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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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  1. I bought containers of melon seedlings and there are 2-3 plants in each small container. Should I cut some of them so there is only 1 plant in each transplant?

    • If you can gently separate the roots, go ahead. But if they are much intertwined, cut off the two weakest seedlings and let the strongest grow on.

  2. Hello Sir,We plant melons in winter and harvest in spring. The average air temperature in winter is more than 17 degrees.We use a plastic on the floor and a plastic tunnel on top and sow the seeds.What do you suggest before sowing the seeds that the seeds will be much faster and more ready at the time of sowing?What poison do you suggest for Fire Blight?
    Please answer me.
    Best regards

    • The organic gardener would not use poison or chemical to combat fireblight. Covering the soil with black plastic may slow the disease. Always remove infected plants immediately and the top inch (2.5cm) of infected soil. Soak the seeds in compost tea for several hours ahead of planting. Lightly moisten the soil ahead of seed sowing. The soil should be warm at seed sowing time.

    • Plant in full sun. If you are worried the seedlings or plants will burn because temperatures are very hot, you can place a frame with shade cloth directly above the plant to protect it from the midday sun.

  3. The temperature will be average 90+ daytime temperatures, and the cantaloupe plants will be starting to flower. Seeds started outdoors with straw mulch. I’m concerned about flowers dropping from the intense early heat wave that brings the summer to mature early most every year.

    • It’s difficult to fight Mother Nature. Place a frame over the planting bed and drape shade cloth over the frame directly over the plants; this will shield the plants from the intense head from 11am to 1pm. Place a wide shallow trough around the plants to fill with water and keep them cool. If the flowers drop, the plant will flower again when temperatures moderate into the low 80s and 70sF.

    • Count ahead the number of weeks until the average daytime temperatures are in the 70sF or warmer. Melons started indoors can be set in the garden when they are 4 to 6 weeks old, usually in early June.

  4. I just sow melon seeds in pot for my project but in other pot cucumber seed is germinated ……. my melon seeds are not germinated yet it is sow for 7 days what did I do to grow melon now….. plz help me

    • Be sure you are planting seeds that are not more than two years old. Re-sow new seed. Moisten the soil before sowing. Sow the seed no deeper than twice the diameter of the seed. Be sure to firm the soil around the seed. In advance of sowing, soak the seed in warm water for half a day to loosen the seed coat.

    • The roots of the melon plant should not be exposed to sunlight. If you can see that the roots are yellowing and dry, cover the roots immediately with soil and keep the soil just moist. Do not let the soil dry out–keep it just moist at all times. It may be that the roots and plant are too damaged for the plant to thrive; you should know one way or the other in the next 7 days. If the leaves begin to yellow and dry, you may want to plant new seed or transplant a healthy plant into the garden.

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