Success with Growing Melons, Part 2

 

Mayor Canary melon in July. Photo Pam Dawling

I recently posted Success with Growing Melons, Part 1, which took us from the gleam in the eye to transplanting or sowing. Here I cover the rest of the season, and finish with more resources.

Care of Melon Plants

Avoid working the crop (including harvesting) when the foliage is wet, as fungal diseases spread this way. In bare soil, hoe soon after the seedlings emerge, and thin the plants if you sowed thickly. Larger spacing can be used later in the year when vines grow faster.

If the weather is less warm than you hoped, use hoops and thick rowcover until you are more confidant in the temperatures, then switch to insect netting, such as ProtekNet. We hoop and net our melons immediately after transplanting or sowing, to keep the bugs off. We keep the netting on until we see female flowers (they have miniature melons between the flower and the plant). Melons require pollination, so it is important to remove the netting.

Muskmelons on black plastic mulch over drip tape, flowering in early July. Photo Bridget Aleshire

Drip irrigation and plastic mulch can do a lot to improve the quality, yield and earliness of melons. Plastic mulches work well with rowcover, as there will not be weeds growing out of sight, concealed by the rowcover during the critical weed-free period as the vines grow. Plastic mulches can also reduce cucumber beetle numbers, as they deter egg laying and larval migration. Reflective mulches especially reduce beetle populations.

If weeds emerge through the mulch, pull them slowly, while stepping next to the melon stem. Melon roots near the surface can easily be injured. As melons ripen, put a piece of cardboard under the fruit to help prevent rot. With the late summer planting, you can pinch off new flowers to steer the plant’s energy into fruit that has already set. Keep the soil around melons watered with 1-2” (2-5cm) per week, up until the last week or two before harvest. Holding back on water during this time leads to sweeter melons.

Crop Rotations for Melons

Because of the many cucurbit pests and diseases, good crop rotation is important. We have only two big cucurbit plantings, winter squash and watermelon. These are three years and seven years apart in our ten-year rotation. Our other melons are grown in smaller amounts and fitted into spaces that also fit in with the rotation concept. Cucumber beetles are quite mobile, so rotation to a plot next to last year’s crop will not reduce their numbers.

August harvest of Pike muskmelons. Photo from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Succession Crops of Melons

In our climate we can sow melons four times, a month apart. The first row is from transplants, set outside May 3-6. We direct sow the second bed on May 25, then June 25 and July 6-15 for a “Last Chance” crop. The recommended last date for sowing melons is 100 days before your average first frost date.

Pests of Melons

Like most cucurbits, melons are vulnerable to striped and spotted cucumber beetles. These pests chew on plants and spread diseases, such as bacterial wilt and mosaic virus. Protect against cucumber beetles with rowcover or insect netting on hoops, installed at sowing or transplanting, or hunt them with tweezers every morning on leaves and inside flowers, when beetles are more slow-moving.

Striped cucumber beetle in squash flower.
Photo Pam Dawling

Watch for aphids, as they can also spread viruses. You can usually hose off leaves or apply an insecticidal soap to kill aphids before they inflict too much damage.

As always, encouraging beneficial insects and predators will reduce pest numbers. Soldier beetles (Pennsylvania Leatherwings) and Wolf Spiders are good predators. Predatory stink bugs, assassin bugs, spined soldier bugs and two native egg parasitoids will reduce Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) numbers, but do not give adequate control. Soapy water will kill BMSB nymphs – be cautious: cucurbit seedlings are sometimes damaged by soap sprays. In one study, one spraying killed about two thirds of the adult bugs. Other studies found soaps ineffective. Heterohabditis nematodes, available commercially, can control cucumber beetles, and may carry over into the next year.

