Though they take up considerable space and require a long growing season, many gardeners can't resist planting a few watermelons and muskmelons. Their basic requirements are full sun and a fertile, well-drained soil. Heavy, poorly drained soils can be improved by incorporating compost or well-rotted manure into the soil.
Watermelon and muskmelon are warm-season crops. Plant melons after the danger of frost is past and soil temperatures have warmed to 60 to 70oF. In central Iowa, melons may be planted in mid-May. Gardeners in southern Iowa can plant about 1 week earlier; plant 1 week later in northern areas of the state. The last practical date for seeding is June 20.
Muskmelon and watermelon are normally planted in hills. Plant 4 or 5 seeds per hill at a depth of 1 inch. Later, remove all but 2 or 3 healthy, well-spaced plants per hill when seedlings have 1 or 2 true leaves.
Hills of muskmelon should be spaced 2 to 3 feet apart with 5 feet between rows. Watermelon hills and rows should be spaced 5 to 7 feet apart. Bush-type varieties of muskmelons and watermelons should be grown where garden space is limited.
Suggested muskmelon varieties for Iowa include 'Earlisweet,' 'Gold Star,' 'Saticoy,' 'Starship,' and 'Superstar.' Two honeydew type melons which do well in Iowa are 'Venus' and 'Earlidew.' 'Allsweet,' 'Crimson Sweet,' 'Royal Windsor,' 'Mickeylee,' and 'King of Hearts' (seedless) are excellent watermelon varieties.
This article originally appeared in the April 27, 1994 issue, p. 56.