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Melon is a term used for various members of the Cucurbitaceae family with fleshy fruits, or may specify the typically sweet-fruiting members, muskmelon and watermelon. Melon can refer to either the plant or the fruit, which is a false berry. Many different cultivars have been produced, particularly of muskmelons.


Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture

Melon. A name applied to two very different fruits of the Cucurbitaceae). Unqualified, the word refers to fruits of the different botanical varieties of Cucumis Melo (which see, Vol. II, p. 907). The word muskmelon usually refers to the same fruits, although some forms of Cucumis Melo are not musk-scented. The word watermelon refers to the fruits of Citrtullus vulgaris (Vol. II, p. 780). Inasmuch as the cultural requirements for all melons are very much alike, the whole subject is considered here together.

The cultivated forms of Cucumis Melo are very many, and they are difficult of clear classification. The musk-scented forms might be assembled into one group, including the nutmeg or netted melons and the cantaloupe or hard-rinded melons, although the name cantaloupe has become generic in this country for all musk-scented melons. The non-odorous, or at least relatively non-moschatous, melons might comprise another group; and to this would be referred the winter melons, Cucumis Melo var. inodorus. The winter melons, as a whole, have not been popular in North America, and are, in fact, not generally known. They require a long season in which to mature (see Cornell Bull. No. 96, pp. 364-366, 1895). Very likely the so- called winter or late-keeping melons may not all represent the botanical var. inodorus.—Some of the forms of the species are used in the making of preserves and condiments, or even grown for ornament, rather than for eating out of hand. Of such are the Chito (Fig. 2351) and Dudaim types, which are described on page 908.

To the winter melons probably belongs the Cassaba (Fig. 2350), which has lately become popular in California, whence it is shipped east late in the season. The name, variously spelled Kassaba, Cassaba, Casaba, Cassabah, Casba, is derived from the town Kassaba near Smyrna, Asia Minor, whence it was introduced. The seed has been more or less in commerce for many years. According to G.P. Rixford, the seed of the late Kassaba was sent from Smyrna to California late in 1878 by Dr. J. D. B. Stillman and James L. Flood, who found the melons in the hotels of that city. A crop was grown in California in 1879, and appeared on the markets that autumn in limited quantity. M. Rixford, then connected with the "Evening Bulletin," secured a good part of the stock and the next summer had a large quantity raised; and in the winter of 1880-81 seeds were distributed to 3,000 country subscribers of the "Bulletin." The melons did not then become popular, however, because they were usually marketed too green; for these melons must be thoroughly ripe to disclose their excellent flavor. In the original edition of "California Vegetables" (1897), Wickson describes the Cassaba or Pineapple melon as "fine, large, late variety, rich, cream-colored flesh; keeps well into winter."

Another Cassaba melon was sent out long before this by the Patent Office, before the organization of the Department of Agriculture. This received special attention from General Bidwell of Chico, California, and became known as the Bidwell Cassaba. This is a large summer melon, said to grow to 1 foot in diameter. This is said to be known only locally, although it was grown at Cornell twenty-five years ago.

On the introduction of Cassabas in this country, W. W. Tracy writes as follows: "The name Cassaba was used in this country as early as 1871, when Bridgman offered the 'Persian,' or 'Ordessa,' or 'Cassaba.' The 'Green Persian," which seems to have been very much like that stock, if not identical with it, was offered by Ross, of Boston, in 1827. In 1872, Henry A. Dreer offered 'Cassaba' and published a good illustration of it; this seems to be very much like the Bay View of more recent years except that it is more pointed at the stem- end. None of these melons, as they are remembered, was like the Cassaba of California trade today, but were very much like the Cassaba as grown at Chico, California, under the name of Bidwell Cassaba. It seems that the term 'Cassaba' has been used indiscriminately for several different varieties of melons, some of them quite distinct from the others."


