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For best results in the UK, we'd recommend Melon Little Darling is best grown in a greenhouse or polytunnel. The vines will produce compact watermelons with a red, juicy, very sweet flavour scoring 12 on the brix scale.
Best to limit to 3 fruits per plant in the UK to ensure they ripen.
How to Successfully Grow Melons
Melons are cool, refreshing and very juicy fruits associated with the warmer summer months. There are several types of melon, which can be grown in the UK, some are suitable for indoor growing under cover and some will grow outdoors. Melons that are grown in greenhouses, polytunnels, frames or under cloches will almost always produce better quality fruits. Melon is a popular addition to fruit salads and salsas, especially during the summer or it can just be cut into wedge shape slices and eaten on its own. It’s also makes a popular smoothie drink and is used for appetisers, starters and even in soups.
Seeds can be sown in a heated greenhouse, heated propagator or warm windowsill from the end of March to mid-May. For germination, temperatures will need to be around 18C-21C (64-70F). Sow the seeds into pots or modular trays of seed compost by pushing the seeds down into the compost to a depth of 2cm. To speed up germination you can soak the seeds for 24 hours beforehand.
Growing under cover
Melons can be grown in large pots, containers or growbags in a similar way to growing indoor cucumbers. When the seedlings reach a height of 10cm-12cm, transplant them to their permanent positions and ensure they are well-watered. Pinch out the growing tip after 5 leaves have formed to encourage the growth of new side shoots. Select 4 healthy side shoots and remove any others. It’s often better to have less melons per plant as these are more likely to be larger and well developed, as opposed to having many smaller fruits.
The yellow female flowers, which have small swellings at the base, must be pollinated by the smaller male flowers, so when the plants are in flower allow a steady stream of air to circulate to ensure pollination. It is recommended that you select 4 set melons per plant and discard other flowers and fruits as this will provide good size melons. The plants will need some support and the growing melons are best supported on netting or laid on straw if grown over the ground.
Melons prefer a humid atmosphere so it’s best to damp down floors and keep plants well-watered. Greenhouses may need shading on very sunny days to prevent plants from scorching. Continue to remove any side shoots as they appear and feed the plants with a phosphorous and potassium based fertiliser to ensure maximum fruit yield.
Harvesting & storage
When the melons are ready for harvesting they will usually emit a typical sweet melon fragrance and show signs of splitting near the stem. Cut them cleanly from the parent plant and eat right away or place them in a fridge for up to 7 days. A cut melon will keep for about 3 days in the fridge if covered in cling film or placed in a polythene bag.
Pest & diseases
Red spider mite can be a problem but keeping the plant’s leaves moist will deter them. Whitefly can also be troublesome and can be biologically controlled by introducing Encarsia, a whitefly parasite. Powdery mildew can affect leaves causing them to shrivel. To avoid this, keep the greenhouse well ventilated and the plants well-watered.
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