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Watermelons

Posted by jrslick KS/5 (My Page) on
Fri, Jun 1, 12 at 0:35

This year I am trying to get back into the melon market. When the melons are ready for market, I start getting busier at school. I don't have alot of time to do some crops, but I figure melons are a good seller and you can pick a bunch, in a short amount of time, unlike lettuce (pick, wash, sort, bag)

Many people sell big Crimson Sweet melons. Several people bring in truckloads. I am not competing with them. I am trying to listen to the customers and they want smaller melons. So I am growing personal sized 3-5 pounds up to icebox melons at 8 to 10 pounds. I don't want any bigger than this. I am also experimenting with many varieties and many colors. I am also trying out plastic mulch and succession plant. I may be biting of more than I can chew, but that is what I do best!

I had to make a planting diagram, with pictures, to make sure and plant different melons with similar looks apart from each other.

Here is the first planting of melons planting diagram.
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Here is the first stop, 70 foot rows, 6 foot apart. Now that it has rained, I can get the row middles tilled and cleaned up!
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Here is picture down the row, they are starting to put out true leaves.
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I also planted a super small patch (10 watermelon, 10 canteloupe), on April 1st and replanted on April 15th. Here is what they look like.
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As soon as I can get the plastic mulch down for the next 4 beds, I will plant them. I am also planning to plant a smaller 3rd planting around the July 1. Most of these melons are in the 60 to 70 days, so they should make it (I hope).

Jay


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Watermelons

I thought you were going to say you were picking already ;-)!

Looking good, but most of them are similar-looking on the outside - how are you going to keep them all separated for market?

It rained??? YEAH!!!!!


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RE: Watermelons

I will just write on the rind with a a sharpie. I tried to separate the varieties by rind color and also size. I won't worry about the red ones, but I am concerned about the yellow, orange and shorbet swirl ones.

Yes it did rain, 1.14 inches, there is some rain west of here this morning, moving east.

Jay


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RE: Watermelons

Sharpie - good idea. Say, I still haven't planted my tomatoes yet, they're hardened off (as much as could be with fairly warm nights in 50's-60 and not a lot of sunny days). Today is my chance since we have 80% chance of rain tomrrow and about 40% each day for the next week. I'm a little worried about some of them since next week highs are going to be around 60 and lows in the high 40's. Think I should plant them out now? I really want to get them out of the garage. Maybe I'll keep the 4 from my cousin I have in 2-gal pots along with the 6 I just brought home from the greenhouse, but I gotta get the trays of my stuff out (or pot up the ones still in 3606's!), though I'm going to keep some trays for market the next 2 weeks.

Also, I marked off 2-ft spacing (all indeterminate except a dozen Glacier), I'd really love to cut it down to 18" so I can fit 60 along the remesh fence and just tie/clip them to the fence - my soil isn't really rich, Medium High in OM and Nitrate, Medium in ammonium, High in P,K,Ca and Very High in Mg, pH 6.8. The bed is over 2 ft deep/high (it's on ledge), sandy loam, and a good 2ft wide (wider in places) - think that will give them enough room even at 18" spacing? Should I add more aged manure in the holes when I plant, maybe even top-dress as needed? I don't want to overdo the N and end up with all foliage, no fruit, but I want to make sure they have enough room to grow too.

If I can fit my 60 indies in 1 bed, then I can put the Glaciers near the house or in the next bed over with peppers and pull them when they're done, gives me more room. Otherwise I've got to put 12 indies in the next bed over along with the Glaciers and peppers and weave them.


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RE: Watermelons

I also mark my melons w/a Sharpie. I plant 3-5 seeds in hills 6 feet apart w/rows at least 8-10 feet apart. Melons sprawl pretty far and I don't want to damage a solid mass of vines searching for melons. I can also use my tractor to weed pretty close both directions before they start vining. Then I'll mulch. I do the same for winter squash and pumpkins.

As I noted in the cuke post, I cannot keep Yellow Doll in stock. They sell immediately and do not take so long to mature so I do multiple plantings. Sugar Baby is another small melon that does quite well and is very inexpensive. I have never really noticed any difference between open pollinated and hybrid melons. I tried for several years to push the gold skinned melons, but they never caught on. I also resisted large melons at first but increased drastically my planting of them this year. That is what people want. I have, however, selected premium varieties of high brix to separate myself from the others.

