How to Plant, Grow, and Save Seeds from Melon (Cucumis melo)
Like its cucurbit cousins - watermelon, cucumbers, and squash - melon and Armenian cucumbers produce numerous fruitful vines. Cucumis melo is an easy seed crop even for a novice seed saver.
Plant melon seeds outdoors after all danger of frost has passed. Create 12” diameter hills that are six feet apart. Plant 6-8 seeds per hill. After germination, thin to 3-4 plants per hill. Seeds should be planted ½-1” deep. Seeds will germinate in 4-7 days. Melon seeds can also be planted in flats indoors before the season begins. Transplant outdoors as soon as the danger of frost has passed.
Melons can suffer from a variety of pests and diseases including aphids, cucumber beetles, cutworms, flea beetles, vine borers, anthracnose, cucumber wilt, and powdery mildew.
Harvest seeds from melons when fruits are mature. Maturity indicators in melons vary widely by type and variety. Some melons will slip from the vine when ripe. For melons that do not slip, ripeness indicators include rind color change, the development of a yellow ground spot, and increased aroma. Fruits that are allowed to ripen past market maturity for approximately 20 days produce the largest quantity of viable seeds.
Eating and Storing
Enjoy melons straight from the field or sliced up and served after a few hours in the refrigerator. If you want the flavor of summer melons to last throughout the seasons, try melon jam, sorbet, or granita. Pie melons, like ‘Mother Mary’s Pie Melon’, were bred to hold up to canning and then used as pie filling.
Melon is an annual crop. It will complete its full life cycle, including germination, reproduction, and death, in one growing season.
When saving seeds from melon, separate varieties by 800 feet-½ mile. A single plant can produce viable seed. To maintain a variety over time, save seeds from between 5-10 plants.
Melons hold their seeds within a central cavity. To extract and clean the seeds, cut the fruits in half, scoop out the seeds into a colander, and rinse the pulp away from the seeds. After rinsing, spread the seeds out in a thin layer on coffee filters or old window screens. Seeds are dry enough to be stored when they can be cleanly snapped in half.
Store melon seeds in a cool, dark, and dry place and always keep them in an airtight container to keep out moisture and humidity.