Rowcover or insect netting will keep beetles from vines, but will need to be removed (except for parthenocarpic varieties) when the female flowers open. Some people report good control using the yellow plastic sticky traps along with the cucumber beetle lure sachets sold by Johnny’s Seeds. These can last a whole season and be moved from one crop to the next, suspended on wire hoops. To make your own sticky traps, use yellow plastic cups stapled to sticks so the cups are just above foliage height. Coat the cups with 1 part petroleum jelly to 1 part household detergent (if you are not prevented by USDA Organic certification) or the insect glues available commercially. Cucumber beetles are attracted by clove and cinnamon oils, which can be used to lure them. Use one trap per 1000 ft2 (92 m2). Another approach is to grow a trap crop of a crop particularly attractive to the beetles, such as Cocozelle summer squash, Seneca or Dark Green zucchini, along the edge of the field. The trap crop is then flamed or tilled in when pest numbers build up. If all else fails, and action is imperative, Spinosad will kill them. Neem doesn’t kill them, but does deter them.

Ice Cream personal sized melon. Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Diseases of Melons

To minimize diseases, choose disease-resistant melon varieties, provide favorable growing conditions, plow in or remove and compost any plant refuse, and control insect pests. Diseased foliage reduces the ability of the fruit to develop sugars.

In warm, humid climates like ours, melons are subject to powdery mildew, which can wipe out a melon crop if not caught in time. Mildewed leaves cannot photosynthesize well, so the yield and flavor of the melons will not be as good.

There are good photos in Identifying Diseases of Vegetables from Penn State. The University of Tennessee has a concise list of melon diseases and pests in its publication Producing Cantaloupes in Tennessee. The Cornell University Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management has information on dealing organically with most common diseases:

  • Angular Leaf Spot (bacterial) occurs during cool, wet weather. Symptoms include interveinal browning of the leaf and small round spots on the fruit. The leaf damage is tan, not dark.
  • Anthracnose, a fungus disease, is most common during warm rainy weather. It causes angular haloed dark-brown spots on the leaves and dark, round, sunken spots on the fruit.
  • Bacterial Wilt (Erwinia) causes sudden dramatic wilting and death of the vines.
  • Black Rot/Gummy Stem Blight (Didymella bryoniae) is a fungus occurring with cool or warm wet weather.
  • Downy Mildew occurs in wet, cool spells and plants may recover if the weather heats up.
  • Mosaic Virus causes a yellow and green mottling of the leaves and reduces plant vigor.
  • Phytophthora Blight occurs in some regions but not others.
  • Powdery Mildew occurs during hot, dry spells.
  • Scab is not usually a problem to those growing resistant varieties. The fungus, Cladosponum cucumerinum, is worse in cold wet weather. Try compost teas or baking soda spray.
Pike muskmelons being harvested August 26.
Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Harvesting Melons

See my post on harvesting melons

“Days to maturity” in catalogs are usually from direct seeding; subtract about 10 days to calculate from transplanting to harvest date. At the beginning of July our Asian melons start coming in, following those, our Kansas muskmelons.

I recommend harvesting daily, in the mornings, once the dew has dried, to avoid spreading fungal diseases.

With muskmelons, when the background-color of the skin beneath the “netting” changes from gray-green to buff or a yellowish color, the melon is almost ripe. A honeydew melon will turn a light yellow-white color when it’s ripe.

“Full slip” is the term for melons that separate cleanly from the stem with only the very lightest pressure. Waiting too long leads to rotten fruit, especially in hot weather. Look carefully at the point where the stem joins the melon, and as it ripens you will see a circular crack start to open around the stem. This small disk of melon stays with the stem when it slips off the vine. More usually, growers give the stems a “little nudge” to see if the melon will fall off the vine. Depending on the delay between harvest and sale, you may need to pick at half-slip or three-quarter slip (when half or a quarter of the stem disk sticks and breaks rather than slipping free). Harvest your melons at half-slip if you are going away for the weekend, or you worry the groundhogs will get it if you don’t. But if you are harvesting to eat right away, harvest at full slip for best flavor and aroma.

Ripe Mayor Canary melon.
Photo Wren Vile

Crenshaw and Canary melons require a good tug (“forced slip”). Honeydew, Charentais, and Piel de Sapo must be cut from the vine – don’t wait for them to slip!

