Do melons grow on trees? Unlike most fruits, melons don’t grow on trees. Other than their sweet flavour and musk, melons have a lot of unique things about them.
We all love melons, and it’s no surprise that people are looking into growing these delicious and healthy fruits. But for your melon farm to be successful, you have to familiarise yourself with how these fruits grow. So how do melons grow if they are not tree-bearing species?
Do Melons Grow On Trees?
Melons don’t grow on trees because they are trailing vine. There are different melons, but if people mention melon, they usually refer to Cucumis melo from the Cucurbitaceae family. These are not fruit-bearing trees because they are trailing vine from a gourd family.
Melons like the honeydew melons, watermelons, and cantaloupes all grow on vines. Perhaps this is also an advantage because can you imagine if a melon fruit fell from a tree? And the fact that these fruits grow on vines also makes it easier for us to cultivate them.
Why Don’t Melons Grow On Trees?
The process of evolution has made melons grow on vines. These vines will then creep along the ground to collect nutrients for the plant. Crops like melons have roots from the growing stem to make it possible to collect nutrients.
Because melons grow on vines and not trees, farmers have developed to cultivate them vertically or horizontally. You can train them to grow vertically on a trellis, but you need to support them as the fruits are heavy. This is the reason why growing melons on a polytunnel become advantageous.
The concept that melons grow on vines gives us the idea of training them to climb. This will save space in some cases, but remember that melons will need a support system. Training melons to grow vertically means that you’ll need to reinforce sturdy support for them to prevent the trellis from falling.
At the same time, you have to support the fruits themselves because they are heavy. On the contrary, growing melons horizontally includes ensuring that the melons are off the ground. Put something in between the fruit and the soil to keep the melons dry and clean for preventing rot.
What Is A Tree Melon?
If you’ve heard of tree melon or melon tree, what that term refers to is the papaya fruit. It can confuse some, and that’s why people assumed that melons grow on trees. However, the papaya or Carica papaya is not an actual melon.
True melons like watermelons, honeydew melons, and cantaloupes grow on vines. The papaya, on the other hand, is from trees. People mistook it as a melon because of its sweet and musky flesh like other melons.
Papayas are fruits that are yellow to orange in colour. And unlike actual melons, this fruit grows in clusters on trees. Still, do not mistake that a tree melon is an actual melon.
How Do Melons Grow?
The steps that melons undergo are germination, vining, flowering and pollination, and lastly, fruiting. It’s similar to how most fruits grow, with the difference that melons grow on vines. Being familiar with how melons grow will help you have a successful harvest.
Step 1. germination
The first step in melon growth is germination, and it happens once you place the seeds in the soil. This is why you have to prepare the soil with compost before planting and add more fertiliser when the vines begin to run. At the same time, you must plan the seed spacing because of the melons’ vine size.
Different melon varieties have different vine sizes. Therefore, some melons, like the muskmelons, need to be 3 feet apart within the row.
The rows are having a space of 5 feet among them. Planning the spacing will ensure that the vines won’t grow haphazardly.
Melons will germinate at a soil temperature above 59°F. Once you’ve planted and watered the seeds, the plant will grow a stem and root. It can take up to 12 days to see the first two leaves above the soil.
Step 2. vining
It can take 5 to 10 days until you see the first true leaves from the melon stem. Because they will be capable of photosynthesis, you will notice that a vine grows out until it gets up to 12 feet long. The melon will also form large lobed leaves.
More vines with large leaves will grow after about a month. This is also the same time where it’s great to feed and water your plants. Some farmers will start directing the vines in one or two directions for an orderly garden in the UK.
Step 3. flowering and pollination
Step 3 is when your melons produce flowers. The plant vines will produce male and female flowers, with the male flowers appearing earlier than female flowers. Male flowers have no swelling at the base, while female flowers have them before attaching to the stalk.
The male flowers will provide the pollen, and the female flowers will produce fruit. However, both flowers have short lifespans, so it’s essential to assist them in pollination. It can be with the help of bees or by hand pollination.
It’s important to remember to avoid insecticides while flowering because they can kill bees. But if you have a low bee population in your UK area, you can pollinate the flowers yourself. Simply brush the pollen-covered anther of the male flower onto the centre of the female flower.
Step 4. fruiting
The last step is when your melons begin to produce fruit. This will happen once they pollinated, and you’ll see balls swelling beneath the female flowers. It’s also essential to feed and water your plants when the fruit sets to support them.
Melons vary with how long it will take for the fruit to fully mature and ready for harvest. However, it’s a good indication that the fruits are ready for harvesting when the vine tendrils turn brown. In some varieties like the cantaloupe, you wouldn’t even need a knife to remove the fruit.
