While cantaloupe, honeydew and watermelon are the most known types of melons, there are many lesser known varieties. From heirlooms to hybrids, the colors, textures, shapes and sizes are endless. Rinds can be smooth or netted and range in colors from dark green, light green, striped dark and light green, to shades of tan, yellow, orange, gray and red. Flesh color can be red, pink, green, yellow and orange – there is even a white-flesh watermelon called White Wonder.
Melons are a tender, warm-season annual that prefers a soil pH of 6.2 to 6.8. Plant in well-drained soil once the threat of frost has passed and the soil is warm. It is most common to direct sow seeds. Plant in locations with 6 to 8 hours of sunlight per day. If using transplants, seeds can be started indoors three weeks prior to transplanting. Melons produce mature fruit 75 to 100 days after seeding. The average yield is about three to four cantaloupes or honeydews per vine and anywhere from two to three watermelons per vine.
Plant spacing within rows for cantaloupes and honeydews should be a minimum of 2 feet with 5 to 6 feet between rows. Watermelons should be spaced 3 to 4 feet apart in rows with 6 to 7 feet between rows. A consistent supply of about 1 to 2 inches of water every seven to ten days is ideal for melons, which can be done with frequent watering or drip irrigation. Mulch also will help with soil moisture retention and reduce foliar diseases. To maintain flavor and prevent potential fruit cracking, apply half as much water per application as the fruit approaches maturity.
Watermelons contain the red pigment lycopene, which is a plant carotenoid pigment. Lycopene has many health benefits, such as helping you stay hydrated, reducing inflammation, improving digestion and more. Melons also are an excellent source of vitamins A and C.
By Brandy Brabham, WVU Extension Agent – Roane County