Some gardeners are wary of growing melons. But last year’s trial of small-fruited varieties, grown outside, proved that they are not difficult – even in a relatively sunless summer. And these “single portion” melons are great for most households as each fruit is eaten fairly quickly so never gets the chance to spoil.
Twenty varieties were grown, including some too new even to have a name, and seed was sown singly in 9cm pots at the end of April at 20-30C/68-80F. They were grown on at 20C/68F, potted into one litre pots and hardened off carefully from the end of May then planted out through black landscape fabric in mid June. The whole trial was covered in fleece to retain warmth until the plants flowered.
It’s interesting to note that where the fruits rested on the landscape fabric some started to rot. The traditional practice of placing a tile or straw under each fruit to keep it off the round would have solved the problem.
Two entries were given the AGM. ‘Emir’ (above, click to enlarge) is a netted Chanentais type with orange flesh and as well as thriving in the trial also did well in plantings at Great Dixter and the RHS Garden at Hyde Hall. ‘Alvaro’ (left, click to enlarge) produced a large crop of well flavoured fruits with dark-striped, pale green skin and salmon-orange flesh.
A number of other entries were assessed as being of AGM standard but are not yet available in retail catalogues – the award cannot be confirmed until home gardeners can buy the seed. These varieties were: ‘Orange Sherbet’, ‘Picasso’ and ‘Sugar Nut’.
It was also recommended that an old favourite have its 1993 Award of Garden Merit withdrawn. Although fairly productive, ‘Sweetheart’ was seen as being too vigorous and spreading and to have now been outclassed by more recent introductions.
In all, if such a good crop of flavoursome fruits can be obtained in such a cloudy summer then we can all feel confident of growing good melons outside - especially with these AGM winning varieties.