Types Of Melons
If we were to enumerate the main types of melons, we could differentiate them into seven cultivars. They are composed of the netted melons, true cantaloupes, winter melons, snake melons, Asian pickling melons, mango melons, and stinking melons.
The Reticulatus group of melons refers to the netted melons. They usually call these melons cantaloupes in the US, but it’s different from “true cantaloupes.” The true cantaloupes are larger muskmelons than these netted melons.
Netted melons are so-called because they have a nutmeg- or net-like ribbing on their rind. This reticulated tissue is what distinguishes netted melons from other cultivars. They also have orange and sweet flesh, which is why they are sometimes sold as cantaloupes.
In terms of health benefits, netted melons are high in vitamins A and C. Vitamins A and C are commonly found among most types of melons, and they offer health benefits for the eyesight and immune system. Netted melons are also similar to true cantaloupes in the sense where they have high water content.
Netted melons are perfect for hydration, and the fact that they are low in sugar and fat makes them fantastic snacks.
True cantaloupes are from the Cantalupensis group and are common in Europe. Compared to the smaller American cantaloupe, true cantaloupes have a warty rind. However, they also have sweet and orange flesh.
When referring to cantaloupes, the term is also interchangeable with muskmelons. It’s also worth noting that this melon variant provides the highest amount of beta-carotene among melons. A cup of cantaloupes contains 3,580 micrograms of beta carotene.
What is beta carotene? The human body will process beta carotene into vitamin A. In turn, we can benefit from cantaloupes as it supports good eye health like other reddish-orange fruits.
Vitamin A also helps to have a healthy immune system, skin, and mucus membranes.
The Inodorus group of melons are the winter melons, and they are composed of the Honeydew, Casaba, and Persian variant. These winter melons are smooth and large, and their flesh varies from light green to white. Winter melons are also not as fragrant as the cantaloupes, have harder rinds, and longer shelf lives.
Among the three winter melon variants, the honeydew melon is the sweetest. It even has a higher sugar content than cantaloupes and watermelons. As it ripens, you will notice that its rind gets velvet-like.
You can distinguish honeydew melons from other winter melons because it has a creamy yellow rind and pale green flesh. What’s fantastic with honeydew melons is that it’s not just a delicious fruit. It’s also full of health benefits like other melon variants.
Honeydew melons are high in potassium but low in sodium. This trait can help reduce high blood pressure. On the other hand, this variant is also rich in folate, magnesium, and vitamin K, which are beneficial for bone health.
The Casaba variant is a pale yellow melon with white flesh. It tastes sweet, but it doesn’t have any musk. Like honeydew melons, casaba melons are rich in nutrients that make them a nutritious snack alternative.
Casaba is also high in vitamin C, which is excellent for the immune system and lowers heart disease risk. At the same time, it’s a good source of fibre for supporting the digestive system. Lastly, the casaba contains vitamins B6, K, potassium, and copper, beneficial for various body processes.
Persian melons are usually mistaken for cantaloupes. However, they have a more delicate netting and larger size. What about the health benefits that you can get from Persian melons?
Like other melon variants, Persian melons also make great additions to the diet because it’s free of cholesterol and saturated fat. It’s rich in vitamins C and A as well for overall healthy bodily functions.
The snake melons or the Flexuosus group is so-called because of their length. They are also sometimes referred to as the Armenian cucumber because of their slender shape and cucumber-like taste. It’s also reminiscent of cucumber on the inside.
The taste of snake melons is slightly acidic, and it’s best eaten when it gets 15 inches long. In the Middle Eastern markets, it’s typical to see this fruit sold as pickled. As for the benefits you can get with snake melons, the flowers, fruit, seeds, and root are all useful.
The snake melon flowers are used as an expectorant, while the fruit works as a skin moisturiser or treatment for burns and abrasions. The seed itself is even used for expelling parasites from the body. On the other hand, the root of the snake melon is diuretic and emetic.
Asian pickling melons
The Conomon group, or the Asian pickling melons, are best served pickled from the name itself. This is a common preparation in Asia, but you can also eat them similar to how you’ll consume a cucumber. These green melons are not as sweet or musky as other melons, so they pair well with savoury dishes as well.
In terms of the benefits you can get from the Conomon melons, they also work the same way as the snake melons. You can use the fruits on the skin as a moisturiser or first aid for burns. At the same time, the flowers, seed, and root are also medicinal.
You can use the flowers as expectorant and emetic, while the seed can expel parasites in the body. You can also use it as a digestive or antitussive. Lastly, the root is a diuretic and emetic.
The Chito group or the mango melons are sometimes called vine peaches. They have the same size and shape as lemons, oranges, and peaches, but they have yellow skin and cucumber-like flesh. However, the fruit has the same taste and flavour as a mango.
