I have always loved sweet Summertime melons and longed to grow my own. Years ago I tried, failed and decided they weren’t worth the trouble. This year I tried again with a different approach, plenty of research and careful variety selection. The result was sweet sweet success!
While planning my Summer gardens, I wanted to include melons for treats for the kids. I knew I did not have room for huge vines, or patience for big melons that might rot on the vine before maturing. So, I decided to grow only small melons that produce quickly and take up little space.
I thoroughly researched every type of readily available Mini-Melon seeds. I ended up choosing 3 varieties to try and then happened to get aunother through seed swapping. I grew 4 varieties of melons this year in only 26 square feet of garden space!
The space that was left in my garden after harvesting Spring new potatoes was perfect to try out these melon varieties. The potatoes were dug in late May, compost added, mini-melon seeds planted, and fruit harvested by the end of July/early August.
I took notes, kept a tally of the sweet produce, and measured each melon. My hope was to find at least one variety worth growing again. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised with the success of my Mini-Melon Melon trials and actually found a couple of varieties that I will happily grow again. We ate plenty of delicious home grown fruits this summer and I am pleased to be able to share the news of our sweet success.
The melons were grown organically in Alabama. They were all planted fairly late in the season in raised beds. I did not baby them or apply preventative insecticides or fungicides. With greater care, these varieties would probably be even more productive.
If this would have been a melon beauty contest, the beautiful French Charentais, Alvaro, would have won the crown. They had smooth skin and segments outlined in dark stripes. The lovely fruits that were picked from these small vines were 5 1/2″ in diameter and full of sweet flavor. They were incredibly juicy with ideal cantaloupe flavor and texture.
The seed listings for these show that they can produce fruit in 65 days. That was not my experience however. They took a bit longer, probably 70 days. I was only able to harvest 3 fully matured melons from my 2 Alvaro vines.
There were many more melons produced, but the remaining fruits quickly were taken over by small worms and pests. If I had mulched under them with straw or taken preventative steps by spraying for bugs, I might have been able to pick 2-3 more of these delicious melons from each vine. Even though I lost most of them to pests, I would still recommend Alvaro. I think they would be a great crop for areas with shorter growing seasons and less bugs than we have in central Alabama. Because I was so impressed with the flavor of these beauties, I may be willing to fight the critters and grow these again. Next time with a bit more care and preventative insecticidal measures.
Minnesota Midgets were the real “Mini” fruits. These tiny cantaloupes were all 4″-5″ in diameter with netted skin and dark orange flesh. The perfect little melons were just the right size for two people to share. They might have been small, but the cute little Minnesota Midgets were filled with big sweet melon flavor.
These tiny fruits were very easy to harvest at the correct time because they pop right off of the vine when they are ready. The term “full-slip” is used to describe this trait in seed catalogs. When I read “full-slip” I thought it just meant they would easily pull from the vines. Well, these actually slip themselves right off when they are ripe.
Minnesota Midgets started ripening around 70 days after planting and they continued to set fruits for weeks. They were the most productive melon I grew, with 2-3 fully formed fruits produced from each vine. Their great taste and impressive productivity has earned sweet little Minnesota Midgets a place in my garden plans for next year and probably every year after.
I obtained seeds for Korean yellow skinned melons through seed swapping. These melons may be listed in seed catalogs under different names. But, all of the listings I’ve seen pretty much look like the same fruits. The Korean melon vines were very compact with small leaves, and were the quickest to produce melons. I picked the first 5 of them in mid-July, in under 60 days from the time of planting. The fast growing fruits turned bright yellow when they were ripe, making it easy to know when to pick them. Each of the small vines produced several oblong fruits that were 3″-4″ in diameter.
They were very productive, but unfortunately, not very tasty. The flesh was white and firm, but not juicy and sweet like I had hoped for. Korean melons make an interesting slightly sweet addition to green salads and they do pair well with shrimp. But, they are far from an ideal melon. The mildly sweet flesh of these fruits is a bit like eating watermelon rind and like watermelon rind, they are apparently great for making pickles. I did not try to pickle them, but did try them prepared many ways. After being disappointed with them raw I decided to try cooking them, hoping to bring out some hidden flavors. They were less impressive after grilling. I only have room for delicious foods. Being pretty and productive will not earn these melons a place in next year’s garden.
The Arava F1 Hybrid is a cross between a cantaloupe and a honeydew that has a netted exterior similar to one parent and sweet juicy green flesh like the other. The skin of the Arava melons turned yellow when they were ready to pick making them easy to harvest at the right time. My first ripened on August 8th, 74 days after planting. The first bite of the first Arava I picked was without a doubt the most delicious of any food I’ve ever grown. The sweet perfume smell of these fruits was intoxicating and the taste was sweet melon perfection. The first Arava I picked was considerably larger than the other melons I grew, measuring 7″-8″ in diameter and weighing 3-4lbs, not really “mini”. The second Arava I picked was 5″ in diameter. These vines were fairly compact and perfectly behaved in our small raised bed garden.
These sweet treats were impressive in flavor and showed no signs of disease or pest problems. However, they were not very productive. Two vines produced two melons. Planning a small garden is difficult, and usually productivity per square foot is of greatest importance. Can amazing taste win a few square feet for Arava in next years garden? Oh, they were so juicy and perfect! I’m not practical enough to say “No.” I should probably not grow these again, but I’m sure I will.
Growing these melons was fun and rewarding. Melons aren’t just for truck farmers and big fields! Whether they are planted as a late season crop in the South or a short-season main crop up North, mini-melons can be a great choice for the back-yard gardener. When compact fast-growing varieties are chosen, sweet melon success can be had by all.