The modern cultivated varieties of muskmelon are supposed to have been derived from the wild types native to Asia and Africa. There is some question as to whether the melon was known to the ancient Egyptians as a cultivated plant. It was probably introduced into the Mediterranean countries of Europe about the beginning of the Christian era. Pliny refers to a "new form of cucumber. . . . called melopepo, which grows on the ground in a round form, and . . . . although not suspended, yet the fruit separates from the stem at maturity." Nonnius, in the sixth century, speaks of "cucumbers" which are highly odorous. It seems probable that these authors refer to the muskmelon. By the sixteenth century, many varieties of muskmelon were known to European writers.

The melon reached America among the earliest importations of plants from the Old World, for in 1494 it was recorded as grown by the companions of Columbus. In 1535, "musk melons" were mentioned by a traveler on the St. Lawrence. Melons were reported in New Mexico in 1540, and were abundant in Hayti in 1565. In 1584 they were found in Virginia by Captains Amidos and Barlow. In 1609 they were seen on the Hudson River, and were described as abundant in New England in 1629. In 1806, thirteen kinds were mentioned by M' Mahon as being under culture in America. At the present time, over 400 different variety names are given in American seed catalogues, although the number of important varieties is very much less.

There are two principal classes of muskmelons, the soft-rinded or netted melons, often called nutmeg melons (Fig. 2352), and the hard-rinded or warty melons, known technically as rock melons or cantaloupes. The latter class is grown principally in Europe, often under glass, and is little known in America. The term cantaloupe as used in America is primarily a trade name employed to designate nutmeg melons in general, or, more often, the small type of melon that is shipped in baskets or crates.

The class of muskmelons commonly grown in America may be arbitrarily divided into two groups: large-fruited and small-fruited. This classification is important from a marketing standpoint, since the large-fruited melons are grown principally by market-gardeners, and hauled in bulk to their respective markets, where they are sold by count, though sometimes they are grown as a truck crop and packed in crates to be shipped to the general market. The small-fruited melons are usually packed in crates or baskets, and are very much more extensively handled on the general market than the large-fruited type. The typical small-fruited or "crate" melons weigh about one and one-fourth to one and one-half pounds each; the large fruited melons weigh anywhere from two to fifteen pounds each.

The flesh of the muskmelon may be either salmon-colored or greenish. The green-fleshed sorts are the more delicately flavored, while the salmon-fleshed varieties are likely to have a more pronounced musky flavor. Formerly, the green-fleshed sorts were preferred on most markets; but in the last few years the demand for salmon-fleshed sorts has been increasing rapidly.

The muskmelon thrives best in a fairly warm climate, but is not so partial to intense summer heat as is the watermelon. It can be grown wherever the summers are sufficiently long to enable it to develop and mature its crop between the frosts of spring and fall. From four to five months are required from the planting of the seed to the end of the harvest. It is considered an exacting crop, and is therefore often omitted from home gardens even in regions where it might readily be grown.

Development of the industry.

Up to 1870, muskmelons were grown principally in private gardens, and it was unusual to see them on the markets. A little later, however, the growing of muskmelons for the New York and other eastern markets was started in Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey. These melons were principally the Hackensack and Anne Arundel varieties (large-fruited), and the Jenny Lind, a small oblate melon. These melons supplied the market principally from the middle of July till the middle of August. Shipments increased from year to year until in the nineties the New York market sometimes handled from two to three carloads a day at the height of the season.

