Farthest North Melon Mix (Cucumis melo)

This post should have been written a month ago – her it comes anyway ūüôā

This year, the melons was grown according to the dogma. Not out of desire, but of necessity. The fact that some melons developed to ripeness are a bit of a miracle in this rainy summer.

The two dogma rules are:
1-Sow directly in the open ground, no indoor start! The melons were sown 5th June. The other years I have sown on 1st May inside the warm house.
2-No cover, no plastic or non-woven fabrics. No black plastic on the ground to heat it up. No plastic or fabric covering the plants at the beginning of their growth or later, when the weather gets cold.

Especially one plant thrived, even grew faster and bigger than my winter squash Turks Turban plants (They did not like the cold weather). It set four fruits, each weighing nearly 250 grammes and and of good taste, though not spectacular. But great taste I can not expect after such a rainy August. The taste was better than most supermarket melons anyway.

I sowed 47 batches of 6 seeds, 41 batches Farthest North Melon Mix, the last 6 batches were Sweet Granite, Pineapple Melon, Streit Freiland Gr√ľngenetz, Rodond, Piel de Sapo and De Bellegarde (12 seeds). Although the last 6 batches all resulted in 1-2 plants, I had no ripe melon from them.
Farthest North Melon Mix had 21 batches not germinated. 14 batches germinated 1-4 plants, but provided no ripe melons. 6 batches germinated 17 plants, many of whom produced ripe melons, but not all. In total I harvested 17 melons growing according to the dogma method – I was too pessimistic in June!

To squeeze in that many melon plants, I provided only 20 cm for 6 seeds.

Some of the melons of the year, still resting on the bed

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Melon (Cucumis melo) Farthest North Melon Mix

For a while I have seen the delicate yellow male flowers in the melon bed. Today I spotted two tiny melons. Withered female flowers still attached. The dense hair is very good protection at night, when snails and slugs creep close by.

A few melon plants grow very strongly, outranking the squash sown same date. Others are still small plants. This year I sowed directly on 5th of June. It has obviously been good for the most vigorous melon plants.

Melon bed with Farthest North Melon Mix

One and a half month ago the melons germinated in cold weather, hails lying around

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Melon harvest of the day

Now the melon harvest peak. After a cold start in june, it has been a warm summer for the melons. Now every day some will loosen at the slightest touch, ready to harvest. Some days onlythree, other days more, like seven, and then comes a day like today – I needed a box for the harvest.

Like last year I grow Farthest North Melon Mix. A lot of very early varieties crossed up by good people in USA. Most of the plants set ripe fruits in my garden. In older posts you can read how I grow my melons. A one hour drive south of my garden, Merete from Vild med have grow the same melon mix. (text in danish, but lots of photos)

Farthest North Melon Mix

It is obvious, that each plant is an individual when you study the melons. Some small, others tiny. Some very delicious, some boring and a few with an unpleasant taste. The idea is that every grower of this melon mix select an original variety suited to the microclimate of the garden. It can be done very quickly, saving seeds from the very best melon every year. I intend to do it slowly, as it gives me the possibility to select for more of the traits I find desirable. I probaly don’t even want to create a new variety, but a race with desired variation. I find it very charming, when there’s a differences between melons from different plants, I just want them all to taste gorgous and grow on a well behaved robust plant, even in a less than perfect summer in open ground in my north west european climate.

Melon no.17

Today we will enjoy the largest melon yet, weight 510g. Not a big melon, but a giant in this garden. I start to doubt, if this big, something must be wrong. It will probably taste horrible. Better try it out at once.

Melon no.17

It is nettet with orange flesh. To my surprise taste is gorgous! Probably 2 or 3 have tasted better, but out of 17 melons, that’s still a top rate. Seeds looks mature, it will probably breed well in future generations.
This grex, Farthest North Melon Mix, has really impressed me, and pushed the limits for melon growing. Yet another thank you to SeedAmbassadors !

Fourth melon in 2008

Today I harvested 4 melons in one day. Two complete ripe, two had slippe from the plant, but still ned a day or two to reach perfect ripeness.

The fourth melon is typical for the larger (still small) outdoor melons, weight 262 gram. Surface nettet, flesh orange, sweet and aromatic. Excellent size for two persons.