If you are growing melons on a large scale, it will be worth buying a refractometer to test sugar levels. Melons at full slip should register 12-14%, while those at half-slip should show at least 10%. Half of the final sugars accumulate in the last week of ripening. Full flavor develops a day or two after picking, but the sugar content does not increase. I like nothing better than eating fruit fresh from the field, still warm from the sun.

Melons do not need to be rushed to the cooler as greens and sweet corn do, so they can be picked and set in the shade until a full load of produce is ready to be moved. Melons are subject to sun-scald if left unprotected in the sun after harvest.

Kansas muskmelon.
Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Melon Storage

Storage time for melon depends on the type. Relative humidity should be 85-95% for best results. Refrigeration is a tad too cold. Honeydew can be stored up to three weeks at 50°F (10°C). Store other melons at 45-50°F (7-10°C) for 7-14 days.

Muskmelons can be stored at 36-41°F (2-5°C) and 95% relative humidity, for up to 2 weeks.

Muskmelon bruising and splitting can happen if melons are dropped more than 8” (20 cm) onto hard surfaces. When they are stacked more than six layers deep or are transported over rough roads, pressure bruising can result, leading to discolored flesh.

Sun Jewel Asian melon. Fast-maturing “early” melons can also be grown late in the season.
Photo Mary Kranz

Season Extension for Melons

Early crops can be grown in a hoophouse, using transplants, with rowcover while the nights are chilly. Research at Virginia State University has shown success with Asian melons transplanted into hoophouses at the end of March at Randolph Farm, in Petersburg, Virginia.

Late crops can be covered with rowcover to fend off a few light frosts. Pollinators won’t be able to get at the flowers, but that doesn’t matter if you already have enough fruits on the plants. You can pinch off immature fruits to concentrate the plants’ energy into ripening the bigger fruits. It isn’t worth it to coddle every last little nubbin of a fruit, as the smallest ones won’t ripen in cool temperatures and will get killed by heavier frosts.

A true cantaloupe melon: Noir des Carmes. Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Melon Seed Saving

Melon varieties need to be isolated by 660’ (200 m) for home use, and a minimum of 0.5-1 mile (0.8-1.6 km) for seed for sale. Note that all 8 melon groups cross with each other.

Resources for Growing Melons

Melons for the Passionate Grower, Amy Goldman

ATTRA, Cucumber Beetles: Organic and Biorational Integrated Pest Management

Oklahoma Cooperative Extension Service Guide for Identification and Management of Diseases of Cucurbit Vegetable Crops (Cantaloupe, Cucumber, Pumpkin, Squash and Watermelon)

Success with Growing Melons, Part 1

 

Pike muskmelon. Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

I have written a couple of posts about growing melons, so go to those links for the basics. Here I am going to dive deep into tips for increasing your success by paying attention to the details. I dove so deep I made two pots. part 2 will follow in a couple of weeks.

I wrote a post, Fruit for the Month: July, in my monthly series about small fruits that can be grown sustainably in a mid-Atlantic climate, with melons as the focus. In our climate, July is the month to start harvesting muskmelons (often called cantaloupes), Asian melons, and canary melons. Watermelons are slower to ripen.

Basic needs for success with growing melons

Melons love warm, sunny days and need 80-100 days from seed sowing to harvest. For good production, melons need warm weather, along with a steady supply of water. Melon plants also need good air circulation, so leaves and fruit can dry fairly quickly after dew or rainfall. To help prevent the spread of diseases, rotate crops and avoid growing them where other cucurbits were planted in the previous year or two.

Melons thrive in well-drained soil, sandy loam, or in clay soils that have been good levels of organic matter, so long as they get plenty of sunshine and warmth. Soil pH should be 6-7 for healthy melons and good yields. Encourage drought-resilient crops by using drip irrigation, so that roots grow deep. Look for resistance to diseases you know to be a problem in your area.

They have no frost tolerance. Vines can sprawl and cover a 4’ (1.2 m) bed, or fill even a 7’ (2.13 m) row when grown on the flat, and for a longer harvest from each planting, do not crowd them.

