Magazine article Sunset

Garden-Fresh Melons

Magazine article Sunset

Garden-Fresh Melons

Article excerpt

Plant heirloom varieties now to harvest in midsummer

SWEET, SUCCULENT MELONS are an irresistible summer treat. Plucked fresh from the vine at the peak of ripeness, melons have a flavor that is tough to beat; even a single slice is the perfect dessert at a picnic or backyard barbecue. But which varieties taste best?

Last year in Sunset's test garden, we planted nearly a dozen varieties, known for their outstanding flavor and aroma. At harvesttime, five varieties (listed at right) stood out from the others, bearing more fruit (at least two per running stem) with better flavor. Plant one or more this month for harvest this summer.

How to grow melons

The warmer your climate, the better melons will grow. Where the growing season is long, sow seeds directly in the ground. In cooler coastal areas or where growing seasons are short, choose fast-maturing varieties, use season extenders, and start seeds indoors in small pots. Plant the seedlings outdoors after the soil has warmed to at least 60° (raised beds warm up faster than flat ground).

Planting Choose a site in full sun and with good drainage. Mix a 2-to 3-inch layer of compost into the soil. Plant two or three seeds (or one plant) per hole, 1½ feet apart in rows 4 to 6 feet apart.

Season extenders In cool coastal climates or areas with short growing seasons, lay black plastic over the soil and tuck in the edges, then cut an X for each plant. Use floating row covers until the weather warms or plants begin flowering. …

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