In 1881 the Netted Gem melon, a small, oval, heavily netted green-fleshed fruit, was first introduced to the public. This variety was destined to revolutionize the melon industry of America. It was tested for a few years, and in 1885 was grown for market in a small way by Wm. S. Ross at Alma, Illinois, and by J. W. Eastwood at Rocky Ford, Colorado. Each planted about one-half acre that year. So far as known, these plantings marked the real beginning of the melon industry in Illinois and in Colorado. Having more melons than his local market could consume, Ross shipped two barrels to Chicago in August, 1885. These were the first melons of this type ever seen on the Chicago market, and were the occasion of considerable amusement on South Water Street when the barrels were opened; the melons seemed ridiculously small as compared with the Hackensack and other melons then on the market. However, after the flavor had been tested, the melons were readily sold and an order received for all that could be furnished. The next year, Ross planted 20 acres, and a few years later, 90 acres. Soon a number of his neighbors began planting, and the industry grew at Alma, until the shipments reached ten to fifteen carloads a day. In 1900, from Alma alone 253 carloads were shipped. In the meantime the industry had spread to other Illinois points, including Anna and Balcom in the extreme southern part of the state. Most of the Illinois melons were shipped in one-third-bushel Climax baskets.

Meanwhile the industry had been developing at Rocky Ford, Colorado, though up to 1894 the shipments had been made entirely by local express, and to Colorado markets only. That year some of the growers joined together and loaded ventilator cars which were shipped by freight. Up to this time the melons had been shipped in boxes, barrels, and home-made crates, —principally crates made from 12-inch boards and common laths sawed in two. In 1896 the growers were supplied for the first time with regular crates made at a lumber mill. These crates were 12 by 12 by 22¼ inches, inside measure,—practically the same as the home-made crates,—and have ever since been the standard package for Rocky Ford melons. In this year a few cars of melons were shipped as far east as Kansas City and St. Louis.

The Rocky Ford Melon Growers' Association was organized in the fall of 1896 for the purpose of cooperative marketing of Rocky Ford melons; and in 1897, 121 carloads were handled in eastern markets, including Pittsburgh and New York. The melons met with favor and sold at good prices. The next year the membership of the Melon Growers' Association was increased to over 800. and more than 5,000 acres of melons were planted. The yield was heavy, and the markets became glutted with unsalable melons, due partly to poor refrigeration. The outlook was discouraging, and many farmers turned their attention to sugar-beets the next year. However, the melon industry continued, and from 1897 to 1905 inclusive, 5,999 carloads were shipped from the Rocky Ford district, the largest number being in 1904, when 1,182 cars were shipped. Refrigeration was improved, so that the melons carried safely even to Boston, a run of 150 hours.

The success of the Rocky Ford melons on the various markets stimulated the planting of melons of the same type in many other parts of the country, especially in the southern states, and Rocky Ford was looked to as the source of seed. Today the production of melon seed, as well as market melons, is an important industry at Rocky Ford. A number of distinct strains of the Netted Gem type of melon have been developed at Rocky Ford, and the seed is sold under various names, such as Walters' Solid Net, Eden Gem, Netted Rock, Rust-Resistant Rocky Ford, and so on.

The growth of the melon industry of the United States from 1897 to 1905 is indicated by the fact that in 1897 only about 400 carloads of muskmelons were marketed, while in 1905 the shipments amounted to 6,920 carloads.

In 1905, the Imperial Valley of southern California sprang into prominence as a melon-producing region. This valley lies mostly below sea-level, and is situated where the climate is extremely hot. Until 1900 it was known only as a desert. That year work was commenced on a canal system for conducting irrigation water to the valley from the Colorado River, a distance of about 60 miles. In 1905, expert growers from Rocky Ford were secured to organize the melon industry and supervise the growing and packing of the product. One thousand acres were planted that year, and 297 carloads of melons were marketed. Production has increased from year to year, until the Imperial Valley has far outstripped Rocky Ford in the production of melons, and is now recognized as the foremost melon-producing region in the world. The shipments from the Imperial Valley for each year from 1905 to 1914 inclusive were as follows:

Year Carloads

1905 297

1906 577

1907 644

1908 1,911

1909 1,411

1910 1,630

1911 2,551

1912 2,750

1913 3,502

1914 4,446

The hot climate of the Imperial Valley makes early planting possible, and carlot shipments usually begin in May, and continue through June and often a large part of July. These melons, due to pre-cooling and otherwise perfect refrigeration, are shipped safely even to the Atlantic seaboard; and thus all the large markets are fully supplied with melons of uniform grade and quality from four to six weeks earlier than was formerly the case.

