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Although melons (Cucumis melo) are usually referred to as fruit, they are part of the fruit vegetable and belong, like pumpkin, cucumber and zucchini, to the cucurbitaceae family (Cucurbitaceae). Archaeological finds have melons for the 3rd century BC in Egypt and Iran. Their original home are drylands in South and Central Africa. From these regions they spread through Turkey and Italy in Western Europe, arrived in the New World with the Spaniards and are now grown worldwide. With a share of 72 percent, Asia - above all China - is the leader in melon cultivation. Other major producing countries are Turkey, Iran, Egypt, India, the USA, Spain, Morocco, Kazakhstan, Guatemala, Brazil, Mexico, Venezuela and Italy. In Germany too, melons can be grown in particularly mild areas such as the southern Rhine Valley, Kraichgau or in the Palatinate.

Melons are annual and form meter-long, creeping shoots. These are covered in dark green, hairy leaves. The male flowers are strikingly yellow. From the fertilized female flowers develop to fall head-sized fruits with a hard shell. Depending on the variety, the pulp is red, orange, white or greenish-yellow. Melons contain vitamins, carotene and minerals. Especially watermelons have a water content of 90 percent and are especially popular in summer as a juicy thirst quencher with low calories.
Generally melons are divided into sugar melons and watermelons (Citrullus lanatus). Watermelons are only remotely related to the sugar melons: The leaves are strongly pinnate and the depending on the variety dark green or green striped fruits can bring up to ten kilograms on the scales. Cocoa melons (Cucurbita melo), in turn, are divided into three groups: Cantaloupe melons - including the popular French Charentais melon - have firm, orange flesh and a clearly continuous, depending on the variety smooth, wrinkled or slightly warty shell.

Charentais melons

The Charentais melon is one of the cantaloupe melons, which have an orange meat and are not as durable as honey or watermelons

Nets like 'Benary's sugar ball' are covered in a corky, net-like pattern. The pulp is mild-sweet and aromatic. Honeydew melons have a smooth, slightly ribbed shell in some varieties, which when fully ripe colors lemon yellow or light olive green.

honeydew melon

Honeydew melons have a smooth to ribbed, yellow or light olive green shell

Location and ground

Melons are heavy-grained and thrive in warm, sunny and protected locations on deeply loosened, humus-rich and nutrient-rich soils. The earth should warm up quickly and store the water well. Sugar melons can be grown both in the greenhouse and in the field. In the field, a black mulch foil helps to heat the ground. Since watermelons were originally a desert plant, they need more heat than sugar melons. They therefore react sensitively to low night temperatures and should also be cultivated in our greenhouse in the greenhouse. Only in particularly mild areas or wine-growing regions can melons be grown outside. Both watery and sweet melons have new, small-fruited varieties that thrive in many locations on full sun and sheltered flower beds.

Mixed culture and crop rotation

If the melons are cultivated in the bed, they need a lot of space and should not be shaded by other vegetables. A good pre-culture is a green manure of legumes, as melons are one of the heavyweights.

Sowing and pre-culture

Melons must be brought forward. The pre-culture takes about four weeks, with watermelons usually one to two weeks longer. The seeds should be sown individually in small pots with seed soil. Place them in a bright, warm place and keep the soil evenly moist. The optimum germination temperature is about 25 degrees Celsius. The plants should be hardened before planting and must only go outside when the temperature no longer falls below ten degrees Celsius.

Planting and care

Plant the seedlings from mid-May to early June at intervals of 80 to 100 centimeters into the greenhouse. You can grow the plants on strings or trellises to save space or spread out flat. It is important to water the melons regularly and well, if possible not with cold water. Because: Strong temperature fluctuations reduce fruit quality as well as lack of water or excess. Once the first fruits are visible, pour every two to three days and each time so much that the soil is moistened to a depth of 20 centimeters.This happens until the fruits have reached their typical size. Especially in the greenhouse you should only water in the morning, so that the surface of the earth dries until the evening. Otherwise there is a risk of fungal attack.
With sugar melons, which are cultivated in warm situations in the field, not necessarily a cut is necessary. Otherwise, the plants must be tended in June. In other words, at ground level cultivation, one cuts off the main drive after the fifth leaf. The resulting side shoots after eight to ten leaves also tee off. These branch out again and put on female flowers and fruits. Once the melons are a little stronger, leave two to three leaves on the fruit shoots and then tweak the shoot tips.

