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Heritage Melons

Heritage melons grow in the field

Melons have long been favored for their sweetness and ease of growing with their cultivation having been documented as far back as ancient Egypt.

Melons are well-suited to West Virginia’s climate and growing season. They are members of the cucurbit family, which includes squash, gourds and cucumbers. Melons are warm season crops and prefer a sunny location with fertile, well drained soil.

Before planting, incorporate compost and apply all-purpose fertilizer (10-10-10) at a rate of about 1 to 2 tablespoons per hill. Melons can be grown from seeds planted 1 to 2 inches deep or transplants after the danger of frost has passed. Soil temperature should be at least 65 degrees F. If quality is your main concern, vines can be pruned and extra fruits pinched off.

Melons also can be grown on plastic, straw or organic mulch to decrease weed competition, increase soil temperature, conserve water or allow earlier planting. Fabric or plastic covers can protect seedlings or transplants from cool temperatures but should be removed before plants start to flower.

Melons contain a high water content and need a lot of water; water deeply but infrequently to help root growth. Reducing water when fruits begin to ripen will improve melon flavor.

Maturity time varies widely depending on the type of melon, ranging from 60 to 90 days.

Recommended varieties of cantaloupes include Hearts of Gold, Honey Rock Melon, Charentais Melon and Sweet Passion Melon. For honeydew, recommended varieties are Eden’s Gem, Jinny Lind Melon and Yellow Canary Melon. Recommended watermelon varieties are Moon and Stars, Georgia Rattlesnake, Kleckley Sweets, Sugar Baby and Blacktail Mountain.

By Jodi Richmond, WVU Extension Agent – Mercer County