Melons are tender plants, so need a warm, sunny spot with high humidity. In the UK it is best to grow in a glasshouse, polytunnel or under a cloche or in a coldframe.
Melons need a rich, fertile, moisture retentive, deep and well-drained soil.
Three to four weeks before planting, prepare the ground by removing weeds and incorporating up to two bucketfuls of organic mater and a modest dressing of general purpose fertiliser. Water well and cover in clear polythene for a week before planting to warm the soil.
Pinch out the growing point at the fifth leaf to encourage side shoots, when they appear, retain the four strongest and remove the others.
In a coldframe, train the four shoots into an X shape. Under cloches, train one pair each way.
In very sunny weather, shade indoor crops with netting or whitewash on the glass. Keep well watered at all times. When fruit are the size of walnuts, feed with a high potash potassium liquid fertiliser every 7-10 days. Stop feeding and reduce watering when the fruits start to ripen and foliage dies back.
Increase ventilation and remove shading once plants become established, but remember to re-apply shading later in summer if temperatures exceed 25C.
Make sure you ventilate when the plants are in flower, as this will allow simultaneous pollination of fruits.
It’s best not to pollinate by hand as the small flowers are delicate, but occasionally it might be necessary - female flowers have a small undeveloped ‘fruit’ behind them; male flowers do not. One male flower pollinates four females.
When fruit are gooseberry size, select the best four on each stem and remove all other flowers, fruit and leaves.
Stop the side shoots two or three leaves beyond these fruits, pinch out the main growing tips and remove new growths as they appear.
Place the fruit on a tile or piece of wood to prevent discolouration or even rotting.
Glasshouse red spider or two spotted mite: Leaves become mottled, pale and covered in webbing, on which the mites can be clearly seen; leaves also drop prematurely.
Remedy: They thrive in hot, dry conditions, so mist plants regularly. Use sprays based on soft soap, plant oils or extracts. Use the biological control Phytoseiulus persimilis in the greenhouse.
Powdery Mildew: Appears as a white powdery deposit over the leaf surface and leaves become stunted and shrivel.
Remedy: Keep the soil moist, grow in cool locations, and spray using plant and fish oils or sulphur-based controls.
More info on Powdery Mildew
Harvest when they produce the characteristic melon fragrance and they fruits start to crack near the stem.
'Amber Nectar’ AGM: Oval fruit of good size. Ripe fruit flesh is orange with very good flavour.
‘Edonis’ AGM: Early ripening F1 hybrid. Oval to globular fruit with orange flesh.
Musk type ‘Durandal’ AGM: F1 hybrid with small, flattened globe-shaped fruit and sweet orange flesh. Early to midseason.
Musk type Early Dawn’ AGM: Early ripening F1 hybrid. Oval fruit with dark green grooves and heavy cork netting; flesh orange when ripe.
Cantaloupe ‘Fastbreak’: Early cropping, high yielding and disease resistant, with pale green skin and sweet orange flesh.
Cantaloupe ‘Ogen’ AGM: Popular, like ‘Sweetheart’, for a cold frame or unheated greenhouse. Golden yellow when mature with light ‘netting’. Sweet flesh.
Cantaloupe ‘Sweetheart’ AGM: Early ripening; globular, medium sized, cream-coloured fruit with orange flesh.