Melons are annual crops with large, juicy and very aromatic fruits that are berry fruits. A distinction is made between watermelons and sugar melons. The latter also includes honeydew melon, which is said to be the most aromatic of all. The cultivation of these plants is not unproblematic in this country due to the climatic conditions, but it is possible in spite of everything. However, there are a few things to consider. Because at temperatures below 12 degrees, an extension is usually doomed to failure.

Plant water melons and honeydew melons

Watermelons can usually be cultivated in the same way as honeydew melons, with watermelons being a little more sun-hungry. In addition, a distinction is made between winter and summer melons with honeydew melons, whereby the term winter melon refers exclusively to their longer shelf life and not to the cultivation period.

Both water melons and honeydew melons can be planted in the greenhouse from the end of April, provided that the night temperatures are no longer too cold. They can be planted outdoors at the earliest three weeks after the last frosts, when the soil is sufficiently warm. That would be around the end of May or the beginning of June. First of all, you should prepare the soil well. This includes thorough loosening as well as enrichment with plenty of stored compost or cow dung.

If possible, melons should not be grown at ground level, but in a kind of hill bed or small mounds of earth should be created with the help of a hoe, on which the plants should then be placed. The seeds can also be sown directly in these hills from the end of May. Planting on such mounds of earth should, among other things, prevent the roots of the plants from rotting.

In order to keep the heat well in the soil, it is advisable to use mulch film for the planting. This is applied to the area in question and wherever a plant should stand, cross-shaped incisions are made in the film, in which a plant is then placed.

The distances between the individual plants should be between 80 and 100 cm. The holes for the plants can be a little deeper than the roots on the young plants. After planting it must be watered regularly.

If the plants have developed around five leaves after a few weeks, it is advisable to clip off the tips so that the plants can branch out well. This is important because melon plants only bloom on their branches. It can also be advantageous to cover the plants with translucent foil or a ventilated foil tunnel until they bloom.

The female melon flower is only open for a single day, for 6-7 hours. Accordingly, when growing in a greenhouse, it is important to ventilate it for several hours a day, especially during the flowering phase, so that flying insects can get into the greenhouse and pollinate the flowers of the plants.

As soon as the first fruits can be seen, you should put boards or styrofoam sheets or similar under the fruits, both outdoors and in the greenhouse, to prevent them from lying on the ground and possibly becoming rotten.

Preferring the plants

Both water melons and honeydew melons can be sown directly in the field from the end of May or in the greenhouse as a pure greenhouse culture or as a preculture for the field from the beginning / mid-April. A mini or indoor greenhouse, which you put on the windowsill, is also suitable.
The seeds are about 1-2 cm deep in potting soil or in a mixture of garden and potting soil in equal parts, and the soil is pressed well. Then lukewarm water is poured on and the planter is covered with translucent film or glass if possible. The substrate must now always be kept moist, but waterlogging should be avoided.

Peat pellets from garden shops are also suitable for sowing. These are placed in a room or mini greenhouse and the whole thing is filled with lukewarm water. Once the peat pellets have soaked up and reached their final size, the excess water is tipped off and a seed is stuck into each swollen peat pellet, which is then well covered with substrate.

Constant ground warmth is particularly important now. Accordingly, the whole thing is placed in a bright place at temperatures of over 20 degrees. The optimal soil temperature for germination is between 25 and 32 degrees. At night, temperatures should not drop below 18 degrees. You can do justice to these temperatures if you place the cultivation vessel in the window sill near a heater. The optimal air temperature for germination is between 29 and 33 degrees.

The seeds germinate within a few days. If the first cotyledons can be seen, the foil can be removed and the seedlings planted outside in the greenhouse. When no more frost is expected, they can then also be planted outdoors from the end of May / beginning of June. Particular care should be taken when transplanting, as the fine roots are very sensitive.
The young plants should be protected from the blazing sun, initially especially in the open air. It is advisable to get them used to the sun gradually, for example by first exposing them to the sun for half an hour a day and gradually lengthening this period.

Location and soil

  • In the open, sunny and sheltered locations are preferable.
  • Melons should never be grown in locations where cucurbits were grown the year before.
  • Above all, the soil should be loose, finely crumbly, permeable and slightly acidic.
  • A pH between 6.2 and 6.5 is optimal.
  • Excess water can drain well in loose soil.
  • This protects against waterlogging.
  • A mulch film on the ground keeps moisture and warmth in the ground.
  • The optimal floor temperature is between 23 and 25 degrees.
  • The air temperature should be between 25 and 35 degrees.

