Clear Mountain Garden Treasures

Clear Mountain Garden TreasuresCulture and Germination - Melons

Areas with cooler winters, typically
south of the Bay of Plenty.
Areas with cooler winters, typically
south of the Bay of Plenty.
Areas with warmer winters, typically
north of the Bay of Plenty, inclusive.
Areas with warmer winters, typically
north of the Bay of Plenty, inclusive.
Family Cucurbitaceae
Applies To:
  • Bottle Gourd (Lagenaria siceraria)
  • Butternut squash (Cucurbita moschata)
  • Cucumber (gherkin) (Cucumis sativus)
  • Kamo Kamo (Cucurbita pepo)
  • Luffa (Luffa cylindrica)
  • Melons (Cucumis melo)
  • Pumpkin / Squash (Cucurbita maxima)
  • Mini Pumpkin / Squash (Cucurbita pepo)
  • Spaghetti melon, Shark's fin melon (Cucurbita pepo)
  • Wax melon (Benincasa hispida)
  • Choko (Sechium edule)
  • Honeydew "Supersweet" (Cucumis melo "Supersweet")
  • Honeydew "Canary Yellow" (Cucumis melo "Canary Yellow")
  • Cantaloupe, Rockmelon (Cucumis melo)
  • Grey Pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo)
  • Watermelon "Candyfloss" (Citrullus lanatus "Candyfloss")

  Buy seeds:  Seeds - Melons

Cucurbits are a large family of plants, comprising over 100 genera. Amongst the family are important food crop plants such as pumpkin, melons, cucumbers and squash.


Depth: ¼ cm
When: In colder areas, Spring, 5 weeks before last frost
In warmer areas, Spring, early summer
Where: In containers for transplanting later, or in warmer regions, seed can be sown where it is to grow.
Honewdew, rockmelon and watermelon all require a long growing season and it is better to sow early.


Seeds can be sown two to a pot then
thinned down to one plant.

Melon seeds generally require warmth for germination: 21-35°C. If sowing directly into the ground, make sure the night time ground temperature is above 9°C and not too soggy. It is best to sow a few seeds into a 10cm container of seed raising mix, thin down to one plant and transplant into the ground when the weather warms.

For best results, direct sow 2 weeks after the last frost, or start containers under glass 5 weeks before the last frost. Sow two seeds per pot and thin down to one plant. Don't start the containers if you cannot maintain a minimum night time temperature of 9°C and daytime temperature of at least 21°C.

Grow pumpkins on a mound and
use drip / soak watering.

Melons should be planted on a mound, with rich topsoil. They generally have shallow roots and require a good layer of mulch to keep the root zone moist. Feed and water well. These vines can grow pretty quickly in the right conditions. Protect from slugs and snails.

In humid climates, such as in Auckland, mildew can be a problem later in Summer. Try not to wet the leaves when watering. Drip or soak watering is best, but overhead sprinkling works just as well. If you use a sprinkler, make sure the leaves are dry by nightfall. More importantly, water stress causes wilting, and the mildew fungus spores germinates more readily on wilted leaves. It is therefore important the plants are not allowed ever to dry out.

Train the plants to form a 3-4 leaders, and fruit closer to the roots. The leaders may be cut after 20 or so leaves.


(left) The male flower is on a long stalk.
(right)Petals removed, the flower shows
the stamen with large pollen grains.

Pumpkin (left) and spaghetti melon (right)
female flowers. Notice the ovary at
the bottom.

In parts of the North Island, the Varroa bee mite has decimated the local wild bee population. As a result, there are not enough bees to pollinate melon flowers. In these areas, hand pollination is the only method to successfully set fruit. Hand pollination is best done in the early morning, before too much pollen is shed.

Pick a male flower. These tend to have a longer stalk and lack the ovary. Remove all petals, leaving the stalk and the fused stamen. Brush the pollen from stamen against the stigma of the female flower. Female flowers have short stalks and all have an ovary behind the petals. The ovary looks like a little melon.

Female (left) and male (right) of
the bottle gourd.

With bottle gourd, the male flower does not produce a fused stamen as in a pumpkin, but instead, the stamens are recessed behind a "cup" formed by fused petals. To get around this problem, peel off the petals completely to expost the stamen and brush this on the female flower. The flowers only open in the evening and will close again in the morning. The best time for hand pollination is therefore just on sunset, just as the flowers open.

Be aware that the fruit descends as it develops and if the vine is grown as a climber, only pollinate the female flowers further up the vine. This will allow sufficient room for the fruit to develop. Otherwise, if the fruit drops and touches the ground, place a plank or a piece of polystyrene below the fruit to keep the soil from marking the skin.


Small spaghetti melon picked at the end of Autumn.

Spaghetti melon and pumpkin taste better if left to ripen after picking. In late Autumn, pick mature fruit from the plant and leave in a cool well ventilated area. Spaghetti melon keeps very well, and will easily keep through the Winter if protected from the weather. Gherkin must be picked regularly (daily) to prevent the fruit from growing too big. Watermelon fruit is ready when the soil side turns yellow and rings a hollow sound when tapped.

Rockmelon is ready when the netting on the skin becomes well rounded and raised. The stem should slip off the fruit leaving a shallow depression. The sweetest melons are those picked fully ripe from the vine. If you run out of time to ripen the melons, pick just before the it gets too wet and ripen indoors (will not be as sweet). Fruit left to ripen in soggy soil will be tasteless.

Honeydew melons are ripe when the soil side turns a creamy white colour with yellow accents and the blossom end yields slightly when pressed. The aroma should also be discernable.







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