On Friday, the lone French hybrid melon dropped from the vine. Surely there are better ways of ascertaining a melon’s ripe lusciousness, but POD hasn’t found a particularly reliable method just yet. So, we here at the little blue deck go for the slipping and sit method. Which basically means we let the thing fall right on off the vine (“slipping,” in gardening parlance), and then let it rest for few days in the kitchen, until that melon musk is just too irresistible.
Gardening plans for next year always begin to form as the fruits from this year’s labors are being harvested. Recently, much time was spent researching potential muskmelon varieties for next year. Then I realized, the solution is right there at the farmers’ market, gazing up at a me. Duh.
Over the past few weeks the husband and I have been sampling melon varieties. It’s a rough job, surely, but someone’s gotta’ do it. Given the space limitation of a roof deck garden, cantaloupe options are limited. The great thing about this method is it allows POD to choose the melon that tastes best and happens to be tiny.
Step One: Slice the melon in half and scoop out the seeds. This is a wonderful French heirloom called Charentais. It grows to 2-3 pounds, probably a little on the large side, but worth a shot.
Step Two: Place the seeds in a wire strainer and rinse the seeds while smooshing the goo out the strainer.
Step Three: Put the seeds in a bowl. Cover with warm water. Scoop off the seeds that float; they’re no good to you.
Step Four: Rinse some more.
Step Five: place them in the wire strainer and allow them to air dry them thoroughly! About three days.
Step Six: Seal them in a well-labeled bag and freeze.
So, you’ve got a container garden and you’re determined to grow melons. Good for you. If your garden is 15 feet off the ground, though, what happens when your perfectly ripened ball-shaped melons fall spontaneously off the vines?
Splat. That’s what.
This pair of well-worn and snagged tights are offering a much needed safety net to tomorrow’s melons.
No, POD’s hands aren’t freakishly large.
Minnesota Midgets are just that small.
Conventional wisdom (and most gardeners) will tell you that melons aren’t great candidates for containers. And it’s true, most melons aren’t. If you do your homework carefully, however, you may surprise yourself with a nice crop of sweet, tasty muskmelons. Look for dwarf or bush varieties and vines that aren’t likely to exceed 3-4 feet.
What you see here is a fast-ripening Minnesota Midget. These little guys grow to about 4-6 inches in diameter (about 1/2 lb) and pretty much fall right off the vine when they’re ripe. Two plants are happily (mostly) thriving in this five-gallon bucket and earlier in the season, to maximize growing space, a nice batch of chard was keeping them company.
These cantaloupes are just about perfect for roof deck gardeners: they ripen much more quickly than traditional melons, the plants are relatively compact, and best of all, are resistant to diseases and wilt. With Philly’s hot summers, heat-loving melons really do make a lot of sense.
POD has tried both direct seeding and transplanting and has found that direct seeding works best in zone 7. Patiently wait until early summer and temperatures have warmed (65 degrees or so) and then stick ’em in the ground. Make sure you build a trellis so you can train the plant to grow upward, conserving precious growing space. Alas, with the approach of fall, the little blue deck’s hours of direct sunlight are rapidly dwindling so melons that mature in 70-90 days are also critical requirements.
We’ve enjoyed two years of sweet little Midgets and it’s time to consider alternatives for next year:
Emerald Green, 2-3 lbs, 70-90 days
Green Nutmeg, 2-3 lbs, 70-80 days
Golden Jenny, 3/4-1 lb, 85 days (insect resistant)
Petit Gris de Rennes, 2-3 lbs, 80-85 days
Sakata’s Sweet, 1-2 lbs, 85-95 days
Sleeping Beauty 1/2-1lb, 85 days
Savor, 1-2 lbs, 70-80 days (disease resistant)
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds seem to have an excellent selection of seeds.