Beginning with the California product in May, the markets of the United States are supplied with melons of the Netted Gem or Rocky Ford type continuously until late in October. The states producing these melons in sufficiently large quantities to be mentioned in the general market reports in 1914 were as follows, the states being named in approximately the order in which their products first appeared upon the markets: California, Texas, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Arizona, Arkansas, Oklahoma, South Carolina, North Carolina, Indiana, Nevada, Maryland, Delaware, Utah, New Mexico, Colorado, Tennessee, Michigan.

Cultivation of the muskmelon.

Statements that muskmelons demand a particular type of soil are misleading, for the muskmelon can be grown successfully on almost any kind of land from light sandy loam to heavy clay loam, provided the land is properly drained, adequately fertilized, and thoroughly cultivated. Natural drainage is considered best, and melons are usually planted on slopes and knolls rather than on low or flat lands. The soil should be well supplied with humus, either as a result of plowing under a sod or catch-crop or an application of manure. Unless the soil is naturally rich, special fertilizer treatment should be given to the particular spot where each melon hill is to stand. In the home garden, holes are sometimes dug with a spade and partially filled with rotted manure, which is then covered with soil, in which the seed is to be planted. In field culture, the land is furrowed out both ways with a plow, and from a quart to a half-peck of fine, rotted manure or compost is placed at each intersection. The manure is then covered with fine moist soil, and from ten to twelve seeds are planted in each hill. In humid climates, the seed is covered about. ½ inch deep; in irrigated regions it is covered about 1 ½ inches.

Attempts to substitute commercial fertilizer for manure in enriching muskmelon hills have usually resulted unsatisfactorily; and attempts to grow melons without special treatment of the individual hills have resulted in failure except on land already very rich, such as market-garden soil or alfalfa sod plowed under. Since muskmelons demand a relatively high temperature and are easily injured by frost, it is useless to plant the seed in the open ground until the weather has become warm and settled. Planting in Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, and similar latitudes usually takes place from May 10 to 20. Attempts to increase the earliness of melons by protection of the plants in the field by means of hand-boxes or forcing-hills are applicable only to amateur areas. Starting the plants in hotbeds and transplanting them to the field when about four weeks old is more practicable on a commercial scale. Since a melon plant is likely to die if the root system is disturbed in transplanting, the seeds must be sown in pots or dirt-bands, or on inverted sods, and the plants very carefully handled during transplanting. Muskmelon hills are placed from 4 to 6 feet apart, and the plants are thinned to two or three in each hill. Tillage is begun as soon as the plants are visible, and is repeated at frequent intervals until the vines cover the ground, or until the crop is harvested. In the latter case, the vines are kept in windrows, thus allowing space for the pickers as well as permitting late tillage. In irrigated regions and in rich garden soil, musk- melons are often planted in drills instead of hills. The rows are made 6 or 7 feet apart, and the plants thinned to 2 feet apart in the row. If the crop is to be irrigated, the seed is sown close to the irrigation furrows, and the water turned in immediately after planting, to insure germination. Irrigation is repeated according to the demands of the crop, until the melons are well developed; then the water is withheld to a large extent, and little if any irrigation is given during the picking season. Comparative dryness of the soil when the melons ripen favors the development of high quality in the fruits. In addition to tillage (and irrigation, in an arid climate), the care of muskmelons consists principally in protecting them from their enemies. Striped cucumber beetles are likely to attack the plants as soon as they appear above ground. They may be controlled by the application of a repellant, such as turpentine mixed with land plaster and dusted on the plants, or bordeaux mixture applied as a spray. The melon louse or aphid is often a serious enemy, especially in dry seasons. It is readily controlled by spraying with nicotine sulfate, if precaution is taken to reach the undersides of the leaves with the spray. The leaf-spot or "rust" is a fungous disease that attacks the foliage of muskmelons and in some localities has interfered seriously with the production of a marketable crop. In the case of a severe attack it so weakens the vines that the melons do not develop properly and are of poor flavor. This disease has been controlled successfully by repeated spraying with bordeaux mixture, the turning of the vines into windrows making late spraying possible. Also, rust-resistant strains of melons have been developed; so that the disease is no longer a serious menace to the melon industry.

