Creating a warm microclimate for melons

lilydudeJanuary 31, 2009

I have a patch of garden next to a south-facing wall where I could plant some melons. I've thought about putting a transparent cover over it, to keep rain off and keep it a little warmer. Maybe transparent side walls to protect against wind. To warm the soil, I could excavate it out, put down some rigid foam plastic sheets for insulation, and replace the soil in raised beds. Of course, I would start the plants early indoors.

Has anyone had success with warm-weather crops like this (from Portland north)? How did you do it?

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knotz(8/PNW SWWA)

I have...I've grown watermelon (can't remember the name off hand) and cantelope 'alaska' here...I'm north of Vancouver.

I grow the short season kinds, not Ed Hume though.

I start them in the greenhouse then put them in my vegie garden and they grew fine, but needed a little longer to get more ripe...The earlier I could get them started, it seemed they were ready sooner.

This year I think I'm going to grow them in the greenhouse so they can stay warmer longer...The greenhouse isn't used for much during the summer anyway :)


    Bookmark   February 1, 2009 at 1:45AM
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knotz, did you put down black plastic in your garden to warm up the soil for the melons? Any other tricks?

My new place is at 600 ft. altitude, overlooking the river up near Kalama. It's a little chilly up there. But I think it's doable. As an experiment, I planted some muskmelon seed in the ground on July 6 last summer. I ALMOST got ripe melons in late September. And that was without black plastic or a south-facing wall.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 12:53AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

My Grandfather used to put melon sized rocks around the plants that would warm up during the day and keep the plants warmer at night. He also had jugs of water that would heat up in the sun and then he would water in the early evening, warming the root zone. He figured the warmer you could keep the plant at night, the more it would grow because at lower temps they don't grow as fast.
Worked for him!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 5:42AM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Grow under cover.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 12:36PM
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laurell(8 - Washington)

I'm going to try some early season ripening watermelons on a south-facing trellis this year. I'm just north of Seattle and figure early-ripeners combined with direct sun almost all day and starting them inside should do the trick!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 2:51PM
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I've grown the Ed Hume brand Crimson Sweet watermelon in Puyallup and got a 25 pounder with no cover or plastic mulch - just a good headstart in my greenhouse. Set it out in early June. Last year I got good sized melons but they weren't ripened inside - no surprise given the nuclear summer we had last year.

    Bookmark   February 6, 2009 at 2:58PM
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greenelephant(Woodinville WA)

This is how they raise the soil temp at the University of Alaska--Fairbanks, experimental gardens.

Here is a link that might be useful: warming soil with clear plastic mulch

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 5:16PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

I think watering with sunwarmed water in the evening or whenever needed, and under a plastic cover, melons can be grown successfull here.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2009 at 8:41PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Friend just north of Seattle uses plastic tents, inside a small fenced yard with a sunny aspect and a house wall behind.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 1:48AM
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Sugar Baby Watermelons trellised up the wall along with Fastbreak Cantelopes would work. No need for plastic covers. Keep them off the ground because slugs will get em before you. Don't set out plants of them before June. Don't seed indoors until May 1.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2009 at 9:12PM
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I just found a method from the good old days. Dig a trench; fill it with fresh horse manure; cover with garden soil. Wait a week or two. The decomposition of the manure will heat the soil. Plant the seeds.

In place of manure, maybe some compost with a little added Nitrogen fertilizer would do the same thing.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 2:33PM
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laurell(8 - Washington)

You may consider that horses don't digest seeds, so they tend to make lots of grass. If you bury it far enough down it shouldn't be a problem, but it's something to consider.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 4:41PM
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Get a few yards of black volcanic river sand.
the grapes and figs love it.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2009 at 10:05PM
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tallclover(Zone 8 Maritime Pacific NW)

I was so late in creating a new melon patch that I finally planted seeds on July 1. Amazingly enough, Blacktail Mountain Watermelons blew me away -- tiny guys with really good flavor, all grown in one of the coolest and latest summers ever. This year I'll start them earlier (duh) and amend the soil and hopefully get even a bigger and better crop. I posted pics of them from my garden on the link below:

Here is a link that might be useful: Cool Weather Blacktail Mountain Watermelon

    Bookmark   February 17, 2009 at 1:48PM
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