Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Online Course Icon


Musk or rock melon – Cucumis melo var. cantalupensis

Casaba, honeydew, Asian melons – Cucumis melo var. inodorus

Watermelon – Cucumis lanatus

Melons are fruits, or berries (pepo) in botanical terms, closely related to cucumber and squash. Sometimes in autumn you might pick an unripe melon to eat, when it has run out of time to ripen, and the flesh tastes almost identical to cucumber.

Melons were grown in ancient Egypt and further south in Africa. There is little certainty about how long ago they were domesticated. Possibly the first melon plants were developed in India and parts of Asia.

  • The one thing that all these places have in common is a hot climate.

Harvest period

  • Days from seed to first harvest: 90–110, according to warmth.
  • Best climate is a hot summer, with daytime temperatures of 24–35 °C/75–95° F.

Ripening Alvaro, a climbing melon, in the greenhouse during a hot summer – 10th August

Ripe Alvaro trailing melon in the polytunnel, on the same day

This Emir melon was sown on 28th April and only just made it; even by mid-September it is not especially sweet

Why grow them

It is possible to buy tasty melons. However, eating one that is freshly picked and homegrown allows you to experience an extra dimension of flavour, partly a result of that freshness. It’s not only the sweetness but other tastes too, which I wish I could describe in words.

Pattern of growth

The season of growth is short, but we can prolong it by early sowing under cover. Growth in the main season is rapid, during just the three summer months. By early autumn leaves start to die and fruits finish ripening.

Don’t underestimate the need for warmth, otherwise you may spend a lot of time and effort for little result. In cool summers it’s possible to have melons, but with little sweetness or flavour, and you will have used a lot of precious space. At Homeacres I grow them mostly under cover for decent harvests, but rarely enjoy success with outdoor melons.

Sweetest harvests come during the summer months rather than in early autumn, because sunlight is stronger and leaves have more light to convert into sugar. A ripe melon here in August is sweeter than a ripe one harvested in September, although the latter can surprise, when favourable conditions have allowed leaves to stay green.

Melon plants are killed by frost but rarely grow that far into the autumn.

  • Melons can self-pollinate, so one plant of any variety will give fruit. They also cross-pollinate with other varieties.
  • This is irrelevant for harvesting melons to eat because they are true to type; it’s just the seeds that will not be – see ‘Seed saving’ below
Mid-June – this climbing melon is at the first sideshoot stage

On the ground in the polytunnel you see less precise definition of sideshoots and vigorous growth, which needs some cutting back; in mid-July this Sweetheart plant is both growing stems and developing fruits

Suitable for containers/shade?

Melon plants need full sunshine.

It is possible to grow them in a container, preferably a large one. The best method is to allow plant stems to trail on the ground, where they can soak up warmth from the soil or concrete. This means you need to allow space around your container.

Minnesota Midget could be a good choice. I have noticed how it adapts to conditions and can grow quite a small plant, with small melons for sure, when the root run is restricted.


Muskmelons have rough and textured or netted skin, and most varieties have orange flesh.

Inodorus melons have smooth skin and flesh of varied consistency and colour, often pale green.

Watermelons have a hard skin and the flesh is more watery than other melons here, plus they need hotter conditions than the other two types, to mature their fruits. The photos below show how well they store, thanks to the hard skin.

21st February – this Early Moonbeam watermelon has spent five months in my kitchen since its September harvest

I cut it open and found this lovely looking flesh, but it was not at all sweet because it hadn’t been quite ripe at harvest


  • Muskmelon or Cantaloupe

Minnesota Midget appeared in the 1940s – it is productive in cooler summers and tastes wonderful when fully ripe.

Sweet Granite is super early, of decent size and with classic orange flesh.

Prescott Fond Blanc needs warmth – it is a 200-year-old variety from France, with large fruit, like squash in appearance.

Kasakh goes from dark green to yellow-green when ripe, with pale green flesh – it has top flavour and sweetness even though green!

Hybrids such as Sweetheart, Alvaro and Emir grow big harvests of fine tasting fruits, up to 1 kg/2.2 lb in weight.

7th September – melon in the polytunnel, the first ripe Prescott Fond Blanc; they had looked fully grown for two weeks, then ripening was sudden

Autumn harvests on 28th September, with Prescott Fond Blanc melon in the middle; the tomatoes bottom left are Yellow Brandywine

  • Inodorus

Tiger melon is from Turkey and has tasty white flesh, a little soft when ripe.

Honeydew melons need more warmth than most musk melons. I grew them outdoors in Southwest France with good results, but they never had as rich a flavour as the local Cantaloupe melons.

  • Watermelon

Sugar Baby grows fruits up to 2 kg/4.4 lb in weight, and they take longer to ripen than the other melons described here.

Early Moonbeam lives up to its name and, thanks to its earliness, we can enjoy a sweet harvest herek when other watermelons don’t make it. The flesh is yellow not red, and fruits weigh up to 4 kg/9 lb.

12th August – Sweet Granite melon was the first to ripen in 2020

12th August – Tiger melons fully grown and unripe; they change from green to yellow

I gave no feed to these Minnesota Midget melons in the polyunnel, and they all ripened within 10 days in September

sow & propagate
Transplant - Size, time of year, Spacing, support
container growing
Prune and train plants/thin fruit
Harvest times and method
Potential problems


It’s a quick job to cut surface roots just below the bottom of a main stem.

Or, if you have a string in the plant hole, stand with a foot on either side of the rooting zone close to the main stem, and pull. This removes the plant and string, while leaving most of its roots in the ground, and disturbs the soil very little.

Follow with

Melons finish in autumn, and the best transplants to set in the ground at that time of year are leaf-producing plants, for winter and spring harvest – any salads, chard, kale and spinach.

Also herbs such as coriander and parsley, which are frost hardy and slow to flower when transplanted in autumn. Growth in winter is slow, but you enjoy harvests over a long period.