What would you do with these melons?

canokieAugust 17, 2012

I planted some cantaloupe and watermelon in late May. They grew well at first and set fruit. I got one delicious cantaloupe before it got too hot and everything started rotting on the vine before they ripened. Dawn suggested sunscald and I think she was right as it would rot on the top part, and not the end or underside. Anyway, the plants are growing well and have blossoms and now that its a bit cooler I think they will probably start setting fruit again. The problem is, if that happens, is there enough time for them to ripen? Or should I pull them and plant something else? The varieties I planted are Hearts of Gold (cantaloupe) and Sugar Baby (watermelon).

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Some of the more experienced melon growers will be along. I'm not sure about the DTM of your varieties either. I know mine is 82 days. That is from germination till harvest. If your variety is similar I would say you have a very good chance of harvesting fruit. That is unless we have an extremely early frost/freeze. I planted mine later. I have a few almost full size but most are just setting and I feel they have a good chance of maturing. Jay

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 8:16AM
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If you dont have better luck with your than I have with mine, you might as well yank them out and plant something easier to grow. I planted Crimson Sweet on the first of June, they have run everywhere. The weeds have almost covered them up and they are splitting before the get ripe.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 9:47AM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


I think the answer to this question depends on what other crop you would/could put there and what kind of harvest it would/could produce, compared to the possible production from the melon vines.

I'll preface this by saying that I love cantaloupes and watermelons so I would leave the vines if I thought they had a chance of maturing fruit. Where I live, we are still about 90 days from the date of our average first freeze, so I would expect melons to mature from blossoms on my plants now because the varieties I grow all have DTMs of 65-80 days, so even if I just had new plants sprouting now, they'd have time, if everything went perfectly, to give me mature fruit. My plants have been in the ground for months and are still healthy, so today's flowers will be mature cantaloupes in maybe 40 to 50 days, depending on variety. My cantaloupes have plenty of foliage and are blooming, so I have left their bed alone this week as I have been tearing out the summer garden to put in the fall garden.

There are a couple of caveats though. First of all, your melon plants need full sun all day from dawn to dusk in autumn in order to get enough daylight as the day length grows shorter every day. If they are in what is part-sun now or dappled shade, I'd be less likely to leave them. Secondly, they need to not only be blooming but also be putting out new foliage. The reasons your melons have been sunscalding is because the plants don't have enough foliage to shade them. So, if the drought has been so hard on them that they cannot or will not put out new leaves along with the blooms, any melons that form likely will sunscald. For me, these are two factors I'd take into consideration before deciding whether to keep the melons. Another factor to consider as far as when to pull the plug would be your temperatures. If we have the typical hot September, the melons will get enough heat to grow well. However, is September turns very cool early, even though it stays above freezing, then the melons likely will have poor flavor and won't be worth eating. You get the best-tasting melons in hot, dry weather. The cooler and wetter it is as they mature, the poorer the flavor.

While my cantaloupes have heavy foliage and are doing great, my watermelons have struggled. I think the 'Seminole' winter squash in the adjacent bed out-competed them for water after I stopped watering in July, so the watermelon vines just don't have the vigor they should, and when I make it that far north in the garden next week as I do the summer-to-fall conversion, I'll yank out the watermelon vines.

So, if you think they have a good chance of producing tasty melons, keep them. If you feel like they don't have good vigor and won't produce as much as something else you would plant there, take them out and plant something that will produce more.

Larry, I think your rains fell too heavily at the wrong time and that is causing the splitting. I almost never have that problem here because it usually doesn't rain here very much in summer, but one August we got 5" of rain in one day and a few days later my melons literally began exploding.

I always try to plant my melons in a raised bed in what I consider the driest part of my garden in the hope that they won't crack if we happen to get heavy rainfall, and I never water them much, if at all. This year I did water them once a week, but not heavily--maybe 1/2 to 1" a week. I stopped watering in July while most of the melons were immature and they continued growing and ripening. Since then I've harvested about 40 melons, roughly 1-2 a day most days, and it is the best melon year in a long time. I attribute that to the lack of cucumber beetles this year. No beetles. No cucurbit diseases being spread around.

I try to grow my watermelons dryland style as much as possible, though in a year like last year (11" of rain through the end of August) they did have to have irrigation most of the summer. This year, with almost twice as much train through the same point in time, I only watered them a little because the air temps were staying between 108-112 at that time and I just didn't think I'd get blossoms and fruit if I wasn't watering. A lot of the people who dryland farm melons near Thackerville, which is famous for their delicious melons grown in deep sandy soil, rarely irrigate them and they cut off the water completely long before the melons begin to ripen. They have it down to a science in a way that I never will. I just guess when I think it is about time to deny them water. When rain falls at the wrong time, though, there is nothing you can do to keep it from ruining the melons.

Yesterday I cut into the next-to-the-last watermelon that is sitting there on the kitchen counter. It was a Yellow Baby. Today we'll finish it and then there is one more melon sitting there on the counter for tomorrow that is either New Orchid or Yellow Doll. After that, all we'll have left is cantaloupes, unless I find a watermelon hiding under foliage somewhere.

The flavor of delicious, vine-ripened melons straight from the garden is so incredibly good in a hot, dry year that it is worth whatever you have to go through to raise them.


    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 11:05AM
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I planted my cantaloupe late also and when they should have been setting fruit, they were just setting there in the heat. Since we have had some cooler temps and a little rain, they have started to grow again and are taking over the sidewalk, and forming a much more dense vine. I plan to leave mine and hope they produce. I think I have plenty of time left before first frost.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 1:01PM
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Thanks everyone.I think I will leave them for a while at least and see what they do. The vines seem healthy and there is some new growth. I picked both of these varieties for their smaller size and shorter DTM so they should have time to produce I would think (depending on the weather, as Dawn pointed out).