As for canteloupe, I have never found anything that tastes as good as Ambrosia--or sells as well. I still experiment w/several new varieties every year though. Athena is decent and keeps and handles well. This year I've planted Gold Dubloon, which has a high brix, and Maverick. A lot of the other hybrids I've tried look and handle well but just have no taste--like store bought.


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RE: Watermelons

I transplanted my melons today. 96 total, two dozen are watermelons. I am letting Crimson Sweet and Blacktail Mountain cross and see what I get.
Other melons are:
honeydew
charentais
MN midget
Delicious 51
Hale's Best
Wapsi wonder
Jenny Lind
I had a sample packet of agri-gel for transplants and I dipped them in first. That stuff is cool!

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melons planted today


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RE: Watermelons

I have had good success growing watermelons, since we have a perfect climate for them, low summer weed pressure,well water, great sandy loam soil and a long season. However, once again I am confronted with market grower vs. hobbyist mentalities.

Playing catch-up again on the market grower issue. I will definitely start more melons on black plastic next year and choose earlier varieties along with the large melons I have been growing according to traditional planting calendars . Better late than never, yellow doll seeds are on the way to go with already planted sugar babies, moon and stars, mountain hoosier, black diamond, and a few plants of some others.


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RE: Watermelons

we are completing our melon planting today. i had to build a screen house to keep the birds (mostly crows) from pecking holes in most of the melons like they did last year.
we are planting about 150 plants all together. about 50 ambrosia and athena, about 30 solitaire (hmmm, i think thats the variety) which is personal size seedless red, about 30 crimson sweet, and the rest are either a yellow or orange variety.
we planted the first 100 last week and they are off to a great start.
t-tapes under plastic in soil mixed with compost.
the way to sell melons is samples at the market.


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RE: Watermelons

Be sure that you have the appropriate safety measures, since watermelons (all melons) are classified as highly hazardous for samples (along with eggs). We used to sample, and even cut up and sell the cuts/dices, until we were INFORMED of the rules.

You'll need washing station and cooling, but not directly on ice.


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RE: Watermelons

Who sets out melon transplants and who direct seeds?
I direct seeded watermelons and backed them up in cell flats on the germination tables. Good thing. It has it's advantages even if in theory it is not necessary.

I did a lot of pregerm on winter squash and put them strait in their hills in the garden once they popped. That worked out well because it is so dry here that seeded hills have to be watered everyday until the plants get some roots.


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RE: Watermelons

All of mine were direct seeded this year. I was going to transplant, but I wasn't sure when I would get the plastic down and then I didn't have time to start them earlier. So, direct seed it is!

Using my new toy, a planter from Stand and Plant, it made direct seeding super easy! I would recommend it to anyone.

The only transplanted stuff that works good for me is what I put in the high tunnels. I transplant the same plants in the tunnels as I plant outside and I will loose 1/3 to the wind outside and none inside. If I direct seed outside, I loose a few, but not as many.

Jay


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RE: Watermelons

i transplant all of them. seedless watermelon seed is too expensive to risk not germinating. i also hate empty holes in plastic mulch.
i've been giving watermelon samples for years without any problems. we'll see if the market manager says anything this year.


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RE: Watermelons

I pre-start mine most of the time. I started learning from professionals in Vincennes, IN (supposedly the Melon capital of the world).

Jay, I have the blue one like the stand and plant planter, the Amish called it a 'jab planter'. LOVE it. I even use it for beans and corn, really saves the back.


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RE: Watermelons

I transplant. I start them in paper cups.

BTW if you don't call them samples, but instead say 'would you like to try a piece?' it is ok. The guy next to me does that and makes sure to never utter the word sample or let anyone else do so.


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RE: Watermelons

O.K. I read something that surprised me yesterday. Someone recommended putting the melon starts in the shade for a couple of days to "harden them" off for transplant.
Anyone hear of that? Mine are in trays in full sun and that is where they started. Wasn't thinking about putting them in the shade.


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RE: Watermelons

i see no point in putting them in the shade. to me hardening off means acclimating the plants to being out in the wind. i don't withhold water like some do since i have no plans to withhold water once they are in the ground.
i planted melons out with no hardening off at all and they are doing very well. go figure.


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RE: Watermelons

I can see hardening them off in the shade IF they were used to a less intensive light. Hardening off is BOTH getting the plants used to wind and heat fluctuation and water restrictions. Basically just getting used to the growing conditions that they will have for the remainder of their lives


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RE: Watermelons

O.K. I reread the article. It said to put them in a cooler spot and cut back on water. I misunderstood that to be shade.