A melon plant in July. Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Melon seed specs are the same as cucumbers for size and weight: 1000 seeds/oz, 36 seeds/gm. 0.5oz sows 100′, 6 oz/1000’ at 6 seeds/ft. (100 seeds, or 11gm/m at 2.5 cm spacing.). Melon yields will be affected by irrigation during fruit development, but not by watering levels during vegetative or flowering stages. Adequate water is especially important in the seedling stage and during fruiting. Marketable yields of muskmelons can be 7,000-10,000 fruits per acre (17,500-25,000 per hectare) when grown on plastic mulch, and down to half that on bare ground. Most melon plants will yield 3 or 4 good melons.

 

Types of melons

Cucumis Melon Varieties

Jeff McCormack of Saving Our Seeds distinguishes 8 types of Cucumis melon:

  • Cucumis melo reticulatus Muskmelons (which we commonly call cantaloupes) are in this group. They have orange or green flesh and usually have netted skin. They slip from the vine when ripe (perhaps with a nudge).
  • True cantaloupes, Cucumis melo cantalupensis, are rare in the US. They are rough and warty rather than netted. Fedco Seeds sells Prescott Fond Blanc and Petit Gris de Rennes. Charentais melons are true cantaloupes. They are smaller, round, good-flavored orange-fleshed melons. I have successfully grown 78-day Savor, a 2lb (0.9kg) melon with a green-grey skin and deep orange flesh.
  • Cucumis melo inodorus is the group of winter melons: Casabas, Crenshaws, Honeydews and Canary melons. They have a smooth rind, no musky odor, and they must be cut from the vine – they will not slip. Crenshaw melons are large oblong 78-day melons with light yellow skin and very aromatic pale creamy orange flesh. Canary melons are smooth yellow 4lb (1.8kg) fruits with white flesh and are quite sweet.75 days to maturity. We have had good success with Mayor. Honeydew melons are fast-maturing, smooth skinned oval melons, usually with pale-green flesh, although Honey Orange is salmon-colored. 3lbs (1.4kg), 74 days.

    Mayor canary melon. Photo Wren Vile
  • Cucumis melo dudaim includes Plum Granny and Queen Anne’s Pocket Melon, grown for aroma, not flavor.
  • The four groups less-common in the US are m. flexuosus (snake melons including Armenian cucumbers), C. m. conomon (Asian and Oriental pickling melons), C. m. chito (mango melon and others named after other fruits), C. m. momordica (snap melons).

Of these types, we mostly grow muskmelons. Externally, they turn beige and slip from the vine when ripe. They have a yellowish-buff skin with a raised netting, and sometimes lengthwise sutures (ribbing).  They have soft sweet orange flesh, with a complex sweet aromatic flavor, and the 3–7lbs (1.5–3kg) fruits take 75-84 days to mature. They are sometimes divided into two types: Eastern varieties are sutured (scalloped in shape) and can have a very short shelf life, while Western ones are typically not sutured but are netted (covered with a corky mesh of lines), and they will usually hold for two weeks after harvest. I see many netted and scalloped melons, so I don’t use this classification.

Kansas muskmelon. Photo Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

Kansas (90d from transplanting) is an heirloom muskmelon with excellent flavor, fine texture and enough sturdiness to stand up to humid weather and variable rainfall. The 4lb (1.8 kg), oval fruits are sutured and moderately netted. They are hardy, productive, with good resistance to sap beetles that can destroy fruit of other varieties. They ripen almost all the way out to the rind (not much waste!).   Pick these at full slip, and be sure to inhale the aroma at the stem end, as you carry them to the table.

Pike (85d) (see photo at top of the post) was bred for growing in unirrigated clay soil. It is vigorous, high-yielding, disease-resistant and (depending on irrigation) it produces 3-7lb (1.4-3.1 kg) fruits with great flavor. We have also had success with Edisto 47 (88d OP) about 6-7″ (15-17 cm) in diameter.  With resistance to ALS, PM, and DM, it exceeds the disease resistance of many hybrids. Hales Best has also done well here. For Downy mildew resistance, tolerance to cucumber beetles, and great flavor, grow Trifecta from Commonwealth Seeds and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange.

