Honeydew melons have a growing season that can be as long as 120 days. But they are well worth the wait. The pale green flesh is sweet and juicy, plus they are loaded with antioxidants and are an excellent source of vitamin C. That’s a rewarding combination of taste and nutrition!
The essentials for growing the best melons are lots of sunlight, plenty of moisture, and warm temperatures. Even with the proper conditions, you might not see a large yield at harvest, but the taste of these home-grown honeydews will put to shame their store-bought relatives.
Here's what you need to know to grow them:
1. Prepare the soil properly
Get your planting bed ready well ahead of time. Honeydews prefer a light, fertile soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. If you have clay soil, you’ll need to add organic matter to improve the drainage. Melons are heavy feeders, so mix in several inches of manure and compost to ensure steady growth.
2. Wait for warm soil
Don’t sow seeds or transplant seedlings until the weather is warm and the soil temperature has reached 70˚ F. If you’re sowing seeds directly into the soil, you can use hills or rows. If you’re using hills, space them 4-6 feet apart with 6 seeds per hill. Once the seedlings emerge, thin them to the three strongest plants using scissors.
Rows should be 5 feet apart with the seeds placed every 12 inches. Whether you use hills or rows, sow the seeds ½” deep. If you're starting your seeds indoors (recommended for colder climates), start them 3-4 weeks before it's time to plant them in the garden.
3. Add mulch around your young plants
Honeydew melons require moisture and mulch helps to retain it. It also keeps the soil warm, controls weeds, and keeps the plants clean and free of disease. Organic mulches such as grass clippings, chopped leaves, or straw are good choices.
4. Water your plants correctly
As mentioned, melon plants do not tolerate dry conditions. Their soil should be kept moist, although not soggy, during the growing season. Don’t water them overhead since that can lead to fungal disease. And, unless the soil gets extremely dry, don’t water them at all two weeks before you harvest them.
5. Weed and feed cautiously
Don’t dig around the soil to remove weeds. You could damage your plants’ roots. Pull any weeds before the plants start to vine, and then use mulch to keep them under control.
If you have good soil, you probably don’t need to feed the plants as they grow. If it’s poor or fair, you can add a liquid organic fertilizer every three weeks after the plants become established.
6. Learn when to harvest
Most honeydew melons are ready to pick between 75 and 100 days after they are planted from seed. When they are ripe, their skin will have a creamy yellow color and a smooth wax-like texture. Give the fruit a gentle thump. A deep, dense sound indicates ripeness, while a hollow rattle means there isn’t enough moisture yet.