Here it is very risky/dangerous to seedlings of any kind to cut back on water once a plant is outside, especially in cell flats.After about early April they have to be watered every day, or more often, and before noon in any case.


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RE: Watermelons

Cutting back doesn't mean let the plant wilt, what you are doing is weanning it.

Also, giving samples, even if it's just tastes are against board of health rules. Especially with melons.


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RE: Watermelons

I talked to the Public Health official a year or so ago at the market (they were doing a spot check - the one and only time I have had one) about samples. Her statement was that all we needed for a handwash station was single use water (not a bowl where you dip your hands), soap and towels. The water did not have to be hot. So I pulled out the water cooler (it's always in the truck anyway, got a bar of soap out of the ditch kit and paper towels out of the market box. The wash is for us not the customers so set it on the tailgate of the truck and volia - compliance. There were other little details - she was not too keen on using my pocketknife to slice so now have a regular fized blade knife in the truck) and the samples are not to be touched so we have a little box of toothpicks. We quite often open up a mellon for samples as well as apples in the fall. We also carry Dixie cups and give samples of our cider which boosts sales an amazing amount. I suspect the 50% of those that take the sample but a jug. Granted, this is all in the People's Republic of Illinois but I imagine in a free state like Indiana the requirements are much alike.

Tom


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RE: Watermelons

Indiana is stricter, especially on melons/tomatoes. Of course, this was what I sold/sampled more of. Plus our water had to be warm and the cooler couldn't have a push-button nozzle, had to be a toggle type.

It wouldn't have been too hard to set up, but I didn't really need it or the extra headache. Our board made inspections at least monthly.


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RE: Watermelons

CT is the same way, warm water, continuous on (not hold in button), waste bucket, waste basket, wash the knife between cutting each item, wash any tongs, etc., if food already cut needs to be chilled. Plus you need a temporary food permit - at least this year they have a state-wide farmer's permit so it's good all season at any market in any health district. But still didn't think it worth the hassle.

Now, I don't know if the hand-washing station is for me or customers, so maybe it might not be too bad (wouldn't need a large insulated container). I'll have to ask. I would love to give samples of cherry toms (no cutting needed), but larger toms would require a food permit - don't want to give each person a whole BW to try! I don't even think I want to get into jams and jellies - I'd have to control it by offering small spoonfuls on disposable spoons and I'm the only one working the table so just too time-consuming.


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RE: Watermelons

The hand washing station is for the food preparer.

Jams/jellies are covered under a different ruling in Indiana, but ONLY if there is NO acidifer (so no pickles or salsa).

It is a headache that I didn't want to deal with.


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RE: Watermelons

Just wondering if anyone has had problems with the Food Police coming down on you for anything like happened to this Tulsa woman? Of course she was in the city limits I suppose.
Link included.

Here is a link that might be useful: Tulsa Womans Garden blocked by the City


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RE: Watermelons

Another update:
I never had mixed results with watermelons before this year(only great).
Moon and stars red fleshed melons are running good but the yellow just won't grow, first try by direct seed and second by transplants. I think I am going to pull them and put in winter squash.

Sugar babies mostly look great from transplants. Better than last year and basically in the same spot that the moon and stars won't grow in. Moon and stars yellow flesh probably are defective.... a gene for stunted growth?


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RE: Watermelons

When I read something like you linked, all I think about is how there must be something else besides what was mentioned. Some city people wouldn't recognize a garden plant if I bit them. If a supervisor says to cut it down, then you cut it down. The only thing she might have done was to have signs on each and every plant.

I didn't read how many plants she had in what size of 'garden'. It might have looked like a bunch of weeds, like my gardens usually end up.

I don't have to worry about anything like that, since I live on 19 acres surrounded by farms. Maybe she needed to find a community garden to have her garden. Also some medicial plants are 'weeds' to several people.

For our purposes, we could put up a sign such as "So and So's Market Garden" at the entrance (front) on our gardens. Of course this would only need to be done in towns/cities.

Marla


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RE: Watermelons

And from the article it wasn't even a market garden! She was just trying to feed herself! Sounds like home owner's assoc. or local "beauty" codes gone wild - no plants over 12" unless it's food??? So no one can plant ornamental trees? Irises? Glads?

Of course, since she was growing medicinal plants maybe they came down on her for growing MJ? Though I would think they would have mentioned that.

Anyway, if it was just food, I think the city owes her - replant everything AND give her food from the food bank (though she might already be eligible for that).


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