Trifecta muskmelons from Commonwealth Seeds.

Other melon types

 The University of Kentucky has a publication on specialty melons.

Sun Jewel Asian melon. Photo Mary Kranz

Fastest to produce a crop are the 65-day Asian melons such as Torpedo (replaced Sun Jewel), or Early Silver Line. A good type for people with short growing seasons, provided you can make a warm spot for them. These 1-2lb (0.5-1kg) melons have refreshing crisp white flesh and are pleasantly sweet without over-doing it. The long oval fruits average 7″ x 3 1/2″ and are pale yellow with shallow white sutures (“seams”). Some people disparage them as “cucumber melons,” but their good points are earliness, tolerance of chilly weather, being easy to grow and having a pleasant flavor. They ripen to a more buttery yellow and slip off the vine when ripe. Plants are resistant to downy and powdery mildews, and can be very productive. We buy seed from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Galia tropical melons have green flesh, yellow-tan skins and a round shape.

Arava Galia-type melon.
Photo Fedco Seeds

Personal-sized melons

I wrote a post for Mother Earth News Organic Gardening Blog about personal size melons, something we tried for a couple of years. These “individual serving” melons weigh about 2-2.5 lbs (1 kg) each, compared to standard cantaloupes at 3-6lbs (1.5-2.5kg) each. To serve, just cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Add ice cream if you like. We tried Tasty Bites (they top out at 3lbs/1.4kg) and Sugar Cube 2–2 1/2 lb (1kg). The advantage of having a smaller fruit was not more than the disadvantage of harvesting smaller fruits for us.

Tasty Bites personal-sized melon
Photo Territorial Seeds

Sowing melon seeds indoors

More and earlier success comes with sowing melon seeds indoors, where the right temperatures can happen earlier in the year. Melons are a bit finicky in their youth, but given a strong start, they can do very well. Melons need slightly warmer temperatures than cucumbers. The seeds take 8.4 days to emerge at 68°F (20°C), 4 days at 77°F (25°C), and 3.1 days at 86°F (30°C).

Cucurbits are not very easily transplanted, so choose a method that minimizes root damage, such as soil blocks, Winstrip trays or 2” (5 cm) deep cell flats that are easy to eject plants from. Sow 2-3 seeds per cell 0.5” (1 cm) deep.

Watermelon transplants in a Winstrip plug flat. Watermelons give earlier harvests from transplants, and plants in plug flats transplant easier then from open flats.
Photo Pam Dawling

Sow 3-4 weeks before you intend to plant out: we sow our first melons 4/15 to transplant with hoops and rowcover 5/6, which is a week after our last frost date. Temperatures below 45°F (7°C) can stunt growth. If the spring is cold, just wait it out. Melons will do OK with fluctuating temperatures, provided they are not too cold.

After germination, the temperature should be reduced to 75°F (24°C). We always ensure our melons get a spot in the greenhouse with very good light and no drafts.

Keep the soil moist and when seedlings have reached 2” (5cm) in height, single them (thin to one plant per cell) by cutting off weak seedlings at soil level, leaving one strong seedling per pot or cell. Keep temperature above 70°F (21°C) during the day and 60°F (16°C) at night.

Once the first true leaves appear, lower the temperature to 65°F (18°C) and reduce watering a little. Cucurbit seedlings are sometimes damaged by foliar sprays, especially ones including soaps, so avoid killing by mistaken kindness.

Harden off the plants for a week, by reducing water, before you set them into the garden. Set them outside in a shady area on warm days, gradually increasing the time outside each day from one hour to two hours, to three, and so on. Alternatively, use shadecloth and increase the sun exposure by an hour a day.