Harvesting and marketing.

Muskmelons must be picked while still firm in order to reach the market in an acceptable condition, yet if they are removed from the vines too early they lack flavor. Unless the market is too distant, melons of the Netted Gem type should not be picked until they will part readily from the stem, and the color of the skin changes slightly from green to gray as seen through the netting. To get the melons picked uniformly at this stage, it is necessary to go over the plantation every day and in hot weather twice a day.

In order that melons may be kept as cool as possible after they are picked, they are taken immediately to the shade of a packing-shed, where they are graded and packed in crates or baskets. The standard crate for Colorado melons (already mentioned) has been adopted in several other states. It contains forty-five standard-size melons, or twenty-seven to thirty-six "Jumbo" melons. "Pony" crates are slightly smaller (11 by 11 by 22¼ inches), and are packed with fifty- four smaller melons. The melons in the standard crate are arranged in three tiers of fifteen melons each, and each tier is three melons wide and five melons long. Since the crate is made of slats, forty-two of the forty- five melons can be seen from the outside. This permits thorough inspection of the contents of every crate, both at the shipping-point and on the market. Rigid inspection before shipment has helped materially in establishing the reputation of Rocky Ford melons on the markets. California melons and some of the Colorado melons are wrapped in tissue paper to insure better keeping in long-distance shipments. When so handled, the packing is more rigidly supervised, and less dependence is placed on inspection at the loading- platform.

If melons are to be more than twenty-four hours en route, they are usually shipped under refrigeration. The crates are loaded three tiers high, and ample space is left for circulation of cold air. A minimum carload consists of 364 crates, averaging sixty-six pounds each, and the melons seem to reach market in better condition if the cars are not more heavily loaded. The handling of muskmelons or "cantaloupes" in carload lots is an important branch of the produce business, and certain firms known as "general distributors" make a specialty of this product.

Montreal muskmelons; frames.

In addition to the small-fruited "crate" or "basket" melons that are shipped by the carload across the continent, and the ordinary varieties of large-fruited melons that are very generally grown by market-gardeners in outdoor culture, there is a large-fruited variety known as the Montreal Market, which is grown principally near Montreal, Canada, by special methods, and commands very high prices in some of the eastern markets. The seed is sown in greenhouses or hotbeds, usually in pots, early in March, and the plants are later set in sash-covered frames, which afford protection until the crop is nearly grown. Before the frames are placed, the soil is thrown up in ridges about 12 feet wide, and a trench 2 feet wide and 15 to 18 inches deep is dug along the center of the ridge. This trench is filled nearly level with fermenting manure, and then covered with fine moist soil. When the soil over the manure has attained the right temperature, the plants are set. Usually one hill (two plants) of melons are grown under each sash; so that a 6 by 12 frame will accommodate four hills if 3- by 6-foot sash are employed. Great attention is given to watering, syringing, and ventilation. As the fruits develop, they are kept from contact with the soil by means of shingles, pieces of board, flat stones, or slate. Each fruit is turned every few days to insure uniformity in ripening and in development of netting. When the area within the frames becomes fully occupied by vines, the frame is raised a few inches above the ground so that the growing tips of the vines may push out. More ventilation is given as the season advances, and finally the sash and even the frames are removed entirely. The melons thus finish their ripening under outdoor conditions.