Melons break off

Especially sugar melons should be fried in June: cap the main shoot after the fourth or fifth leaf

In the greenhouse, pull the main drive under the roof and remove all formed side shoots up to a height of 80 centimeters. In addition, you should only leave on a plant about three to five fruits, so that they can mature well. Since the fruits of watermelons develop at the ends of the ranks, they do not need to be cut.
For ground-level cultivation, one should chop the rows regularly and weed germinating weeds until the rank shoots of the melon plants completely cover the soil. A thick layer of straw or small planks protect the fruits that rest on the ground from moisture and rot.

Protect melons from moisture

An underlaid board or a thick layer of straw keeps nets from getting wet and dirty. Even the fruits of thin-shell cantaloupe melons easily rot if they rest directly on the ground

Harvest and storage

Depending on the location and variety of ripe melons from late July or early August. Cantaloupe and nettle melons announce the right harvest time with their delicious scent. Another indication of the picking maturity is a circular crack around the stalk, Cantaloupe melons often form there additional hair-thin, radial cracks, from which leak tiny sugar droplets. With increasing maturity, the characteristic cork cells develop on the shell of the nets. The juicy, delicately melting, mineral-rich flesh makes it the ideal thirst quencher on hot summer days. Honeydew melons do not offer any of these unique maturity signs. Mostly you have to rely on the variety-typical peel paint. With watermelons a knock test helps: ripe fruits sound hollow and dull. Where they rest on the ground, the shell turns yellowish. Connoisseurs wait and then harvest the fruits only when the fruit trough dries. When harvesting, cut off the stalk with a sharp knife.

Harvest melons

When harvesting, cut off the stalk with a sharp knife as soon as small cracks appear at the point of attachment and the fruit begins to smell intense

Cantaloupe melons can not be stored for long and should be eaten quickly. Nets are storable at seven to ten degrees Celsius and high humidity for up to one month. Watermelons should also be stored at seven to ten degrees Celsius, but not in the refrigerator.

Of the melons there are over 150 varieties. Frequently offered on the market are F1 hybrids whose seeds can not be used as seed.

Cantaloupe melons do not last long. The flesh of the orange fruits is firm and tastes aromatic:

  • 'Streits Freiland Gr├╝ngenetzt': early-ripening open-air variety, small but very aromatic fruits
  • 'Delicious from Pilnitz': variety for warm locations and for the greenhouse
  • 'Murrmel': Charentais melon comes from Murr at the Murr in Baden-W├╝rttemberg, but tastes just as aromatic as the French original

Charentais melon 'Murrmel'

Charentais melon 'Murrmel' is just as aromatic as the French original. The name is not a typo: The biodynamic breeder from Murr an der Murr (Baden-W├╝rttemberg) attaches importance to the regional reference of the variety

musk-melon characterized by their corky and net-like pattern:

  • 'Benary's sugar ball': tastes mild-sweet and aromatic
  • 'Kolchosnitsa': suitable for both the greenhouse and the outdoors, sweet, soft meat

To the honeydew melon with their smooth shell count:

  • 'Petit Gris de Rennes': The variety also matures in less warm areas. It delivers small fruits with gray-green peel and sweet, orange flesh

Honey melon 'Petit Gris de Rennes'

The honey melon 'Petit Gris de Rennes' also matures in less warm areas. The aromatic fruits of the French origin breed between 500 and 800 grams

  • 'Blenheim Orange': oval, ripe and fragrant fruits weighing up to one kilogram, very sweet meat

To the thirst-quenching watermelons belong:

  • 'Sugar Baby': known and precocious variety with red meat, weighing up to three kilograms. The dark green, thick and hard shell makes all the melons that botanically belong to the tank berries. The salmon-colored pulp is juicy and sweet
  • 'Small Shining Light': well-tried, early Russian variety
  • 'Moon & Stars': with patterned leaves and fruits, suitable only for the greenhouse
  • 'Crimson Sweet': broad green stripes on light green skin, dark red flesh, very juicy and firm

'Sugar Baby'

The variety 'Sugar Baby' is the most famous among the watermelons

Diseases and pests

At too high humidity and waterlogging, fungal diseases such as the Fusarium wilt occur. One should therefore pay attention to a sufficient planting distance and melons do not grow where cucurbits were cultivated in the past year. Especially honeydew melons are prone to fungal diseases in the field. As a precaution you should spray a slurry of field horsetail every three weeks for three consecutive days. Sugar melons can be attacked by both the real and downy mildew. As a precautionary measure, more resistant varieties can be cultivated and, in addition, you should maintain a crop rotation of at least four years. In addition, gifts of horsetail tea make the foliage more resilient. In a greenhouse culture, aphids can occur. Then the use of beneficials such as lacewings offers. Watermelons generally show good health in dry and warm regions.

Video Board: Matt Maeson - Melons.

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