Thursday, October 4, 2018

Marvelous Melon Experiment

I know for a fact ... juicy, sweet, melons can be grown on Denman Island because I buy them at our Denman Saturday Farmer's Market!
I had access to a second portable greenhouse this summer and decided to try my hand at growing several varieties of melon in containers. Through research on the topic of container planting for melons, this is possible with one plant per (at least) 5 gallon pot. I started the seeds a bit late, but still got a few melons to fully ripen on the vine. To judge ripeness; watermelons are ripe when the tendril nearest the fruit is dry. Ripe cantaloupe will easily detach from the vine with light finger pressure. This is why most grocery store melon is lacking in flavor... when commercially grown they are picked, shipped and sold before ripening. The problem being, melons do not ripen off the vine

Cream of Saskatchewan Watermelon
 'Cream of Saskatchewan' Watermelon from Seed Savers Exchange ... was "brought to Saskatchewan by Russian immigrants and does well in cool northern climates. Fruits are round, up to 10" in diameter and 4-10 pounds. A rare treat with sweet, white flesh, exceptional flavor. Pale green skin with dark stripes. Very thin rind, must be handled with care - strictly garden to table."

This melon is indeed delicate and its pale flesh is unusual to the eye. It was crisp and extremely juicy with a very thin rind. The flavor was mild and not as sweet as I had hoped. I feel this delicate melon required more sunshine and heat than my north facing property could provide.

Seascape Strawberries and 
 Cream of Saskatchewan Watermelon
As usual, the Seascape Strawberries did not disappoint! These huge, juicy, sweet berries produced a larger June crop than usual. The second crop is always very impressive with even larger fruit. Finally at this years Denman Island Blackberry Faire, my fresh strawberry entry won first prize in the Berry Category of the produce judging. Although shortly after that the rains came and the rodents took advantage of my sparse garden visits. The plants are loaded with large green berries that will not ripen unless we get some sunny, dry days soon. My last big harvest in this photo was September 11th, 2018. 

Earlichamp Cantaloupe
'Earlichamp' Melon is from West Coast Seeds, "a cantaloupe with slight sutures and heavy netting. The fruit is large and heavy. The bright orange flesh is cool and sweet."
These melons were impressive to watch grow. The tiny pollinated fruits seemed to explode in size every day! I knew they were ripe and days away from picking when I opened the greenhouse and the sweet aroma of ripe melon filled the air ... simply intoxicating! 
Earlichamp Cantaloupe
When ripe the large, heavy fruits easily released from the vine. Again, I expected more sweetness from this melon. This may sound odd, but their aroma was sweeter than their taste. 

It was an interesting experiment and next year I may try them again but in the garden with black plastic mulch to increase the soil temperature and possibly a poly tunnel to increase the air temperature. I hope the garden will get more sunshine hours than the new location of the greenhouses this year. Melon plants need 8-10 weeks of good, hot growing weather from the middle of June to the end of August. So if you are planning to give them a try in your 2019 garden or greenhouse; mark your calendar, order your seeds early and start them indoors or in a greenhouse in the third week of April. Transplant at the end of May or early June when the seedlings are 5-6 weeks old. Remember, melons do not ripen off the vine, so plan to leave them intact even into September.
After growing up in Alberta, this was a rewarding growing experience and I'm planning more marvelous melon experiments for 2019!

Until next time... Happy Thanksgiving and Bon App├ętit

Photos by Sally Rae  

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