If you want a faster harvest than you’d get from direct sowing, but you don’t want to do transplants, you can chit (pre-sprout) the seed. Put the seed on damp paper towels, roll them up and put the bundles in plastic bags loosely closed, or plastic sandwich boxes, not sealed. Keep at 70-85°F (21-29°C). Check twice a day (this also introduces fresh air to the seeds), and sow before the root reaches the length of the seed. Seeds which are already sprouting will not need more watering after sowing until the seedlings emerge, unless the soil is dry as dust.

Stephen Albert writes the very informative Harvest to Table website, which includes step-by-step details on pre-sprouting melon (and other) seeds. It takes only a few days, and gets the tiny seedling through the tough seed coat. How to Plant and Grow Melons

Direct sowing of melon seeds

Summer squash plants under ProtekNet insect netting.
Pam Dawling

For sowing in open ground wait until the soil temperatures is 59°F (15°C), the minimum to germinate melon seeds. We make a furrow 0.5-0.75” (1.3-1.8cm) deep, water the furrow if the soil is dry, put one seed every 6” (15 cm), pull the soil back over the seeds and tamp down. Growers commonly space seeds at 2” (5cm), but using the wider spacing gives us no problems, and uses less seed. We cover all our early cucurbit sowings with rowcover until the plants start to flower (about a month) as we have many pests and diseases. Later sowings get ProtekNet insect netting rather than rowcover. When the plants start to flower, we remove the covers, hoe and thin to 18-24” (45-60 cm). Melons can use 7.5-15 ft2 (0.7-1.4 m2) each on plastic mulch, and double that space on bare ground. Melon rows are typically up to 6-10’ (2-3 m) apart.

It is possible to sow cucurbits through plastic mulch by jabbing holes in the plastic and popping the seeds in. This method leads to earlier harvests, as the mulch warms the soil, and there will be no weeds.

For a main crop, we direct sow 5/25 and 6/25. Maximum germination temperature is 100°F (38°C).

Transplanting melons

Melons are admittedly delicate to transplant. Wait for the right conditions and take great care when handling the plants.

Check your local weather forecast to ensure that your melon plants will not be subjected to chilly, windy conditions when they are newly transplanted. Warm overcast conditions late in the day are best for transplanting, and rowcover (preferably on hoops to reduce abrasion) can be used to provide warmer and less breezy conditions.

Before starting transplanting, check the soil temperature: the soil should be at least 70°F (21°C) for melon survival. Melon plants exposed to temperatures cooler than recommended might not set fruit later on. One way to speed up soil warming is to cover the area with black plastic mulch for 1-3 weeks prior. Cut an x-shaped slit where for each plant and hold the edges of the plastic down with rocks. We space our melons at 2’ (60cm) apart in the row, with rows 6’ (2m) apart.

To help reduce transplant shock, water the flat (or pots) well the day before and again one hour before transplanting. Avoid disturbing the roots when transplanting. Cucurbit transplants are often leggy, and they should be planted so that the entire stem up to the base of the leaves is below soil level, otherwise the fragile stem is liable to get broken. The stems will do better protected in the ground. Water the soil thoroughly. If you are not using plastic mulch, hoe as needed for a few weeks, and wait until hot weather before spreading organic mulch (straw, spoiled hay or dry tree leaves), as this keeps the soil cool, and as I stressed already, melons like heat. Depending on soil fertility, you may want to add fish emulsion to encourage growth.

Another tip for protecting transplants against insect damage is to mix up a kaolin clay soup, invert the plug flat and dip the upside-down plants in the liquid before taking them to be transplanted. Three cups to one gallon of water make up into a suitably thick mix for this technique. Surround is the best-known brand. You can also spray the plants during their growth, with Surround. This does wash off if it rains or you use overhead irrigation, and you will need to reapply (or switch to netting if the plants are not yet flowering.)

Muskmelons flowering in early July. Planted on biodegradable plastic mulch. Photo Bridget Aleshire

Planting leeks, Growing for Market melon article, different weather

Planting leeks has been one of our main jobs this week. Two beds finished, three to go. When I wrote about this last year, I said we were trying leek seedlings in flats (rather than bare-root from an outdoor seedbed) for the second year, and doing the transplanting 2-3 weeks earlier than with our outdoor seedbed method, from the same sowing dates.