Fifth melon in 2008

The fifth melon is suitable for a single person. Weight 130 gram, nettet surface, flesh orange, sweet and aromatic. Most of the seeds have not developed, but there are a few that looks excellent.

I clean the seeds in a glas of water overnight, a tiny pinch of enzyme washing powder added. Next day the good seeds have sunk to the bottom, and the floating bad seeds and debris can be discarded. After a last washing in a strainer, they dry on a little plate.

Melon Cucumis melo Farthest North Melon Mix

Yesterday, when admiring all the developing melons, I noticed the oldest had detached from its stem. I dare say it comes off easy when ripe. It smells wonderfull, but I will not eat it yet. Most important is to ensure good seeds for next year. If I leave it to ripen even further, there’s a chance the seeds will grow stronger and collect energy for the next seasons fight for life.

It is early, a month earlier than first melon last year. Weather has been warm and sunny, contrary to last years rainy cold summer. Black plastic mulch probably helped too.

I’m excited to read Meretes blog (in danish, but lots of great pictures) Vild med have, when she will harvest the first melon – can’t be long, as she’s an experienced gardener. She grow the same melon mix – we intend to stabilise a new hardy early variety for our northern gardens. To do that, it’s imperative to harvest vigorous seeds, even at the expense of enjoying the first and best melon in the process.

Melon transplanted

Today I have transplanted the melons. We are past 5. june, past the risk of frosts at night. It is Farthest Norht Melon Mix, same as I tried last year. I transplanted 31 melonplants to get a great variation to intercross freely by insects and recombine in new combinations.
My job will be to take care of their need for water, and certainly to inspect them regularly and note which plants give the first, best, largest melon on healthy plants – am I an optimist? Ohh yeah, and I did get away with it last year.

One of the melon beds

To get room for so many melonplants I have spaced them closely, 20-30cm (less than a foot). They didn’t grow very large last year, so I guess it will be room enough for them. But I still had to prepare an extra bed for some of the melons between the flowers in the front garden.
I have thoughts about using plastic covering, but I believe it’s needed to give the extra warmth that could make a better seed quality for next generation. The plastic looks ugly, but I comfort my self with the thought of the leaves soon covering it.

Columbines comes in many beautiful colors and single, double or tightly packed flowers.

I can’t resist them. I need to take a little control of their seed shedding, or they all end being red. By picking flowers of all the more common colors, and letting the more rare colors and shapes shed their seeds, I keep an interesting mix continue year after year.


Melon bed under construction

Today I dug the melon bed. I dig a trench, fill it with fresh horsemanure, cover again with the soil and top with the plasticbags in which I got the manure (recycle).
To the right the trench, partly with horsemanure and the far end covered with soil. The left is covered with cut plasticbags and wood and string, to prevent it blowing away on windy days.
This bed will warm considerably, and supply the melons with plenty of food. I will leave it to set, until it’s time to plant out during days with warm weather in the middle of june.

Melonplants Cucumis melo Farthest North melon mix

The small melon plants patiently waits in the greenhouse. It’s time to repot, I better do that tomorrow.

It is not a variety, but a mix of varieties intercrossed. The idea is to select for hardiness. Melons are not normally transplanted outside in Denmark.

Melon harvest last year

Northern Melon Mix

I have now harvested the last melons, and the are ripening and smelling delicious.
The¬†box¬†is¬†one¬†of¬†those¬†use¬†for¬†mandarins. To¬†be¬†honest¬†I’m¬†very¬†surprised¬†by¬†the
productivity of this grex. The taste varies between acceptable and superb,
hard to buy better in the supermarkets.

Now I plan to grow out more of the original seeds next year, and then in two years grow out the best of the two years. I also consider reserving more space in the garden to be able to grow out more melonplants, giving more material to select between. This melon project is not about saving all seeds but selecting from the better part. It seems to me, that several of the ripe melons have unripe seeds. This is not a bad thing, as it is a natural selection for ability to ripe succesfully in this environment.

I wonder, if a mixed planting of melon and sweet pepper could be succesfull. Three or four melonplants for every sweet pepper. This might stress the melon a bit more, but also resulting in a more robust melon strain, if the stress from shadow and roots from peppers doesn’t completely prevent melon seed ripening.

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