Sunday, May 23, 2010

Preparing the Melon Patch

I’ve been waiting for a relatively calm day to prepare the melon patch. Laying solar mulch is difficult enough, but attempting to do so when it is windy is almost impossible. Yesterday seemed like a good day to attempt it.

I began by pulling the weeds and grass that were encroaching in the plot. Then pulled out my Mantis cultivator to till fluff up the soil:

The soil was raked smooth and 2.5 foot wide planting rows and smaller paths were plotted out. The paths in between were tamped down with my feet giving me solid footing to walk in between the planting rows. Each planting row was sprinkled with Plant-tone fertilizer and raked in. More fertilizer will be added to the planting holes when the transplants are placed in the ground.

Soaker hoses were laid out on the planting rows:

The solar mulch was carefully measured and laid over the bed and temporarily held down with rocks, wood, shovels, and anything that was handy. Then the edges buried with soil:

Over the next couple weeks, this plot will house Sugar Baby Watermelons, Charantais Melons, Fast Break Melons, and a row of Early Girl Tomatoes at the north end.

The plot will be pretty densely planted and will be a tangle of vines by August. The most difficult part will be making sure the vines stay in the garden. Here is a picture of the 2009 melon patch:

Overall, I had good results with melons grown on solar mulch last year considering the abnormal rain and colder temperatures we experienced. Last year, the transplants were planted the last week of May, but sulked and didn’t begin growing until warm weather finally hit in July. Even though they lost about a month of maturing time in a growing season that is short to begin with, I still had a melon harvest of about 17 melons from 8 plants. There were many fruits on the vines that just didn’t have time to mature before first frost.

Hopefully, last summer’s weather was a fluke and this summer will be more normal temperatures. This year, my melon transplants are looking much healthier this year than last year too:

I will begin hardening these off in the next few days.


  1. Looks good! I will be planting pumpkins and watermelons this week too!

    I should get some of that solar mulch! Where does one find it?

  2. Very nice melon plot! I hope the weather warms up for you soon...
    We've been having unusually cool and windy weather too. It's almost June, and we're still wearing pants and sweatshirts in NorCal!

  3. OOOH they do look beautiful!!!

  4. Let's all fervently hope that last summer's weather was a fluke and that this year will be more normal. Right now, I'm thinking some rain would be nice, but I want to be careful what I wish for! -Jean

  5. You're getting me really excited about melons! I transplanted mine this past weekend. I love Plant-tone fertilizer as well. How much do you put in each hole?

  6. Toni: I really want to plant pumpkins too, but I have no room in the garden! I am trying to figure out if I can plant some elsewhere in the yard, hmmm…

    I purchased my solar mulch from Pine Tree Garden Seeds: Mulch this year. Last year, I purchased it from Johnny's Selected Seeds: Mulch. It really helps warm the soil and keep the weeds down in the in-ground gardens.

  7. Momma_S: Crazy weather you are having. I think we stole your warm temperatures. We hit 80 today, and I think it will be 80-something over the next few days. Night temps are still in the 40s-50s, though. I hope it warms up for you soon.

    Ribbit: Thanks! I hope they do well.

    Jean: Gosh! I hope to never seen another summer like last summer. Yes, some rain WOULD be nice right now. Maybe by the end of the week.

    Thomas: I dig my holes, add some compost and about 1 cup of Plant-tone and mix in.

  8. For those of us in cooler climes... plastic mulch is the only way to go for heat loving crops like melons, squash, tomatoes, and peppers. Your prior year melon patch looks like it was a thing of beauty!