Leek planting diagram. Pam Dawling

Leek planting diagram.
Pam Dawling

This year we again used flats, and I think this will be the way of the future for us. It is easier to keep weeds at bay in flats than outdoors. We’ve cut back from 20 flats to 15, for the same number of beds, and still have plenty of plants. Next year, perhaps a further cut.

But I’m a bit unhappy with the root damage that occurs in getting the close-planted seedlings out of the flats. I know some growers trim leek roots before planting, but we never have. Extricating them from flats does produce a root-pruning of a sort. Last year’s leeks grew well, so I think I can ease back on worrying! Some growers use plug flats, but I can’t imagine having enough coldframe space for 5 beds x 4 rows x 90ft x 2 (6″ spacing) seedlings. 3600 plugs. Plus up to 10% spare to allow for non-germinating seeds, and for selecting the strongest.

A bed of overwintered leeks Photo credit Twin Oaks Community
A bed of overwintered leeks
Photo credit Twin Oaks Community

In 2013, I wrote about calculating the seed-row length for outdoor seed beds, and about using flats for the first time. We sowed 20 flats 12″ x 24″ with 6 rows in each. We found we had more plants than we needed, and we didn’t need the back-up sowing in April at all. We were still transplanting on June 20 that year.

In 2012, I introduced our furrow and dibbled holes system for leeks. I notice I said we were growing five varieties: fast-growing Lincoln and King Richard for eating in October and November, King Sieg for December, and the hardy Tadorna for December to February. I count that as four, not five, so I wonder about the fifth. We were still transplanting leeks on June 28, because the March 21 sowing got over-run by weeds, and we used our back-up April 20 sowing.


 

GFM_JuneJuly2015_cover_300px

The June/July issue of Growing for Market is out, including my article about growing muskmelons aka cantaloupes. I was surprised to find I had never written about growing melons for Growing for market previously. There’s a chapter in my book, of course. Melons are one of my favorite fruits, and I enjoy even looking forward to them! I wrote about the different types of melons and why the ones we call cantaloupes are actually muskmelons; how to start the seeds; transplanting and direct sowing; keeping the bugs off and harvesting. There are also lists of pests diseases you hope not to get, and some handy resources.

I wrote a complementary post for Mother Earth News Organic Gardening Blog about personal size melons, something we are trying again this year.

Kansas Melon. Photo by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange
Kansas Melon.
Photo by Southern Exposure Seed Exchange

In this issue, you can also read the cover story by Emily Oakley and Mike Appel of Three Springs Farm in eastern Oklahoma, about having small children while farming. Worth learning from others’ experience before launching into that project! Periodical cicadas are the subject of Lynn Byczynski‘s editorial. They were here on our farm in 2013.

Regina Dlugokencky of Seedsower Farm in Centerport, New York writes about a new organic farming opportunity: the supply of organic mulching materials from the current proliferation of microbreweries. She has had success using Spent Brewers Grains (SBG) on Long Island. One micro-brewer can produce 220 pounds of SBG per working day. Read the complete report at www.sare.org – search for Project Number FNE12-743.

There’s also an article about two electronic record-keeping systems you can use on your smart phone, if you have one. COG Pro (use the word Guest as username and password) and FARMDATA. Next up is an article about a small flower farm in County Cork, Ireland. Gretel Adams closes with an article about flower photography to increase sales.


Chitting seed potatoes ready for planting. Credit Kati Folger
Chitting seed potatoes ready for planting.
Credit Kati Folger

And lastly, the weather. After days without rain, with forecasts including “chance of thunderstorms” that went everywhere but here, we finally are getting some rain. Hoeing is out, transplanting is in, as is setting seed potatoes to sprout for our second planting, in a couple of weeks.

For weather-entertainment from the safety of your own desk, check out LightningMaps.org. Real time lightning. Of course, if the lightning is close, you might  close down your computer and not get zapped.

 

.