This succulent fruit is high up on the luxury list and needs warmth and moisture to produce a satisfactory crop. It can be grown in a heated greenhouse, in the manner advised under CUCUMBER ; with less trouble in a hotbed frame, also as advised for cucumber. Where details differ they are explained below.
Ready for Use. Sown in March, melons are ripe four to five months later. Varieties most suitable for hotbed frame culture include Sutton’s Half-hardy, Cantaloupe, Hero of Lockinge. The first and second can sometimes be ripened in a cold frame, given a hot summer.
Hotbed Frame Melons.
A hotbed, on which a frame is to be placed, is made up as explained in the section FRAME AND GREENHOUSE in the vegetable section.
Seed is sown in March and plants dealt with as explained for cucumbers. A single-light frame will accommodate one plant.
The main shoot should have its tip nipped off when about 2 ft. long. Side shoots are produced as a result, and four of these (any others should be removed when quite small) should be taken to the corners of the frame, one to each corner. Main shoot and side shoots should be pegged down to the soil. When a number of flowers appear on the side shoots the ends of the latter should be nipped off.
Fertilizing the Flowers.
To enable the female flowers to produce fruit they must be fertilized with pollen from the male flowers. Female flowers are distinguished by a distinct swelling immediately behind the petals; male flowers have no such swelling. When several female flowers are fully open, a male flower should be picked, the petals removed, and the pollen-bearing organs pressed gently into each female flower in turn so that some of the pollen is left behind on the receptive stigmas.
Or the pollen can be transferred with the aid of a small fluffy wad of dry cotton-wool. This should be passed gently over the male pollen-bearing anthers and then over the stigmas of the female flowers.
The time for this is when the atmosphere of the frame i8 driest – in full sun, at midday.
The female flowers should be fertilized on one day, so that the resultant melons shall be evenly sized.
The soil must be kept evenly moist – never sodden, never dry. The water should be of the same temperature as the interior of the frame.
Water should not be poured at the foot of the plant; over-moist conditions there may cause the main stem to rot at soil level.
Syringing is called for twice a day in bright weather, the leaves being dewed over with a fine spray above and, as far as possible, below, with clear water of the frame’s interior temperature.
One of the general purposes artificial fertilizer mixtures should be given once a week from the time the melons have reached the size of a tennis ball. Roots appearing at the surface should be covered with good soil, pressed down.
The frame should never be completely closed. TheThe Fruiting Stage.
One fruit to each shoot is a safe rule; others should not be allowed to develop. If a smooth piece of wood, or a tile, is slipped under each fruit, contact with the soil is prevented. A melon amount ot air given will be governed by the weather. The object is to keep the atmosphere of the frame gently moving, moist and warm.
As much air as possible needs to be given when the melons are beginning to ripen; and to bring out the full flavour of the fruit the soil and the atmosphere should then be kept rather less moist.
Vitality is sucked from the leaves by microscopic red spiders, which appear and make their attack on the underside of the foliage when the atmosphere is too dry. Frequent syringing with. clear water will hold the pest well in check.resting on damp soil is apt to decay at the spot where contact is made.
Gathering the Fruit.
A melon is ripe when a crack begins to form at the junction of stalk and fruit. It should be cut with a piece of stalk. If not wanted for immediate use it should be stored in a dry, airy place – and watched, to see that it does not become over-ripe.
Preparing for Table.
The ripe melon should be placed on a fruit dish lined with clean leaves of any attractive kind, with a melon knife by the side.