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Melons Seed Starting Tips

Seedling Melon
Melon seedlings
Melon seedlings

Melons are a tender, warm-weather crop.

  • Sow melon seeds or set plants directly into the garden in spring 2 weeks after all danger of frost has passed and when the soil has warmed to 70°F (21°C) or thereabouts.
  • Melon seed can be started indoors 4 to 3 weeks before plants are transplanted directly into the garden, sooner if transplants will be protected by a plastic tunnel or row cover.

Melons include cantaloupes and muskmelons which are called “summer melons” because they are the first melons to reach harvest, and casaba, Charentai, Crenshaw, honeydew, and Persian melons which are called “winter melons” because they come to harvest late.

  • Summer melons are usually ready for harvest about 3 months after sowing at the end of summer.
  • Winter melons, though planted at the same time as summer melons, take an additional month to reach harvest.
  • Summer melons mature 70 to 120 frost-free days after sowing.
  • Winter melons mature 110 to 140 frost-free days after sowing.

Melon Sowing and Planting Tips

  • Grow melons from seeds or seedlings.
  • Seed is viable for 5 years.
  • Direct sow melons in the garden in spring after all danger of frost has passed and the soil has warmed to 70°F (21°C). In warm-winter regions, sow melons in midwinter for harvest in early summer.
  • Melon seeds will not germinate at a soil temperature below 65°F (18°C).
  • Start melons indoors 4 to 3 weeks before planting out into the garden; sow seed in peat pots in seed starting mix. The indoor temperature should be between 80° to 90°F (27-32°C) until germination. Grow melon seedlings on at 75°F (24°C).
  • Sow seed ½ to1½ inches (13-38 mm) deep.
  • Seeds germinate in 4 to 10 days at 80°F (27°C) or warmer.
  • Transplant melons into the garden after the soil has warmed to at least 70°F (21°C) for optimal performance.
  • Space plants in the garden 24 to 36 inches (60-90 cm) apart in all directions.
  • Plant melons on mounds or hills 12 to 24 inches (30-60 cm) high, space mounds 4 to 6 feet (1.2-1.8 m) apart; this will allow melon vines to run down the mounds allowing fruit to gain maximum exposure to the sun.
  • Keep the soil just moist during fruit development.
  • Fertilize with fish emulsion or a soluble complete fertilizer at half strength.
  • Add aged compost to planting beds in advance of transplanting.
  • Melons prefer a soil pH range of 7.0 to 8.0.
  • Grow melons in full sun for best yield and flavor.
  • Avoid planting melons where cucumbers or squash have grown recently.
  • Common pest enemies include aphids, cucumber beetles, flea beetles, squash bugs, squash vine borers, slugs, and snails.
  • Common diseases include bacterial wilt, fusarium wilt, downy mildew, powdery mildew, cucumber mosaic.

Interplanting: Plant melons with bush beans, corn, dill, eggplant, lettuce, cucumbers, squash, and tomatoes.

Container Growing Melons: Melons are not a good choice for container growing. They require significant room to spread and grow.

Melon Planting Calendar

  • 8-6 weeks before the last frost in spring: start seed indoors for plants that will be transplanted into a plastic tunnel in 4 weeks.
  • 5-4 weeks before the last frost in spring: start seed indoors for seedlings to be transplanted into the garden.
  • 4-2 weeks before the last frost in spring: transplant seedlings to a plastic tunnel.
  • 1-2 weeks after the last frost in spring: direct sow or transplant seedlings into the garden; minimum soil temperature is 60°F.
melon seedlings on plastic
Sow melon seeds or set plants directly into the garden in spring 2 weeks after all danger of frost has passed and when the soil has warmed to 70°F. Use black plastic to pre-warm the soil and keep plants from direct contact with soil.

Recommended Melon Varieties

Choose from these melon types and varieties:

  • True Cantaloupe: ‘Charentais’ is small; ‘Savor’ is sweet with orange flesh.
  • Muskmelon: ‘Ambrosia’ is sweet and juicy; ‘Sweet ‘n Early’ is a good choice in short-season regions.
  • Crenshaw: ‘Burpee’s Early Hybrid’ is pink-fleshed; ‘Morning Dew’.
  • Honeydew: ‘Honey Pearl’
  • Casaba: ‘Casaba Golden Beauty’ is spicy-sweet.

Botanical Name: Cucumis melo var. cantaloupesis includes netted muskmelons and true cantaloupes; Cucumis melo var. inodorus includes honeydews, casaba melons, and Crenshaw melons.

Melons are a member of the Cucurbitaceae family; other members cucumbers, squash, watermelon, and pumpkins.

More tips: How to Grow Summer Melons–Cantaloupe and How to Grow Winter Melons.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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