Watering and fertilizing

Melon plants of both species should be watered regularly. Waterlogging must be avoided at all costs, otherwise it could lead to root rot. If possible you should only use rainwater for watering.

Melon plants should only be watered underneath and never over the leaves to prevent fungal infections. You can fertilize before fruit formation about every eight days with commercially available tomato or vegetable fertilizer. Compost is also a very good fertilizer for growing melons.


  • For optimal plant growth and a high fruit yield, it is advisable to prune the melon plants.
  • Melons tend to form many branches and leaves in a relatively short period of time.
  • As a result, the branches can be cut to up to 5-7 leaves above the fruit in summer.
  • Cut back the side shoots after about the third or fifth leaf.
  • In the case of some varieties, the pruning can delay the ripening time and fruit set.

Harvest watermelons

Watermelons need around four months to fully ripen under optimal conditions. Can usually be harvested between late August and late September. A ripe watermelon can be recognized, for example, by the fact that the tendril on the stem of the fruit has dried up or by a dull noise that can be heard when you knock on the melon. When the melon is ripe, the underside of the fruit should no longer be white, but pale yellow.

Harvest honeydew melons

The harvest time for the honeydew melon is around the end of August. Both the smooth and the rough summer varieties of the honeydew melon are usually ripe when the stem separates from the fruit. In the case of newer varieties such as the ‘Golden Midget’, you can tell that they are ripe when the green exterior of the fruit turns yellow. In addition, ripe honeydew melons smell intensely of melon.

Diseases and pests on watermelon and honeydew melon

Fusarium wilt Fusarium
wilt occurs almost exclusively when cultivated in a greenhouse. It is mostly caused by the fungus of the genus Fusarium. The cause can also be lack of water, waterlogging, soil compaction or too high a salt content in the soil. This fungus penetrates the plant via the roots or the root neck and causes it to die.

To prevent this disease, it is advisable to buy varieties that are resistant to Fusarium wilt. In addition, attention should be paid to crop rotation and melons should not be grown where cucurbits were grown the year before.

Downy mildew and powdery
mildew Depending on the species, powdery mildew can be recognized by a whitish coating on or under the leaves, which then spreads over the entire plant. Both for prevention and control, the plants can be treated with preparations based on copper and sulfur.

Red spider
Infestation by the red spider also occurs primarily in greenhouse crops. It can be recognized by the fine webs under the leaves and at the tips of the shoots. Beneficial organisms such as the predatory mite Phytoseiulus persimilis are very suitable for combating them. To prevent an infestation, you should pay attention to sufficient humidity.

Melons are also often affected by aphids. Useful insects such as lacewing, parasitic wasp or hoverfly larvae and predatory bugs can be used in the greenhouse. The use of natural pyrethroids in the form of pesticides is possible outdoors.

Distinguishing features of water melons and honeydew melons

The fruits of watermelons are spherical to elongated or cylindrical carrot berries that are between 20 and 60 cm in size. The pulp is usually red, depending on the variety, but can also be yellow, orange, white or green. The 1-4 cm thick, light to dark green fruit rind can be monochrome, marbled or striped.

The fruits of the honeydew melon, between 15 and 30 cm long, are round or oval with a white or yellowish green pulp. The slightly warty and ribbed outer shell has a yellowish color.
Resistant and tolerant varieties for the garden

  • Refined honeydew melon ‘Galia’ F1 – This vigorous, tasty and high-yielding variety has a greenish-white flesh and is less susceptible to diseases. The designation ‘F1’ means that they are hybrids.
  • Honeydew melon ‘Petit Gris de Rennes’ – A very early, high-yielding variety with fruits weighing 500-800 g with an orange-colored and very aromatic pulp. A preculture is recommended.
  • Sugar melon ‘Agora’ F 1 – A high-yielding sugar melon that is suitable for greenhouse and outdoor cultivation. The orange pulp is very aromatic. It is resistant to the Fusarium wilt.
  • Watermelon ‘Red Star’ – This variety is also very productive and suitable for greenhouse and outdoor cultivation. The flesh is intense red, sweet and very juicy. It is resistant to Fusarium and hardly susceptible to other diseases.

Melons are very aromatic berry fruits that are not only popular in summer. Protection against cold and waterlogging and cultivation on small mounds of earth are particularly important. Mostly more promising in the cultivation in the greenhouse. In order to avoid that the plants fall victim to diseases or pests, one should always opt for resistant varieties.

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