CORVALLIS - Growing melons successfully in many Pacific Northwest locations requires a few tricks. But for risk-taking gardeners, it may prove a worthy challenge. May through early June is the perfect time to transplant melon starts into your garden.
Melons are adapted to hot, dry conditions, so they can be most successfully grown mainly in the warmer areas of the state, including the Hermiston area, the Snake River Valley and the Medford area.
In western Oregon, if you do a few extra things, you can also ensure success, according to the Oregon State University Extension Service:
- Choose a warm site, warm up the site by using plastic mulches over the soil or row or garden covers;
- Use drip irrigation, not overhead sprinkling, where the foliage gets wet.
- Start melon seeds indoors three to four weeks before you intend to put them out in the garden.
Melons prefer a light soil or heavy soil amended with organic matter that has warmed up to at least 55 to 60 degrees.
Germinate melon seeds in peat pots or buy starts. When transplants have four to seven leaves, transplant plants at least 36 inches apart and space rows five to six feet apart. Water well, but infrequently. Overwatering may lower fruit quality. Drip irrigation is better for melons than overhead sprinkling. Fertilize well for top quality and yield.
Local nurseries will have melon varieties that will grow best in most regions of the state except the Oregon coast, which is usually too cool. In high elevation areas with a short growing season of 90 to 120 days and frost is possible in any month, melons need to be protected with row covers. Gardeners in cooler areas might have the best luck with honeydews and muskmelons, including the cantaloupe-types.
Willamette Valley gardeners that want to try to grow watermelons, casaba or crenshaw melons should really use clear plastic tunnels or other row cover material until melons start to develop female flowers.
Muskmelons are known to many as "cantaloupes," with round to oval fruit, and often a netted rind. Muskmelons are not well suited for coast or high elevations. Varieties that performed well at the OSU Vegetable Research Farm in Corvallis are: Ambrosia, Harper Hybrid, Gold Star, Classic, Pulsar, Superstar, Earlisweet, Early Dawn, Magnum .45, Eclipse, Primo, Earliqueen and Saticoy.
Honeydews are usually smooth, have greenish-white rinds that turn creamy when white. They have light green or orange flesh. Varieties that performed well at the OSU Vegetable Research Farm in Corvallis are: Earlidew, Honey Brew, Morning Ice, Yellow Canary and Honey Orange.