Cucumis melo (85 days) Open-pollinated. Once the most popular melon in the Midwest, this 2–3 lb orange-fleshed muskmelon with a thin rind and thick flesh still deserves its good reputation. The rich flavor speaks of summer itself—juicy, fragrant, sweetly delish. Vigorous vines easily kick out two ribbed and netted fruits per plant. Introduced at the end of the 1800s as one of the first “modern” melons, it’s now been around long enough to be considered an heirloom. Keep on searching for a heart of gold, but first take a sweet melon break. ②
981 Hearts of Gold
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1 gram packet, about 20 seeds, sows 7 hills.
Muskmelons are usually heavily netted and deeply ribbed with larger seed cavities than cantaloupes. They are easier and require less heat to grow well than cantaloupes.
PM: Powdery Mildew
PRSV: Papaya Ring Spot Virus
WMV: Watermelon Mosaic Virus
ZYMV: Zucchini Yellows Mosaic Virus
About 25–35 seeds/g; watermelons about 20 seeds/g; exceptions noted.
Days to maturity are from date of transplanting.
Melon seed lives more than 10 years with proper storage. 18th- and 19th-century growers preferred to sow 4- to 10-year-old melon seed, believing that such seeds produced plants that spread less and fruits with a finer perfume.
Most Years You Can Vine-Ripen Melons In Maine Melons are a tender crop with high nitrogen requirements. They love heat, cannot stand frost, and may be damaged by night temperatures below 40°. Though they require some extra fussing, the results are sure worthwhile.
Note days to maturity and select varieties that will ripen in your climate.
Start indoors in early May (later if the spring is slow to warm) in plastic or peat pots, 2 or 3 seeds to a pot. Minimum germination soil temp 60°, optimal range 75–95°. Melons resent transplanting but will take if their roots are not disturbed.
Prepare hills in advance with liberal amounts of well-rotted manure or compost. A cold start can permanently stunt growth, so wait for a warm spell after all danger of frost to transplant, usually between May 20 and June 20. Don’t place melons next to vigorous crawling plants like cucumbers, gourds or winter squash.
Water heavily and, if soil is dry, place a temporary hay mulch around plants until a soaking rain comes.
Melons are much more sensitive than squashes so use low tunnels with floating row covers that do not abrade plants. If you have sandy soil, check daily and irrigate when needed.
Use blue, black or clear plastic mulch between plants.
Use a foliar feeding program to speed ripening.
Remove row covers before buds open. Replace them when you don’t desire any more fruit to set.
To reduce rot loss, rotate ripening melons occasionally. To reduce mouse damage, place ripening melons on bricks.
Inspect your patch daily at ripening time. Check fruits for aroma and color and pull gently on those that appear to be ripe. Most muskmelons are ripe when the pressure causes them to slip from the vine. Harvest Galia, Charentais, Honeydews before full slip. Watermelons are ripe when the tendril near the stem is dry.
Disease: Powdery Mildew Controls: Use small plots to slow spread, plant indeterminate (viney) varieties, control weed competition. Materials: sulfur and whole milk, mineral or other oils in combination with potassium bicarbonate. Disease: Bacterial Wilt Cultural control: Striped Cucumber Beetle is vector—control it; choose resistant varieties.
Fascinated by heritage melons? Amy Goldman’s Melons for the Passionate Grower (ISBN 1-57965-213-1), a mouth-watering journey through her 100 favorite varieties, is an indispensable identification and cultural aid.
For the latest results of our germination tests, please see the germination page.