Melon, thought of as an exotic fruit, can be grown in the UK. Full of vitamins; this watery fruit is complimentary to a number of dishes and desserts.
Melon seeds can be sown indoors from late March and propagated and placed on a sunny windowsill before being re-potted. Sow two seeds in a 3 inch pot and you can grow on the strongest of the two. Cover them in clear plastic until the seedlings come through if you do not use a propagator.
Melons can be grown in growbags and large containers, ideally in a greenhouse for the humidity, as well as directly in the soil outside in a sunny and sheltered position. They should be hardened off and planted out from late May. If you are growing them in a greenhouse, protection from direct, strong sunlight will help reduce mildew on the foliage. Red spiders can also cause problems but can be kept at bay with high humidity.
They will spread out and need a vast amount of space being vigorous climbers and so you will need to use a fairly large area if you are growing in the ground or a strong support structure if you are growing upwards in containers or growbags. The foliage and stems are large and, obviously the fruit becomes heavy. Add netted support for the forming fruit or alternatives to make a hammock-type support, such as a bra! If you are growing melon on the ground, place something underneath the forming fruit to prevent them from rotting.
It is recommended that your melon plants are placed in warm, well-drained soil and you can even lay some weed supressing fabric and plant through the holes. Ensure the soil is fertile, rich and moisture retentive. Water regularly.
Start to pinch out, to encourage side shoots and then pinch those out, leaving the stronger side shoots. This will encourage growth.
Remove any protective covering when they start to flower, as this will aide pollination. Once the fruits begin to form, take off the small, young fruit and leave 3-4 of the strongest fruit on each stem. Melons are thirsty plants, however, once the fruits have swelled and the foliage is dying off you can reduce the watering. You can remove any more flowers that produce.
Melons are fully ripened and mature when they have changed colour and will have a sweet smell. They should be cut off and not pulled away from the stem. Colour and skin texture will depend on the variety you are growing. For example, Galia has a netted type skin texture and pattern and will turn more yellow.
Melon can be kept in the fridge for up to a week, and if it is cut open, it should be wrapped and will last for approximately 3-4 days.