Mango melons also work as medicinal plants and have the same uses as the Conomon and Flexuosus groups. This means that you can use all parts from the seeds up to the root for various purposes. Mango melons work as a moisturiser or even as a diuretic.
The stinking melons are also the same size as the orange, but they are incredibly fragrant from the name itself. This variant is under the Dudaim group and might be called Queen Anne’s pocket melon in some UK areas. However, stinking melons are usually used as ornaments or for medicinal purposes only.
You can also use the stinking melons as a light cleanser for the skin or as a stomachic. And similar to the mango melons, the other parts, such as flowers, seeds, and roots, have various medicinal uses. You can expect to use the stinking melon plant the same way as a mango melon plant.
Growing Melons In The Polytunnel
Growing melons in the polytunnel is an ideal way to guarantee a high yield of quality fruits. It involves planting, supporting, pollinating, pruning, and harvesting. You must know the information in these steps to have a successful melon farm in the polytunnel.
The beauty of planting melons in the polytunnel is that you can do it directly in the polytunnel ground or the containers. Depending on your UK region, you want to plant the seeds with an indoor temperature between 80° to 90°F until germination. At the same time, remember that melon seeds won’t germinate if your soil temperature is below 65°F.
A great tip to encourage germination is by soaking the seeds in lukewarm water 24 hours before planting. And other than checking the temperature, you want to use a fertilised soil for the seeds. It’s also worth noting that if you’re growing in a pot, don’t put more than two seeds.
This way, you can ensure that the growing melons will have enough space for themselves. On the contrary, each melon plant should have 3 feet of space between them if you’re planting them in rows. But where is the best location to grow in the greenhouse?
You want to place the melons in a warm area that provides adequate heat and moisture. Try to check which melon variants match the weather in your region in the UK. But since you’re using a greenhouse, you have better control of the indoor conditions anyway.
When to transplant?
If you planted the seeds in small pots, you’d eventually have to move them into larger grow bags. This happens when you see two true leaves. Ensure that the soil you’re transferring them has rich organic matter and as warm as 69.8°F or higher to expect high melon yields.
To support the growth of your seedlings, maintain the polytunnel temperature at 59°F minimum. At the same time, check the soil when it’s getting dry. However, be careful not to overwater your plants.
Throughout the growth of your melons, you must support them every step of the way. For example, you have to maintain the moisture in the soil, but not too much that they’ll drown. Growing melons in the polytunnel can make use of a watering system such as overhead irrigation.
Once your melons are approaching the final weeks of ripening, remember to cut on the amount of water you’re giving. Provide enough water to keep the leaves healthy, but remember that too much water will affect your fruit’s sweetness. Fertiliser is also equally important, especially when the fruits are starting to appear.
But more than feeding and watering the plants, you also have to support them inside the greenhouse. You can use wire or wooden sticks that can help them with their weight. The fruits can also use netting around your support to help the plant carry the heavy melons.
Another critical step in growing melons in the polytunnel is the plants’ pollination. This step is crucial because this determines the successful growth of fruits. You might even have to intervene and help your crops to pollinate in some cases.
The bee population in your UK area is a significant help in pollination. However, you may need to use a brush to pollen on the male flowers and spread them to female flowers. Do this gently, and then leave the plants for up to 5 days until you see a small flower growth.
As your fruits are growing, check and remove the leaves if some are covering them. You should also elevate the melons from the ground if you’re extending them horizontally. At the same time, remember to check the polytunnel temperature and humidity.
Pruning is an essential step in growing vine crops like melons. You can start pinching any side shoots as your plants grow taller. But what will this do to the plant?
What is the importance of pruning?
Pruning helps the plants get adequate space for growth because you’re removing branches and imperfect fruits. At the same time, you are also saving weight for the fruit. As a result, you will get healthier vines and fruits because nutrition and care are more focused.
Pruning also encourages the plant to grow upwards, and you’ll have an easier time focusing on the main shoot. There will also be less competition for the plant’s energy. Sometimes, you may have to remove the leaves around the fruit itself to give it space as it grows.
How to prune melons?
Other than pinching side shoots and removing leaves, pruning means reducing vine growth. This step is significant when you will grow the melons on a trellis. This way, you’ll encourage better growth on the fruit and avoid having undesirable melons.
You want to retain and encourage the growth of the primary stem and first lateral branches for the fruit. And then, you can prune the remaining lateral branches until the 7th or 8th leaf node. After these nodes, you can keep the branches.
If you’re growing melons upward, you can also pinch the main shoot. This way, the plant will prioritise the growth of the melon fruits instead of the shoot. Remember to keep an eye on the melon buds and only keep one melon per vine to encourage its growth.