By the way, Soonergrandmom mentioned planting melons late - what is the earliest you can plant melons? Is April too early?

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 2:18PM
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OSU Guide shows May 1-20. My space was very limited and I had to wait until my broccoli and onions were finished. I planted a new kind of onion that stayed in the ground a lot longer than the onions I normally plant. I'll have a new plan for next year. This plan would have worked fine if the weather had not been so unusual, I think.

Here is a link that might be useful: OSU Guide

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 3:07PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7

Shelley, I plant by soil temperature, not by calendar date. The calendar dates are based on 'average' soil temperatures, but when is it ever average around here?

Cantaloupes, muskmelons and most other miscellaneous melons can handle slightly cooler temperatures so you can direct-sow their seed when soil temps are staying at or above 60-degrees consistently, or transplant seedlings started indoors and hardened off at the same time--when soil temps are staying at or above 60.

Watermelons are true heat-lovers, so for them you wait until soil temps are reliably at or above 70 degrees for direct-sowing seed or for planting your transplants in the ground.

If you sow the seed in soil that's too cold, it can rot before it sprouts since it won't sprout well at cool temps. If you set young transplants into the ground while the soil temps are too low, they tend to stunt, stall and refuse to grow and often fall prey to pests or diseases because they are weak and lack vigor.

With melons, timing is everything.

For many of us, this was one of the rare years we could plant melons earlier than usual because it warmed up earlier than usual. Most years, along with sweet potatoes, winter squash and southern peas, watermelons normally go into the ground in my garden after everything else has been planted. I usually put cantaloupe and muskmelons in just a tiny bit later than green beans.

Carol, I can think of about a billion things that would have worked out fine if the weather had not been so unusual! I'd like to have a nice average boring year where everything works like clock work. In recent years, those average, boring years really seem to be eluding us. It is getting harder and harder to remember what a good year is like.

    Bookmark   August 18, 2012 at 3:31PM
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I guess I picked an interesting time to start gardening in Oklahoma then :)

I just came in from working in the garden. I was very happy to find three melons under all those leaves, with lots more flowers. Sure am glad I didn't rip them out now :)

Dawn, that makes a lot of sense to plant by soil temperature as that is what matters to the plants anyway, and it does vary from year to year. I know a while back you posted a link to the website that shoes average soil temperatures and I can probably bring that up in a search of the archives (Mesonet I think it was?) However, is there a list of vegetables and what soil temperature they germinate best at?

Thanks so much - you are a wealth of information for us newbies :)


    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 11:29AM
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Here's a link that I found in a search of the archives, in case anybody else is interested:


    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 12:04PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


You're welcome.

It is always an interesting time to garden in OK. We just never know what kind of interesting events will be occurring in any given year. Usually it is drought. Or torndoes. Or hail storms. Or microbursts/downbursts/straightline winds that everyone swears was a tornado. Then, of course, let's not forget the ice storms that bring down our powerlines, trees, shrubs and vines. Or wildfires. Earthquakes. Flash flooding. Regular flooding. Sometimes we have all of the above in the same year. lol Gotta laugh about it or we'd be crying all the time.

In the rare odd year when we don't have summer drought, we sometimes have flooding rains, as we did in 2007. I don't remember everything about 2007, but I remember that 8 or 10" of May rainfall was followed by a foot or more of rain in June. We spent a lot of our prime gardening time not gardening at all because the garden was under water. After a while, you weren't worried about the garden floating away, you were worried about the neighboring homes being under water. 2004 was pretty wet too but I think the rain fell in a different pattern and we didn't have flooding that was as widespread. Still, it was so wet in June and July that gardening was a real challenge, but August was stupendously mild and moist and it was about the best melon year I've ever had because the rain stopped falling before the melons began ripening, so that we had big melons with good flavor and no cracking or splitting.

Personally, I prefer drought summers to flood years because it is easier to add water to the soil than to pull excess water out of it.

Occasionally, we have an almost-perfect weather year. At our house 2002 was one, and 2010 was close but not quite perfect. So, I guess what I am saying is......gardening would be really dull here without all the wild weather, but dull might be nice now and then. I wouldn't mind more dull years and fewer crazy ones.

It would be fun to have a perfectly dull year in 2013. Imagine a whole year when we could plant on time, enjoy our gardens in perfectly mild conditions, with weather that is neither too hot nor too cold, and neither too wet nor too dry. We could harvest everything on time with few problems, and pop succession crops into the beds at exactly the right times. What would we do with all the excess energy we use now trying to overcome all of the weather/climatic challenges? Imagine being able to sit down on a chaise lounge near the garden, with a nice gardening book in one hand and a glass of tea in the other? How's that for a fantasy? We just don't have years like that here very often. Gardening here is just a wild roller-coaster ride. But, I do it anyway and enjoy it despite the many challenges.

I've copied the Tom Clothier veggie database into a clickable link. For anyone who hasn't used the linked page before, it is the vegetable seed germination data only. If you go to the bottom of the linked page and click on the phrase that says "Go to Index" or "Return to Index" or whatever wording is used there, it will take you back to the index that has the germination data for annuals, perennials, biennials, shrubs, trees, etc.


Here is a link that might be useful: Effect of Temp. on Veggie Seed Germination

    Bookmark   August 19, 2012 at 7:24PM
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