Before the Minnesota Midget melon succumbed to aphids, three darlings were collected. And one, two-pound Charentais awaits the knife.
A few weeks ago, POD’s minder was busy trying not to contract skin cancer on the shores of Delaware’s beaches. A few hours north of those repeated SPF 50 applications, POD’s cucurbits were busy acquiring an impressive collection of aphids.
While the diluted soapy solution and aggressive pruning killed off hundreds of the little you-know-whaters, it was too late. The damage had been done. It doesn’t help that these suckers can produce live offspring without mating.
When aphids take over, their little needle noses suck the life juice right outta’ a plant. When they’re really well-fed, which these were, they produce honeydew, a sweet secretion that ants love. Fun, fun. Here’s hoping that the three ladybugs that have taken up house on the lemon cucumber eat well.
May POD’s Boothby Blonde and Minnesota Midget rest in peace. They’ve been yanked. Fortunately, the Boothby had produced vigorously and three Midgets were rescued before meeting their maker met its end.
It’s a necessary evil, thinning is. Last year two melons were housed in a single 5-gallon bucket. That didn’t work so well, honestly. Only 3 or 4 Minnesota Midgets made it onto the table. This year, given just how rootbound last year’s mildew-ridden corpses were, one plant will enjoy all 5-gallons of real estate. POD hopes this will encourage healthier root development and air flow around the leaves.
Because the roots of melons and cucumbers are very delicate, don’t pull the rejects from the soil — you may end up disturbing the surviving plants root system. So instead, carefully pinch the doomed seedlings off at the soil line.
But guess what! We have a mystery on our hands! So, two 5-gallon buckets of melons were planted. One bucket with Charentais (from seeds saved from a Culton Organics melon) and one bucket with Minnesota Midgets (from seeds purchased at least 4 years ago). One bucket sprouted four healthy seedlings (thinned to one) and the other bucket sprouted not a one.
Do you think POD labeled the buckets? Strangely, no. Do you think POD remembers which went where? Not so strangely, no. Whattya’ think? Will it be French or will it be American? Unwisely, POD seems to have lost/pitched the saved Charentais seeds and is disinclined to plant what may or may not be a second MN Midget. Make sense? Thoughts?
Well, thank goodness POD’s cucumbers were just about ready for retirement. They survived a minor case of leaf spot and random blight but powdery mildew did them in.
It’s not a surprise, really. Temperatures have cooled and light has waned: a perfect recipe.
Unfortunately, the Minnesota Midgets have also been touched. Because there are at least six melonettes ripening, the most affected leaves have been snipped and the rest drenched in a dripping coat of Neem.
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.
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.
With limited space for plants on deck, it was time to sacrifice the lovely chard and give the delightful Minnesota Midgets a little more breathing room. Midgets are an excellent choice for container gardens — the soft-ball sized fruits are sweet and juicy and can handle the limited space. Three vines are currently creeping their way up a hand-trussed bamboo trellis.
While it may seem nothing short of insane to grow muskmelons (cantaloupes) in a five-gallon bucket on a roof deck garden, they worked pretty well last year — despite misfires at the transplanting stage. Melon Growing Tip: if your climate is warm enough, don’t transplant your melons. They germinate quickly if you wait until the weather has thoroughly warmed.
Thus far, blossoms abound and the deeply-rooted space-hogging chard has been replaced by a shallow-rooted summer lettuce.
POD began with visions of gorgeous flowers, cascading from well-designed containers. And, for the first few years, visitors to the little blue deck were greeted by a riot of color.
Then, almost surreptitiously, a basil plant slipped in, then a jalapeno and Mr. Stripey…Now, the little blue deck sports almost entirely vegetables. There are enough flowers to encourage pollination, but great gobs of satisfaction — culinary, environmental and yes, aesthetic satisfaction — can be derived from growing vegetables in containers.