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Growing Melons in Cool , Short-Season Areas

One of the greatest challenges for the home gardener is to grow melons in the cool, short-season climates of the Northwest. (They're a lot easier to grow in the warmer interior climates of Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana.) However, we've had success in growing them in our test garden and home garden. So in addition to sharing ideas on the two varieties we feature, I'll share some hints on ways to successfully grow them in the home garden.

CANTALOUPE (Hale's Best) - This is one of those time-tested varieties that's been around for quite some time. This delicious summer fruit has a distinctive flavor you're sure to enjoy. Small to medium in size, with sweet, tasty flesh. Its flesh color is typical salmon-orange with a yellow green rind. They are also fragrant, lending credence to the cantaloupes other name: muskmelon. You cannot beat the flavor when picked fresh from your own garden.

Watermelon grown in Puyallup, WA - 12 lbsWATERMELON (Crimson Sweet) - The fruit is nearly round, 10 x 12 inches in size. It is firm, with a bright red, crisp flesh, and is very sweet. The fruit has just a few white seeds and the exterior has green stripes. Plants produce abundant foliage, providing lots of sunburn protection. A good source of Vitamins A and C.

HINTS ON HOW TO GROW MELONS IN COOL SEASON CLIMATES

1) Start the seeds in 4-inch pots indoors, in early to mid-April.

2) Cover the seeds with to inch of fine soil. Watering with warm room temperature water.

3) Keep the seedling plants growing vigorously, do not stress them.

4) In mid-May to early June (when nighttime temperatures warm-up) the seedling plants can be planted outdoors.

5) Select a spot with full, bright sun exposure. The planting soil should be fertile, well-drained and rich in organic matter.

6) Plant them on raised soil (hills) or in a raised bed.

7) Use Solar Mulch to cover the planting soil, as it will increase the soil temperature up to 8-9 degrees at the 3-inch level. These types of mulches also help inhibit weed growth.

8) Seedling plants may also be covered with cloches or polyethylene tunnels for added warmth, and to help obtain quicker maturity. These covers may be removed as soon as daytime temperatures average 70 degrees.

9) Watch the watering closely, particularly if Solar Mulch is used. In fact, the best solution is to place a trickle tube on the soil, under the mulch, before planting. (The reason: Solar Mulch is impervious to overhead watering.) Melons are very thirty plants.

10) Since these plants are fast growing, they will require feeding at planting time and again around the 4th of July.

11) As the fruit begins to ripen we place it on the top of a turned-over coffee can, so it is off the ground (high and dry), and the underside of the fruit does not begin to rot should the soil get overly moist.

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