Montreal melons are shipped in large wicker baskets, holding one dozen melons each. The melons are packed in fine hay, and the baskets are shipped without covers.

Cassaba melons.

The melons commonly grown in the United States are perishable after reaching maturity, and their market season ends in October. Certain types of musk- melons known as winter melons will keep for several weeks after being picked, if they are properly handled. Melons of this type were formerly little known in America, but are now grown commercially in the San Fernando Valley in southern California, and are shipped by the carload to the larger eastern markets, principally during November and December. The seed was brought from the Mediterranean countries over thirty years ago, and tried in California. The first attempts at growing these melons were not commercially successful, but a few districts were found to be especially adapted to their culture. In the valley above mentioned, hundreds of acres are planted every year. These melons are large, firm, smooth-skinned, and very thick-fleshed. On the market, they are known as Cassaba melons. They are packed in excelsior in half-cases holding six melons, or in full cases holding twelve melons.


Books: "How to Grow Melons for Market," W. Atlee Burpee; "Melon Culture," James Troop; "Cantaloupe Culture," P. K. Blinn. Experiment Station bulletins: Arkansas, No. 69; Colorado, Nos. 62, 85, 95, 104, 108, 121, 126; Georgia, No. 57; Illinois, Nos. 124, 155, 174; Indiana, Nos. 123. 135; New Hampshire, Nos. 52, 70, 172; also N. H. Technical Bull. No. 2 (classification, by F. Wm. Rane); New Mexico, No. 63; New York(Cornell), Nos. 96, 200, 231; Rhode Island, No. 68; Vermont, No. 169.


The watermelon, Citrullus vulgaris (Figs. 2355, 2356), is a native of Africa, and is normally a dry-country plant. David Livingstone, writing in 1857, describes it as being very abundant in favorable years in the Kalahari Desert. He says that the species is very variable, some fruits being bitter and some sweet. All the animals of the region from elephants to mice, including the carnivora, seem to enjoy the fruits.

The watermelon was early taken to India since it has a Sanskrit name. It reached China about the tenth century A. D. It has no name in the ancient Greek and Latin languages, and was probably not known to these people much before the Christian Era.

There are three fairly well-marked types of the cultivated watermelon: the round preserving "citron" (Fig. 2355), the stock (live-stock) melon, and the ordinary watermelon. The two former groups are usually more hardy, more disease-resistant, stronger growers, and more productive. It seems probable that the forms of melon found on our southwestern prairies, and in the cotton fields of the South have returned to approximately their original wild condition. There is apparently little data on the original introduction of the watermelon into the United States. Judging from the varieties at present extant, it does not seem likely that it reached us from Mediterranean lands.

Commercial importance.

The watermelon is the most valuable vine crop grown in the United States. As a garden plant it has a wide distribution, but as a commercial product its culture is confined chiefly to the region to which the long-leaf pine is indigenous. This region includes the states bordering the Atlantic from Virginia southward as well as those bordering the gulf. The only states outside this territory which grow watermelons on a commercial scale are New Jersey, Indiana, Illinois, Oklahoma, Kansas, and California. The six states producing the bulk of the commercial crop in the order of their importance are Texas, Georgia, Florida, Indiana, Mississippi, and California.

The value of the commercial crop of watermelons in the United States, as stated by the census of 1910, was nearly $4,500,000, grown on 137,000 acres.

In comparison with other vegetable crops, the watermelon stands seventh. The crops having a greater value are Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, cabbage, onions, and sweet corn, in the order named.


The watermelon thrives best on light, warm, sandy soils well supplied with organic matter. The plants require a liberal moisture supply during their early life, but are able to produce abundantly in regions with relatively spare rainfall. In order to develop superior quality, the temperature during the fruit- bearing period should be high.