Over time, you will see dried vines with brown leaves. You have to remove these vines, mainly when your plant is still producing fruit. Otherwise, they can compete with the plant’s nutrition.
The main advantage of growing melons in the polytunnel is you have more control over the conditions. Therefore, you can guarantee a high yield of quality melons. In a greenhouse, you can have as many as four harvests in a week.
You can expect that the fruits will be ready in 45 to 60 days after flowering. However, remember that every melon variant differs in maturation time, so their harvest time varies. Over time, you will develop a technique on when to harvest your polytunnel melons efficiently.
A good indication that your fruits are ready for harvest is when you hear a dull thud when you tap the fruit. You shouldn’t need to use a knife to cut the fruit from the vine, but be careful not to let them fall out of their own. Fruits that naturally separate from the vine are usually overripe or rotten.
How Long Does It Take To Grow Melons
When growing melons, you have to know how long it takes for the different melon cultivars to mature. Cantaloupes take the shortest to mature at 35 days, while watermelons can take as long as 115 days. Honeydew melons and hybrids like Ambrosia and Galia are somewhat in the middle at 60, 86, and 65 days.
Major melon variants
Among the three types of melons, watermelons take the longest to mature. Depending on the cultivar, some may take as long as 115 days for the fruit to ripen. But for the more minor watermelon variants, it can take them 75 days only.
Cantaloupes, on the other hand, produce fruit as early as 35 days after pollination. Some varieties are also capable of producing fruit sooner. And lastly, the honeydew melons will take 45 to 60 days to produce fruit.
We can consider cantaloupes, watermelons, and honeydew melons as the famous melons raised in the field and greenhouse. However, farmers also raise other varieties and hybrids because they are also in demand. They include Casaba Golden Beauty, Crenshaw, Canary, Ananas, Ambrosia, and Galia melons.
Other melon varieties
Hybrids like Ambrosia and Galia are quite popular melons. The former orange-fleshed melon takes 86 days to mature. On the other hand, the green-fleshed Galia takes 65 days to mature. What about some famous open-pollinated melons?
Casaba Golden Beauty and Crenshaw melons both take a long time to mature compared to hybrids. The Casaba Golden Beauty takes 110 days to develop, while Crenshaw can be as short as 90 days or as long as 115 days.
Some other popular melon varieties are the Canary melon called Brilliant and the Ananas variant called San Juan. Brilliant melons will mature at 75 days, while the San Juan variety can take 78 days. So how can you use these maturity periods to your advantage?
You must be aware of the different growing seasons of the melons so that you can choose the right melon for your UK region. For example, if your UK area has a short growing season, then it’s best to get cantaloupes since they mature early. But if your region in the UK is predominantly warm, you shouldn’t have any problem choosing a melon variety.
Is It A Good Business To Grow Melons?
Growing melons is a good business because of its high demand year-round. What’s great about these fruits is that customers will buy them from January to December, not just during the summer. There will still be peak seasons, but it’s great to grow melons for business because of this all-year appeal.
If you want to know which specific type of melon is the most appealing business to venture into, cantaloupes have the most significant share in production value. However, honeydews have also shown their increasing appeal to the masses. Nonetheless, the demand for melons will always be high because of their high consumption.
Melons are healthy fruits, and many people want to take advantage of their nutrients. Because of their delicious flavour, melons are helpful in a lot of recipes. It’s not surprising that you’ll see different melon products in the market because of the demand for them.
There are also studies where the profit in growing melons in the polytunnel can be higher because of the higher yield of quality melons. Learning how to cultivate melons in the polytunnel properly can be beneficial for someone who is thinking of growing melons for business. Therefore, it’s worth doing your research beforehand to ensure that you’re ready to face potential challenges along the way.
Melons don’t grow on trees; but instead, they thrive on vines. Because of this, you can grow them horizontally or train them to crawl upwards with support. This nature of melons also makes them excellent polytunnel crops to raise.
Melons will undergo germination, vining, flowering and pollination, and fruiting like most fruits. If you’re raising melons in the greenhouse, be prepared to plant, support, pollinate, prune, and harvest. You must understand each step in their growth to guarantee a successful harvest.
At the same time, check the growing season in your UK region so you can choose the appropriate melon variant to grow. For example, cantaloupes will mature at 35 days, so it’s perfect for UK areas with short summer seasons. On the other hand, watermelons and hybrids like Ambrosia can take as long as 115 days.
Overall, melons are not just delicious. These healthy fruits are worthy investments because of the continuous demand year-round. Consumers will always prefer melons, and growing them in the polytunnel guarantees that you get an excellent yield of quality melons.