Days to germination: 5 to 10 days
Days to harvest: 80 to 100 days
Light requirements: Full sun
Water requirements: Regularly until fruit is developed
Soil: Loose, fertile and draining
Container: Shorter varieties work best
The flesh of a honeydew is creamy pale to very light green, and is a great fruit to grow for anyone who doesn’t want to maintain an orchard. For cooler areas with shorter growing seasons, you can try growing Earlidew melons. They mature in 80 days. Unlike the rough cantaloupe, a honeydew melon is smooth-skinned so don’t confuse the two.
The fruit is typically eaten fresh and raw, with most of the melon being edible once you scoop out the cluster of seeds in the center. Melon is a wonderful source of vitamins C and A, and there is also potassium and magnesium in the them.
Starting from Seed
If you have a long growing season, you can probably plant your seeds right out in the garden if you wish. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to get your seeds going indoors so you can get a head start on the season.
Melons have pretty delicate roots, so you will want to make your transplanting as easy as possible later. It’s best to start your seeds in paper or other compost-able pots so that you don’t damage the seedlings at planting time.
Start your seeds about a month before the frost date, sowing the seeds about an inch under the loose potting soil. Keep them warm and well-watered.
Your seedlings can be planted out about 3 weeks after the last frost date, after the soil has warmed up. When you plant your seedlings, rip or break open the bottom of the seedling pots and plant the entire thing. Seedlings can be placed in small hills (2 or 3 plants per hill), leaving 2 to 3 feet between each group. Honeydew melons will spread out quite a bit.
Before you plant, prepare the soil with some thorough digging and aged manure (or compost). Honeydew melon roots will suffer if there are too many rocks in the soil.
If you’ve decided to plant your seeds into the garden rather than as seedlings, you will be planting them out around the same time. Dig your soil well, and space out your seeds the same as if you were putting out seedlings (in hills, a few feet apart). You may want to plant a few seeds extra and thin out afterwards to make sure you get enough sprouts.
For smaller gardens, you can try to grow honeydew melons on a trellis to save all that spreading space. You’ll need some solid support and a way to keep the melons from snapping of the vines as they grow. Put your trellis up before you plant your seedlings, or the stakes may damage the roots later on.
Melons will need a lot of water as the plants are growing, but you don’t want to overdo it once the fruit is forming. If you water too often, you can end up with watery bland fruit. Sweeter melons come from letting your plants stay a bit on the dry side during growth. Of course, you don’t want to kill your plants either. It can take some experience, but the if you let the soil dry out between waterings, you should get the desired results.
If you can keep your growing melons off the soil, you will greatly reduce any damage from insects or rot. Slide an old flower pot dish, coffee can lid or a broken floor tile under each fruit. Don’t use a piece of wood as that will just absorb moisture from the soil and actually speed up any rot.
For melons growing on a trellis, you have to keep a close eye on the growing fruit. The vines won’t be able to support them, so you will need to give support to the melons as well as the vines. Soft fabric can be used like a hammock under each one, as long as you are careful not to break the vines when you attach it.
You can grow honeydews in a container, but the vines will still grow for several feet over the edges unless you are using a trellis. And even with a large container, a loaded trellis of melons and vines will likely be top-heavy. Basically, containers can be awkward but a viable option for growing your honeydew melons. Use a 5-gallon pail (or larger) for each plant.
Pests and Diseases
Bacterial wilt is one of the most problematic diseases for any melon plant, but you can get some varieties that have been bred to be resistant. Wilt can survive in your soil for several years, so you can help to keep it from becoming a problem by rotating your crops and not growing honeydew melons (or cantaloupes) in the same garden space every year. If your melons sudden wilt, as quickly as overnight, then this is likely the problem and there is no treatment. Dig up the effected plants immediately, and hope it hasn’t spread.
The leaves can get seriously damaged by some other vegetable garden pests: cucumber beetles. You may want to plant your melons away from any cucumber or squash plants, but these insects are so wide-spread that it may not help. Pick them off when you see them, and spray the leaves regularly with a natural insecticide.
Low-growing melon vines can also get a powdery white mildew on their leaves, though it is less of a problem with trellised plants. Spray with fungicide if you see it forming. It’s usually not a serious problem unless it starts to kill off the leaves.
Harvest and Storage
Honeydew melons have to fully ripen before they are picked, so don’t plan on picking any early. The skin will turn very pale, almost white when the melon is ready to pick and the fruit should come off the vine with hardly any pressure.
You can’t really store your melons for any long-term use, so plan on enjoying them while they are still fresh. Honeydews store fine in the refrigerator for a week or two at the longest.
Your melons can handle a light frost, but are not that cold-tolerant. When the first frost date is approaching, try to harvest any remaining melons. Covering the plants can help if an unseasonal frost is expected.