Fruit and Vegetables

Melon - Cucumis melo cultivation

Melon - Cucumis melo cultivation

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The melon

The Cucumis melo is an annual plant with a flexible herbaceous stem, creeping or climbing, sarmentose with lateral branches. Melon is a product of great interest for our tables, in particular for summer ones. It can in fact be eaten as an appetizer, as a fruit or as an accompaniment to a dessert.
Introducing it in our garden can also be a good idea since, in the right climatic conditions, it grows quickly and does not require great care.

Melon story

The Cucumis melo arrived in Europe from Africa, although many scholars argue that its origins are Asian, especially being endemic to Afghanistan.
It has been known to us for centuries. It was in fact introduced as a crop around the first century, under the Roman Empire, but was already known because it was previously imported from the African coasts. It was in fact of great interest and considered more a vegetable than a fruit.
Many famous people loved him madly. However, until the end of the 1800s its consumption was hindered: there was in fact a suspicion that it could be poisonous (which later proved to be false). However, it is possible that some Cucumis melo fruits gave digestion problems due to their perishability. A belief (linked to some texts by Galen) suggested eating at the beginning of the meal or in combination with savory foods (such as ham) to avoid the aforementioned negative effects. From this derives the traditional summer dish still in vogue today.

Nutritional aspects

The melon is appreciable during the hottest months due to the large amount of water it contains. For this reason it is considered, together with watermelon, one of the most refreshing and thirst-quenching products ever. It is also recommended to those on a diet, given its low caloric intake (34 kcal per 100 g.). Provides good amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin B and fiber.

Leaves and flowers

The leaves of the melon are alternate and glauchescent and have the typical characteristics of the plants of the cucurbitaceae family.
As for the flowers, they are monosessuated, meaning that the male flowers are different from the female ones and positioned in different areas of the plant.
The male flowers are gathered in groups of three or four in the axils of the leaves and on the second-generation jets. The female flowers are solitary at the axil of the first leaf on the third and fourth generation jets. The male flowers appear first in the plant.


Melon cultivation is really affordable for everyone. The important thing is to choose a rich soil, a very sunny exposure and insert the plants only during the hottest months of the year.

Family, genus and species

Cucurbitaceae, gen. Cucumis melo
Type of plant Annual herbaceous plant
Height at maturity Up to 50 cm
Maintenance and ease of cultivation moderate
Need water Middle-strong
Multiplication Seed, graft
Resistance to cold Not resistant
Exposure Full sun
Ground Rich, deep, calcareous, sub-alkaline
Germination: days and temperature 4-5 / minimum 18 ° C
Distance between rows 100-180 cm
Distance in the row 50-100 cm


Cross-fertilization is carried out by insects, even if for greenhouse crops it is better to resort to artificial fertilization.

How to get the seedlings?

As with all vegetable crops, we can choose whether to buy seedlings or dedicate ourselves to sowing. In any case it is always good to choose selected varieties both for the quality of the fruit and for its resistance to pathogens. In this respect, grafted individuals have proved to be very resistant. In this case the incidence of diseases such as the fusarium is considerably reduced and the production is often much more consistent. For a family garden they can be a good choice as they give the possibility of obtaining maximum production from a small plot of land.

Sowing and planting

If we choose to sow our seedlings, it is good to buy quality sachets first.
In the Center-North, proceed in the greenhouse or on warm loungers from February to April, while in the open field from mid-April to June In the South, instead, it is possible to start sowing in the open field already from March.
However, we would like to point out that the sowing will only be successful if the soil temperature has stabilized above 13 ° C.
Outdoor sowing is carried out on rows one meter apart from the other. Four seeds are dropped into holes fifty centimeters apart. After germination, it thins out leaving the most robust seedling.
As for early crops, sowing takes place in March in a seedbed on a warm bed. The seedlings are transplanted in tunnels of transparent plastic material after about fifteen days and are taken to their home with a second transplant when the season allows, after preparing the soil by distributing a layer of manure in the furrows which is then covered.
Forced cultivation takes place in a greenhouse and is sown in December in a heated environment. It is transplanted in January, always in the greenhouse.
The seedlings are very sensitive to transplantation. The damaged roots, in fact, almost never manage to recover their functionality. For this reason the advice is to sow directly at home or using special alveolar trays with a rather compact substrate, which does not break during the transfer.
The diameter of each container must be about 8 cm. We insert in each of them three seeds, with the tip pointing downwards, at about 3 cm of depth (in open field in postarelle). For 10 square meters of cultivation, generally 30 to 50 gr of seeds are required. With a minimum temperature of 18 ° C germination occurs quickly, in about 4-5 days. When the second real leaf is released, the seedlings will thin out, leaving one per jar, or post, choosing the most vigorous one.

Melon topping

Engaging with frequent topping is important, although not essential, to obtain a large number of fruits and anticipate the harvest.
Action is taken when the plant has given off the fourth leaf, cimading its apex. In this way the stem will branch into two smaller stems. It will be necessary to wait again for these to produce their fifth leaf: it will be necessary to eliminate a part of the branch up to the third. To obtain large and tasty fruits, however, it is necessary to limit the production of each individual plant, leaving up to 6 fruits at a time.

Crop care

Melon requires a lot of attention.
First of all weeding must be frequent, to aerate the soil and avoid pests.
As we have already said the preparation of a mulch, with special films or with natural material (such as straw, dry grass or leaves) is of extreme importance to avoid the rapid desiccation of the soil.
Tiles, stones or tiles can also be used; they store heat during the day, then release it during the night. This helps both growth and fruit ripening.
The most important operation is the topping. When the plants have five and six leaves, they are cimed over the first two leaves; the branches that develop after this operation are trimmed after the first three leaves and so there will be plants with six branches. After the formation of the small fruits the two-leafed fruit-bearing branches above the fruits will still be cimed.
Mulching, typical of open field crops, is carried out with black or straw plastic film in order to combat weeds, maintain soil moisture and prevent fruits from coming into contact with the earth.


