Good melons for the (north) PNW climate?

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by JCardina, Jan 14, 2009.

  1. JCardina

    JCardina Active Member

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    Location:
    Comox, Vancouver Island, British Columbia Canada
    Hi all, I've grown melons many times here on Vancouver Island, usually department store starts of "cantaloupes" / musk melons and honeydews, however they never really do very well. Once only many years ago I had some delicious cantaloupes but it was a fluke.

    I tried again last year and they grew nicely but were kind of starchy and not very sweet and juicy at all. Perhaps they took too long to ripen with the disastrous spring and early summer we had or I left them too long on the vine.

    I'm thinking of taking another whack at it this year with more care and education and starting them myself indoors early.

    I'm wondering if there are any melons particularly suited to our coastal climate so I can start with something that has a chance of success.

    Muskmellons, watermelons what have you is fine.

    I don't just want them to grow, I want them to be deliciously worthwhile.
     
  2. JanR

    JanR Active Member

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    Location:
    Lakeland, Manitoba
    I have the urge to grow melons too. I have been looking into varieties and have decided to try Halona. You can get it at William Dam Sees or a Vesey's as well. It is supposed to be very early ( important in Manitoba) with sweet flesh with exceptional flavour and aroma. There may be ones that are better suited to the West Coast. West Coast seeds would be a good place to look.
     
  3. JCardina

    JCardina Active Member

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    Comox, Vancouver Island, British Columbia Canada
    Yeah the conditions are wildly different here. :) Our problem is the coolness of the summers, I'm sure despite being in a much colder climate where you are, you get far hotter summers than we do.
     
  4. JanR

    JanR Active Member

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  5. K Baron

    K Baron Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    North Vancouver, B.C., Canada
    Hmmm, this may sound silly and a lot of work initially, however, here goes.... try constructing a heat tent with open side vents (clear sturdy poly supported over the mounds) before you have transplanted the seedlings in the garden. Your design will be unique to the site and your harvest needs/desired quantity of ripe fruit.
    I would slope the nutrient rich mound south to south west. Keep the poly from ever touching the foliage, approximately 20 cm from the foliage to be safe (trick here is knowing how tall the foliage will be, so ensure the support posts can be adjusted to the required heights of your plants, say start low then jack the frame up later in the growing season), and roll it up only if a heat wave should arrive during June to August and replace the last week of August when temp. drop at night.
    The side flaps could be dropped at night to aid in heat retention, leaving some venting for adequate circulation.
    Place water filled milk containers around the vines (use dark food colouring in the water) to trap the vital insolation, only to be released at night. If the temp stays well above 15 c to the optimum 20+c overnight, then the fruit will /should ripen under this site specific and unique micro climate.

    Melons love elbow room, so keep the vines manageable under this framework, pinching new growth (once fruit set has been sufficient for your need), throughout the growing season. Forget large sized watermelons unless you plan to construct a massive structure.
    The miniature ones should be worth a try.
    I would also interplant peppers and other small heat loving vegetable plants such as miniature tomatoes along with the vines in order to maximize the benefit of having created this heat island.
     
  6. woodschmoe

    woodschmoe Active Member 10 Years

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    Location:
    gulf island, bc, canada
    A small melon called "Collective Farm Woman" has produced well and early for me here on the coast, I harvested a decent crop of "Blacktail Mountain" watermelons, and have heard that "Cream of Saskatchewan" will give good results in the north. Seed is available from a number of sources, JL Hudson has all of them. Delicious 51 cantaloupe also produced a couple dozen melons.

    Be sure not to start your melons too early, though: starting seeds in march will result in leggy starts that won't transplant well. Wait until later in the season. A simple hoop frame with plastic will extend your season, and increase your harvest.
     
  7. K Baron

    K Baron Well-Known Member

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    Location:
    North Vancouver, B.C., Canada
    Great melon seed selection for our Pacific Coast climate.

