May 9, 2017
Our second year of growing vegetables, which was last year, I decided to pitch in, help out my son, and expand the types of plants we had. Which also meant adding other options. My son and I turned an area of the back yard that had been used as a fire pit into a melon patch, where we planted some watermelon plants I had sprouted quite successfully from some old seeds that I wasn't sure would sprout.
Since these seeds had sat in the fridge for a few years, I wasn’t sure how well they would sprout, so after doing a bit of research I found a good option to sprout seeds, especially those that may be harder to sprout than others. It’s a simple way to provide the needed heat and moisture seeds need to get them to sprout.
First you place your seeds in a row on a piece of damp paper towel. Don’t soak the paper towel, just get it damp. Then you cover the seeds with a second piece of damp paper towel, then put them into a ziploc bag and place the bag on the top of the fridge, in the back, so that the heat from that area of the fridge will get the seeds to sprout. Leave them there for a week, then after the first week check to make sure the paper towel is still damp. You might be lucky and some seeds might have sprouted by then, but for me it wasn’t until after the second week that my watermelon seeds sprouted. I removed the sprouted seeds very carefully from the paper towel and planted them into a large plant pot and waited for them to get big enough to then transplant to the garden. Once the watermelon plants had begun to start growing vines to attach to something.
We discovered a funny surprise later on after transplanting our new watermelon plants to the melon patch. When my son and I had gotten the melon patch soil ready for planting we added some compost soil to the newly broken up soil, as well as some Miracle Grow soil, to add in nutrients to help the plants grow. We compost all of our fruit and vegetable leftovers and put them into a plastic container we keep in the kitchen. Once that container gets full we then take it outside and dump it into our composter in the backyard. As long as we keep the compost damp and stir it at least once or twice a week those scraps of vegetables and fruits break down into composted soil, which we can use in our garden to provide nutrients to our plants that we wouldn’t normally get in the clay soil that is prone to our area of Texas.
What we didn't know was that there were cantaloupe seeds in that composted soil, so we later discovered newly sprouted plants that ended up being cantaloupe plants mixed in with our watermelon plants.
The problem was that since I was new to melon growing I didn’t know which plants were watermelons and which were cantaloupes. All I knew was that I had two different types of flowers, and I knew that meant two different types of melon plants. So I did some research on Google, the go to for information, to find out which flowers were the watermelon plants and which were the cantaloupes. But it was still a funny and unexpected surprise when I discovered we had both plants in our melon patch.
In the photos above there are two different flowers, which took a bit of research to learn to distinguish between in order to ensure I was self fertilizing a female watermelon with a male watermelon flower, and vise versa for the cantaloupes. The first photo is a picture of a cantaloupe flower, which looks similar to a cucumber flower. The second image is a watermelon flower. Notice how the middle of that flower is larger, and the flower color is much lighter. Once you know what each one looks like it makes it easier to distinguish between the two.
Not knowing this melon patch would be a learning lesson lol, I didn't take very good photos of the flowers themselves to show you the differences, but I did find a few that can at least give you an idea on the differences between the two plants.
In the image above you can see how innocent looking my melon patch began. If you look at the small plant on its own on the left, that is a new cantaloupe plant. Although I didn't know what it was at the time.
From the two images above you can see that the fruit itself is easy to tell apart. The watermelon looks like a baby watermelon, and the cantaloupe looks like a small green ball. What I also wanted to show you is how quickly I went from starting off with a few small plants to tons of intertwined shoots. The only way I was able to figure out what was what at first was by the flowers, and then it was a mixture of flowers and the type of melon that was growing. But it was a mess, shoots mixed up and around each other, and yes I regretted letting them get so intertwined. But I was a newbie. It was my first time growing melons. Plus, you learn from your mistakes, and boy did I learn!!
It wasn't until it was too late that I began to find ways to separate the watermelon shoots from the cantaloupe shoots, but by then my battle with a newly discovered pest, the squash bug, had already begun taking its toll on my poor melon plants. But before I get into the melons biggest enemy, take my advice if you grow melons. Once you see shoots send them up a trellis, do not let them intertwine, because once you do it’s a mess trying to separate them without doing any damage. Oh, and just in case you're wondering what to use for a trellis, I’ll show you the most inexpensive way, using PVC pipes.
In the image above you can see my PVC trellis. I took this recently, so my newly transplanted cantaloupe and watermelons are still quite small. Oh and my dog Charlie decided he had to be in the picture lol. Anyway, I built my PVC trellis last year once the shoots began to get so long that I couldn’t make heads or tails of what was what.
I went to Lowe’s, and purchased one inch in diameter PVC. I bought five 6 foot long PVC to use for the legs, used some rebar I had leftover from another project, put the rebar in the ground leaving a few inches to put the PVC pipes over. That way the trellis won’t blow over. Which worked quite well. It’s been there since last summer, and it hasn’t fallen yet. I then used 2 foot long PVC on the top, eight pieces total, and connected them using coupling fittings in the middle, which you can see in the image below.
The reason I didn't just use 4 foot long PVC pipes here is because I wanted to make sure I could add extra legs for extra stability, something I may do this year in case I get large melons. I also used 90 degree outlet elbows for each corner, as you can see in the first image below, 90 degree outlet tees to connect to the middle bar, which you can see in the second image, and a 90 degree tee in the center for the leg in the middle of the trellis, which you can see in the third image.
I then placed small metal trellises in the center of my melon patch, similar to the ones in the first image of my PVC trellis, to attach the shoots to when they are smaller, and to keep them off the ground. Once they were long enough to attach to my PVC trellis I used gardening rope to tie each shoot to the trellis, wrapping them in different directions as needed, but trying to keep them separate. It’s easier to not only self fertilize the flowers when each shoot is separate, but it’s also easier to keep an eye out for pests when each shoot isn’t intertwined with another.
Now that you have a new idea for keeping your melon shoots separated, its time to get ready for those pesky pests that will try to devour and destroy all your hard work. My next post will identify some of the pests I've had to deal with, and a few ways to get rid of them without using pesticides and harsh chemicals.comments powered by Disqus
Hi there. I'm Rachel Kay, a Web Developer, Illustrator, & Designer, whose hobby is to be creative and artistic, while freelancing as a Web Developer building creative, modern websites.