The preparatory treatment of the soil for watermelons preferred by most growers is to turn under a crop of cowpeas the previous autumn. An area which has not been under cultivation for several seasons and upon which there is a good stand of broom-sedge or grass is the second choice. While watermelon seed does not require to be planted early, the land should be prepared in time to allow weed seeds to germinate so that at least the early weed crop can be destroyed by harrowing before the melon seed is planted. This is important as the crop can be given thorough culture only previous to the vining of the plants. The object should be to do most of the cultivation before the crop is planted.

The watermelon, like all other vine plants, is a gross feeder and requires an abundant supply of available plant-food over a comparatively short growing season. For this reason, the fertilizing should be liberal and the materials used of a nature to be quickly available. When stable manure can be secured, this is to be preferred, but when it is not to be had crops planted on lands which have had a crop of cowpeas turned under respond reasonably well when a fertilizer carrying 3 to 4 per cent of nitrogen in the form of nitrate or sulfate of ammonia, 8 per cent of potash, either sulfate or muriate, and 8 per cent of phosphoric acid, either super phosphate or high-grade acid phosphate, is used at the rate of 400 to 500 pounds to the acre in the drill.

There is no advantage to be gained from planting the seed for the commercial crop of watermelons before the soil is in thorough tilth and well warmed up. Planting should be delayed until both the soil and the season are warm enough to insure quick germination of the seed and rapid growth of the plants. As a rule, the period for planting watermelons follows within a fortnight that for corn.

The watermelon is a more robust plant than either the cucumber or the muskmelon and requires more liberal spaces between both rows and hills in the row. Two general systems of planting are followed: planting in rows and planting in hills. Row-planting is very generally practised in some localities; the method followed is to open a furrow in which the fertilizer or manure is scattered and incorporated with the soil by the use of a suitable implement such as a scooter or sweep. Two furrows are then turned together over the fertilizer to form the bed on which to plant the seed. In humid sections this is somewhat above the general level of the surface, but in dry regions the seed is either planted on the level or slightly below. An abundance of seed is used so as to insure a dense stand of plants in order to fortify the plantation against the ravages of insect pests. After the plants are well established and the danger of loss of stand from insect depredations is over, the rows arc thinned so that individual plants stand at intervals of 2 or 3 feet, or they may be thinned so that groups of three or four plants are as far as 6 or 8 feet apart. The rows are usually 8 feet apart. In the hill system of planting, the fertilizer is put either down the length of the row as above described, or the land may be laid off in checkrows 8 by 8 feet apart and a shovelful of well-rotted stable compost placed under each hill located at the intersection of the 8-foot marks. Fertilizer may be used instead of the manure. A stand of plants is insured by placing a dozen or more seeds in a hill, the seeds being scattered over an area of about 1 square foot and the seeds covered with not more than 1 inch of earth.

As has been observed, the main cultivation of the watermelon crop should be made before the seed is planted. No opportunity, however, should be lost to keep the land free from weeds and in a fine state of tilth from the time the plants appear above ground until the vines are too large to continue the use of horse-power implements. Even after implements are excluded, all large weeds should be pulled by hand. In many sections of the South, it is a common practice to sow a light seeding of cowpeas in the watermelon fields at the time of the last cultivation to act as a partial shade to the fruits and to prevent the whipping of the vines in the wind. The cowpeas also contribute to the upkeep of the land, an important factor with the light soils used for melon-culture.

Melons should not follow closely after melons on the same land, as areas used too frequently for melon culture are almost certain to become contaminated with the wilt disease fungus. As this fungus is capable of perpetuating itself for considerable periods when once the soil is infested, a rotation period of five to seven years is desirable in order to avoid losses on lands which have been previously used for the crop.

As has been suggested, the watermelon is not immune to the ravages of insect pests and fungous diseases. The striped cucumber beetle is one of the most annoying and destructive insect pests attacking this crop. In the garden it can be controlled most satisfactorily by the use of screens or by a square of mosquito netting dropped over a tiny stake in the center of the hill in such a manner as to form a tent over the young plant; then by drawing earth over the edges of the netting it will be held in place and the insects excluded. The use of tobacco dust or tobacco fertilizer as a mulch for the young plants serves as a fairly effective repellant and is at the same time a valuable fertilizer.