    A word on hoop frames, not so great if you need easy access to the plants. Commercial gardens use industrial sized hoop frames for obvious reasons, but us back yard veggie growers need something that is functional and light weight. I suppose one should use what is best for one's needs and ability. Hoop frames can of course be easily ordered from seed catalogues. A green house is the ultimate for the avid gardener. A pain for those that live in deep snow country.... greenhouses collapsing under the weight of the snow.
     
  8. woodschmoe

    woodschmoe Active Member 10 Years

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    Good points on the limitations of hoop frames, though a lot depends on the situation. Greenhouse=expensive. Hoop=cheap (as you mention): rebar and poly. I simply roll up the sides on the hoop for easy access, and haven't found this much of an impediment.

    You've outlined the Cadillac approach, and I'm all for it along with it's obvious benefits. For those of us who've got to take the Lada approach, though, hoops are fast, cheap and effective. Not to take away from your good advice: simply to remind that either will work, depending on the situation. Which I suppose is simply another way of making your point. Bottom line: melons need heat, do what you've gotta do within your means to make that happen.
     
    Last edited: Jan 15, 2009
  9. JCardina

    JCardina Active Member

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    Excellent advice, thank you all.
     
  10. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Location:
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    Friend north of Seattle has been growing melons in frames for a few years now. Other vegetables also benefit from protection for at least part of the year. Even cool season crops like mustard family plants and carrots may require the use of row cover in order to keep out pests like cabbage butterflies and root maggots.
     
  11. growest

    growest Active Member 10 Years

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    Location:
    Surrey,BC,Canada
    Before giving up on canteloupes here (too much work for the return, me lazy) I did find that the best shot at them seemed to be using the blackest weed fabric available laid over the soil, with the baby plants inserted in slits in this stuff.

    Probably raises the soil temps quite a bit early in the season before the melon foliage covers it...but the greater advantage for me was the weeding, almost eliminated. I see growers in the Okanagan using black plastic, but I always had problems getting the irrigation thru that stuff. Black weed cloth allowed water thru at the same time weeds were prevented...and when weeds start colonizing the melon patch here the reduced sun and therefore heat reduces the crop that much more...

    Other comments about cloches are of course totally true as well...only a very unusually warm summer would give much of a crop without growing under some sort of cover. Make sure the bees have access...they seem to do a lot of their work on cucurbits in the mornings in my garden.
     
  12. silver_creek

    silver_creek Active Member

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    Location:
    Bellingham, WA, usa
    I've grown a variety of melons for several years now, in raised beds, green mulch, and a pvc hoop over them. Best producer, even last year, is Halona (canteloupe type). Also had good luck with Charentais and Ha'ogen, and a hybrid honeydew called Honey Yellow. They will never be very productive in our climate, but once you've had a melon, picked just at the right time, from your own garden, it's hard not to devote at least a little effort and room for them.
     
  13. SoCal2warm

    SoCal2warm Member

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    Location:
    Olympia, WA
    Growing melons in the Pacific Northwest, they typically select short season varieties, that ripen sooner. These varieties often have smaller fruit.

    It can also help to put black sheet on the ground, with little holes cut in it where the melons are coming out. This both helps to suppress weeds, and absorb light to raise the temperature a little bit during the day. It is also very common to put a little row frame over the melon patch, which acts like a mini green house of sorts. It can help get small sized melon plants started as early as mid-April. These will help discourage fungal disease too, by keeping rain off the melon plants. When the melon plants get bigger by mid-May, the transparent plastic sheet comes off, and the vines can ramble.

    Note: Usually a greenhouse is desirable to give the little seedlings an early start so they will be ready to plant as soon as the outside temperatures begin warming up. This will help give them a longer season to grow. (If you don't have a greenhouse, some people may also start the seeds inside cups, inside an indoor grow enclosure under artificial light. It can be helpful to cover the tops of the cups with plastic wrap, which helps keep the soil from drying out)
     

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