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Growing melons will allow us to have on our summer tables one of the most loved fruits, used for appetizers (together with ham) and as a dessert. Let's see the tricks to follow for a successful cultivation.
To have a good harvest, in fact, it is advisable to carefully examine what the climatic and cultural needs of this fruit are, so as to place the plants in the ideal place. Thanks to some simple steps, it is possible to get a good result, in terms of quality and quantity. First of all it is good to remember that this fruit requires, in order to be sweet and juicy, a rather warm climate, with an ideal temperature that is around 25/30 degrees.
This fruit, known as typical of the summer period, exists however also in some different varieties that can be consumed in winter, the so-called yellow melons.
Before sowing the plants a good preparation of the soil is necessary: it must be in a warm area (so prefer the areas exposed to direct sunlight) and well draining. Any stagnant water could in fact cause the roots of the melon plants to rot, causing them to dry out. About three weeks before the planned sowing date, prepare the ground by digging it and fertilizing it with manure (which can be purchased in specialized centers for the care of vegetable and garden plants).
Take care to eliminate all traces of weeds and weeds, which feed on the nutritive elements destined for melons. It is necessary to wait three weeks to ensure that the soil absorbs the nutrients and is therefore ready to host the seeds. The melons are sown in March in the seedbed, taking care to use a peat-based soil: once the seedlings are germinated, they can be transplanted into the soil prepared previously.
The important thing is that the temperature is not too cold: it must already be over 12 degrees centigrade. The new plants must be placed at a distance of at least 60 centimeters from each other: the same space is necessary between one row and another. Important is also the operation of thinning of the plants: once they are a little grown, it is advisable to eliminate those that appear weaker and more fragile, so that those remaining have the space and nourishment to develop.
Warning: unlike many other similar plants (such as the watermelon), the melon cannot be grown in pots.
To develop well, plants of this type need a lot of water. We must therefore water them frequently, being careful not to wet the plants or leaves directly, but only the earth around the roots. Wet the plant means to make it more easily prey to fungi and parasites, which can cause it to become moldy. It is not necessary to fertilize the plants during growth: the fertilization carried out on the ground before sowing the plants is more than sufficient. As far as irrigation is concerned, it is recommended to thin them out when the fruits are close to ripening: this will make them sweeter and tastier.
But a fundamental operation for the growth of melon plants is another operation, called shearing, which must be carried out carefully. Once the plants have begun to stretch, it is in fact necessary to cut them obliquely at the height of the fourth leaf. This will lead the plant to develop two lateral branches, to which the same treatment will have to be done. Each branch will thus generate a fruit: from the same plant it will be possible to obtain more fruit at the same time. The topping must also be done once the fruits are born: the branches must be cut at the height of the third leaf (as soon as the fifth one is checked). In this way, the plant will not continue to lengthen, and the nutrients present in the soil will be used for the exclusive use of fruit growth.
The fruits are harvested in the warm months: it starts around the end of June, and in the hottest areas you can arrive until October. Some methods exist to establish when the fruit is ready to be harvested: the first is to observe the peel: when the melon is ready for harvesting, the peel takes on the characteristic "lattice" shape, and the color that distinguishes it. A further check is possible by simply pressing a finger gently on the skin: at the moment when it becomes soft, it means that the pulp is ripe to the right point, and that the melon is ready to be picked. The harvest is done by sharply cutting the branch just above the fruit itself (it is also necessary to cut the peduncle that keeps the fruit connected to the plant).
Once cut, the melons they are kept in a cool and dry place: better in the refrigerator, as the hot summer days could bring the melons to rot quickly.
We have already recalled how it is necessary to avoid any stagnation of water, which would lead the plant's roots to rot: it is not, however, the only danger to which we must pay attention when we decide to try our hand at melon cultivation.
It is necessary to arm yourself with insecticides, since among the enemies of the melon plants there are insects such as the red spider mites, aphids and melon ladybirds. It is therefore necessary to keep an eye on the plants and fruits, so as to be able to intervene in time at the first warning signal, by giving the plant the special curative products.