It is done by scaling, cutting the fruit when the peduncle shows the first cracks. At the same time, the rind takes on the typical color of the variety and the fruit gives off a scent and becomes tender where there is a floral scar.

Melon fertilization

Fertilization: in addition to the letemi fertilization that must be abundant and carried out long before sowing, it is advisable to carry out phospho-potassium fertilizations on the roof after the seedlings have sprouted and reached a certain height.


Among the animal pests are fearsome aphids, the moth, the melon ladybird, the mole cricket. The red spider causes clear spots on the leaves making them dry, sometimes it forms thin webs that prevent the shoots from developing.
Among the cryptogams we recall the Punctuation, the Tracheofusariosis which manifests itself with yellowing and withering of the leaves followed by desiccation and the appearance of a pinkish-white mold. The affected fruits show rottenness near the insertion of the peduncle. The fight is based on the use of resistant varieties and trying not to cause radical injury to the transplanting seedlings. The blackness of the cucurbits affects the ripe fruit and manifests itself with rotting areas covered with a black mold. The fight is based on the timely collection of fruits, with the elimination of those affected and with the limitation of irrigation interventions.

Melon variety

Essentially, there are three groups: the cantaloupe (of medium size, pinkish flesh, thin and smooth skin, very sweet but not very conservable), the nets (medium size, sweet and orange flesh, netted skin, rather resistant and can be preserved) and winter ones (medium-large, white or green pulp are very well preserved and for a long time).
First of all there is the division between winter melons and summer melons.
Among the varieties of winter melons we remember: the Giant of Naples, large with thin green skin and very sweet white pulp; Melon of Malta with juicy and sweet green flesh; Oval morettino of dark green color and green pulp tending towards white towards the center.
Among the summery summers we recall the red-fleshed pineapple melon with a small, very fragrant fruit. The Ortato's Retato with long fruit covered by a network of striations.
Among the Cantalupi melons we remember: the Cantalupo Comune with red flesh, the Cantalupo Prescott with wide ribs preferred for appetizers.

Melon transplantation

When the seedling has arrived at 3 true leaves, the final planting can be carried out. Especially in the Center-North, it is advisable to set up areas covered by tunnels and plastic film to prevent any drop in temperature from affecting its growth.
In this phase it is also very important to protect individuals from weeds: we can prepare mulching with plastic film before planting. These prevent the evaporation of water, increase the heat stored by the soil, increase plant growth and prevent the onset of weeds. They are also of enormous help in keeping the melons clean and thus avoiding the onset of rot (in addition to making their consumption safer).
We can insert the plants by preparing holes with a shovel or a planter for bulbs. But it is absolutely necessary to avoid burying the collar, an easy prey to cryptogams.
The ideal distance between the rows goes from 100 to 180 cm, on the row, depending on the variety, it goes from 50 cm up to a meter.

Soil and fertilization

Melon is, like all curcubitaceae, a very demanding plant in terms of soil. It takes deep, but well-drained and well exposed substrates.
It always needs very rich soils in organic matter and good dough. The indispensable elements for giving good results are nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium and magnesium.
To get good results, it is good to sprinkle plenty of mature manure in the previous autumn (we recommend up to 5q per 100 square meters).
It is always a good idea, just before inserting the plants, to distribute a good complete synthetic fertilizer, in which phosphorus and potassium are prevalent. However, micro-elements must not be missing.

Melon irrigation

Irrigations are extremely important. It is advisable to distribute water avoiding to wet the collar and to concentrate water in a single point. This will help prevent frequent illnesses.
The soil should always be slightly damp. When the fruit has reached the definitive dimensions and the maturation begins it is good to suspend the water distribution altogether. The taste, consistency and shelf-life will benefit.

Melon's approaches and consociations

After cultivating the melon in an area, it will be well to avoid inserting it again for about 3-4 years.
It is well associated with beans, lettuce and corn.

Collection and storage

The harvest begins around June to last until the end of August. However, the varieties of white melon ripen until the autumn.
The fruits are picked when they take on the typical color and give off a sweet scent.
Cut the peduncle with a knife or scissors. Every 100 square meters you can get 200 to 250 kg of melons.
They can be kept for a few days in the refrigerator or in a cool, dry and well-ventilated room.

Pests and diseases

There are many diseases that can affect the melon. Here are the most common:
The fruits are covered with blackish spots and rot. It is caused by excessive heat combined with air and soil moisture. It is prevented with cupric and with appropriate cultivation care.
powdery mildew
The leaves are covered with a white patina. It is prevented with sulfur-based products and avoiding to wet the foliage. We pay attention to rainy days followed by great heat.
The leaf veins become yellow and bring the plant to decay. Unfortunately, there are no remedies. If it is frequent it is good to use grafted plants or of resistant varieties.
Slugs and snails
Especially dangerous for newly planted plants. We create barriers with ash, we create traps with beer. In extreme cases we use special lumachicidi.
They fight with natural pyrethrins.

Melon cultivation: Variety

Essentially, there are three groups: the cantaloupe (of medium size, pinkish flesh, thin and smooth skin, very sweet but not very conservable), the nets (medium size, sweet and orange flesh, netted skin, rather resistant and can be preserved) and winter ones (medium-large, white or green pulp are very well preserved and for a long time).
Watch the video

Indoor sowing (Center-North) February-April
Sowing in the open field (South) March
Sowing in the open field (Center-North) From mid-April to June
Flowering May to September
Collection From June to October (depending on the area and the variety