Fertile, well-drained soil is necessary for the good growth of these plants as they are greedy feeders.
Sow melon seeds in a warm greenhouse in early April. Wait until the last week of April or the first week of May before sowing weds of vegetable marrow and pumpkin. In areas south of Chicago there is sufficient sun heat in the greenhouse for seed of vegetable marrow and pumpkin to germinate well. In other parts of the country it is an advantage to have some form of heating so that night temperatures do not fall below 50°F (10°C).
Fill 3 ½-in. Pots with the potting compost of your choice. Make sure the compost Is moist. Then press two seeds into the compost in each pot. Water lightly, with a fine rose on the water can. Keep the pots moist but not over-wet. Germination takes about a week. When seedlings are forming the first true (triangular) leaf, pinch off the second, weaker seedling in each pot. Do not pull out this unwanted seedling. If you do, you may disturb the roots of the seedling you wish to retain. From now on until planting time keep the seedlings moist. Growth is very rapid.
Those suitable for a greenhouse, cold frame or for cloche growing are `Dutch Net’, ‘Tiger’, ‘No Name’, ‘Sweetheart’, `Charentais’.
Greenhouse Growing Melons
- For greenhouse cultivation set out plants at 2 ft. apart.
- Erect a framework of bamboo canes and soft wires to which the plants may be tied loosely.
- Stop all side shoots when they are 1 ft. long and tie them to the horizontal wires.
- When the plants reach the top of the supports, pinch out the central growing points. To have a good set of fruits it pays to hand pollinate. You can transfer pollen from male flowers to females with a dry, clean camel’s hair brush. Do this at around midday on bright sunny days.
- When four fruits have set on each plant cut off any surplus foliage and surplus fruitlets.
- Start feeding with liquid manure and keep the plants well watered. Allow plenty of ventilation.
- Stop all watering and feeding when it appears to you that the melons have stopped swelling.
- To prevent them from falling off the plants ripening melons are tied in string net bags.
- Knowing when the first melon is ripe is easy. A ripe melon emits a delicious aroma.
Various bacteria cause foot rot, a severe and killing disease of melon and cucumber plants. The soft rot occurs at or just above mill level. The trouble is caused by water I ollecting and remaining near the base of the h I cm . Prevent this from happening by setting mu melon and cucumber plants on a slight mound. Ensure, too, that the soil ball is just Above the surrounding soil after melon and ucumber plants have been planted out. If you grow melons in frames each plant I et’ uires at least 2 sq. ft. of room.
Plant during the second half of May and pinch off the vowing point of each plant. Within a short t tine lateral shoots will be made. Retain four of them only. Pinch off the shoots when they reach the sides or corners of the frame. In July the plants will have made much growth.
Prop up the frame light in warm weather to permit bees and other insects entry for pollinating the female flowers. As soon as you see that three melons (on plants of larger varieties) or four (on small varieties) have set, each on a sub-lateral shoot from a different main lateral, prune off surplus sub-laterals and surplus fruitlets. Place the melons you are retaining on to pieces of slate, tile or wood to prevent slug damage. Water often and apply liquid feeds occasionally. Stop watering and feeding when the fruits are of full size and ripening has started.
When growing melons under cloches two lataral shoots only are retained on plants set out at 2 ft. apart. Otherwise, cultivation is as for frame-melons. During flowering, stand cloches somewhat apart to allow bees to enter.
Vegetable Marrows, Pumpkins and Gourds are all grown in much the same way. All are edible, though the marrow is the commonest.
Seeds can be sown in thumb pots, singly, in April, and planted out at the end of May on to a well-manured bed or an old hotbed, or a pile of old rotted manure, over which a 3 in. layer of soil has been laid. Alternatively, the seeds can be sown direct in the open, but if so they should be watched carefully for fear of frosts. If a late frost should threaten, invert a large flower pot over each seedling every night, and remove it in the morning. Plenty of water and occasional doses of liquid manure or fertilizer are well repaid by an abundance of good marrows. As marrows, particularly the trailing kind, take up a good deal of space, it is usually found convenient to grow them in some unsightly corner of the plot, where they can ramble at will and perhaps hide from view a rubbish heap or an old shed.
Some varieties produce plants which are low, compact bushes, other varieties make long, trailing stems. These varieties are known as ‘trailers’. Popular varieties are:
BUSH: Bush Green; Bush White; Early Gem (F1); Gold Nugget; Proker (F1); Smallpak (Sutton’s); Tender and True (Sutton’s); White Custard; Yellow Custard; Zucchini
MAILERS: Little Gem; Long Green; Long White; Table Dainty (Sutton’s); Vegetable Spaghetti.
- Although seeds may be sown outdoors in mid-May where the plants are to grow it is more customary to give them an earlier start by sowing under glass.
- Plants must not be set outdoors (unless cloche protection is given) until all danger of a night spring frost has passed.
- Early June is usually the right time to set marrow plants out in the garden. A bush plant needs 24 sq. ft. of room; a trailer needs much more if permitted to roam over the ground.
- Plants of trailing varieties may be planted at 15 in. apart alongside a 6-ft. High trellis. This may be a wire mesh fence, plastic or wire garden netting or nylon bean netting.
- Trailers also grow well on ‘wigwams’ made by pushing four strong poles or bamboo canes in the soil, tying them near the apex and winding soft wire or string around the structure. Marrow plants need no pruning apart from the removal of the central growing point of the main leader of trailers when the leaders reach the top of the supports. Keep down weeds, water often in dry weather and if the soil is not very rich apply liquid manure feeds when marrows are swelling.
- Fertilization of female marrow flowers is usually carried out by pollinating insects. Some gardeners like to make sure of fertilization by doing the job themselves. To hand pollinate wait until midday. Then pick a male flower, strip off the petals and twist the single ‘core’ of the male flower into the divided ‘core’ of a female flower. Female flowers have small marrows at their rear. Always cut marrows when young and tender and when the thumb nail pierces the skin easily.
- Treat pumpkin plants as if they are plants of trailing vegetable marrows.
- Each plant will set and swell one or two fruits.
- Large pumpkins are obtained by giving liquid manure feeds generously and often.
- Harvest pumpkins on a sunny day in late September when the skins are firm. Store them in a cool, dry place.
- For Courgettes and Squashes see Fifty Vegetables and Salads.