challenging - and the results a little random, but when you do get the good ones it's worth it! i grow more than necessary so ok if some don't work out, only keep growing varieties which have been successful (and trial new ones), put bait stations around the patch for rodents, and rig up some serious netting to stop the birds. haven't tried trellising, but did with some pumpkins last year and they didn't do so well.

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  20. Thomas, I'm practically a geezer so that speaks to how long I've been gardening, and I'll tell you even now it's tough to figure out a ripe melon. You are so not alone.

    Be not discouraged, your produce is world class from where I sit.

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  21. That charentais sure does look like it would be ripe and taste good... we wrote about the tribulations of our charentais this week on the blog.

    We trellised melons this year but have decided we will not trellis next year and are scoping out a spot in our yard where they can just grow to their heart's content. Trellising didn't work as well as we had hoped (two melons had rot anyway and one melon fell out of it's sling and broke from the vine - I can't rule out that it could just be my slinging ability...). I also felt that the melons didn't set fruit as well on the trellis as they are now that they've outgrown their trellises and are sprawling everywhere. Same goes for the butternut squash - every fruit it has set has been on a non-trellised portion of the vine. Of course, there are other factors that could have yielded this result, but next year will be non-trellised to test.

    It'll be interesting to see if trellising works out for you though.

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  22. The Charantais looks pretty much there. I picked them by smell last year. I could never figure out the leaf color change. This year the french melons aren't producing anything. There are a couple tiny ones now so maybe I will have some early fall.

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  23. Sorry to here about your melon woes. I haven't tried growing them but trellises seem like a good plan.

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