The wilt disease has caused great loss in years past and while no effective remedy is known, satisfactory crops can be secured by careful attention to crop-rotation in which wilt-resistant crops form a large factor and in which the interval between melon crops is sufficiently long, five to seven years being none too much,

Harvesting and marketing.

An important consideration in harvesting melons for carload shipment is to avoid mixing sizes in the car. If two sizes are to be shipped in the same car, they should be loaded in separate ends. Buyers establish the price for a load of melons by the minimum size of the melons in the load. Melon markets have strong likes and dislikes. Some prefer melons of a definite size only, others prefer melons with particular markings, while still others require either a long or globular melon. These peculiarities of the market should be carefully studied and the plantings be so planned as to meet the preferences of the market to the fullest possible extent. At shipping-time these features should be kept in mind and the distribution of the melons made accordingly.

Varieties of watermelon.

Melons of the highest quality have brittle flesh, few fibers, and a thin rind. Such melons are not well adapted for shipment but are ideal for home use. The commercial melon is one that has good shipping quality, a firm not too thin rind, of a variety in which the melons run uniform in size, and of a weight ranging from twenty to thirty pounds. The variety must also be productive, of fair quality, and medium early. A few sorts worthy of a place in the garden for home use are Mclver, Florida Favorite, Kleckley Sweets, Bradford, Long White Icing, and Sugar Loaf. Those most popular as shipping melons are Kolb Gem, Duke Jones. Pride of Georgia, or Jones, Mammoth Ironclad, and Dixie.


The production of seed has been largely confined to the new prairie breakings of western Kansas and Oklahoma, where a crop can be grown very cheaply. It is interesting to note that the wild animals, notably coyotes, often destroy a planting, so that few fruits are left for seed. The melons grown for seed are pulped in machines devised for the purpose. These machines separate the rind and pulp from the seeds and juice. The mass of seeds and juice is allowed to ferment for one or a few days, when the seed is washed and spread on wire screens for drying. When the seed is thoroughly dry it should be run through a fanning-mill to drive off melon fragments and light seed, when it is ready for market. A crop of seed is rarely planted by a farmer without a contract with a seeds man, who agrees to take all or part of the crop at a stipulated price.

In practically all sections of the Unites States where field corn can be successfully grown, the watermelon can be depended upon to mature a crop sufficient to justify including it in the home-garden. While it can be grown on a wide variety of soils by giving them special preparation, it nevertheless grows best on rich sandy, or loamy soils. The prairie soils of the corn-belt as well as the glacial-drift soils of New York can be successfully used for the garden culture of the crop.

The watermelon is tender to frost, and as it makes its most rapid growth during the warm season, it should not be planted in cold soil or before the danger of frosts has passed. A safe rule for most sections is to plant ten days to two weeks later than corn.

The few hills of watermelons necessary to supply the needs of the average family should be prepared with special care. The seed-bed should be deep and the hills fertilized with manure or compost which will tend to accelerate the growth of the plants. No better use of hog- or chicken-manure can be made than in the preparation of a compost for watermelons. The hills should be given ample distance—7 or 8 feet each way— and the seeds should be scattered ten or twelve over an area about 1 foot square, and covered with about 1 inch of soil.

The young plants will require protection from insects; the use of mosquito-netting, before noted, will prove as inexpensive and as effective as any method yet devised.

After all danger of losing the stand of plants, either by frost or pests, has passed, the population of each hill should be reduced to three or four of the most vigorous plants. From this period on, care to prevent weed-growth should give satisfactory results providing a sort adapted to the region and to home use has been chosen.

The above text is from the Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. It may be out of date, but still contains valuable and interesting information which can be incorporated into the remainder of the article. Click on "Collapse" in the header to hide this text.

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