As an edible fruit, melons are very rich in both vitamins A and C, and also potassium. Many people shy away from growing melons UK-side. This is usually because they either don’t have the luxury of a heated greenhouse or are worried about the growing space each melon plant requires.
The following article will dispel myths and answer a frequently asked question: “Can you grow melons in the UK?” I’ll look into a tried-and-tested method for growing melons without a heated greenhouse.
growing melons UK – A history
The Victorians were the forefathers of growing exotic flowers, vegetables, and fruit in their gardens and hothouses in the United Kingdom. This obsession grew as new species and varieties of seed were brought to the British Isles from warm and tropical climates. The humble melon was one such import.
Cold frame Melons
There are many varieties of hardy, UK-friendly melons to choose from. For the following growing instructions, I will focus on a single common variety – ‘Honeydew.’
Growing Melons from seed
When to sow Melon seeds: During mid to late April.
- Sowing: Sow 2 seeds, 1.5cm deep, in 9cm pots. Use a good quality seed compost.
- Heat: Place pots in a propagator, or on a warm windowsill and maintain a temperature of 18°C (65°F).
- Light: Place the pots in a well-lit position.
- Water: The compost should be damp at all times, but not soggy.
- Remove: If both Melon seeds germinate, remove the weaker of the two.
- Reduce heat: Soon after germination, the second leaves will appear. They will look different to the first set of Melon leaves, having serrated edges. At this stage in growth, reduce the temperature to around 15°C (59°F).
How to Plant Melons
- Planting Position: Find a good spot in the garden or allotment for your cold frame. Place in full sun. A slope or terrace is perfect. Ensure that the chosen position is protected from strong winds.
- Ideal dimensions for your cold frame: For the best results, select or build a cold frame that is 70 cm high, 200 cm long and 70 cm wide.
- Raise it: If required, raise the height of your cold frame with bricks or wooden sleepers. From ground level to the lid, the cold frame should be around 70 cm high.
- Growing medium: Add an even mixture of good quality topsoil and well-rotted manure or compost. Donkey manure is especially good for growing melons. Fill to a depth of about a foot and a half or so and mix it in well.
- Plant melons: After all risk of frost has passed (late May-June), introduce two young melon plants to your cold frame. Evenly space them out. You can also plant melon seeds directly at this stage. However, sowing them during April indoors will give you a head start.
Tips on Aftercare for melon plants
- Watering Melons: Ensure that your melon plants are watered regularly. Never let them dry out!
- Over-watering: Don’t overwater as this may result in tasteless or rotten fruit.
- Drainage: Melons require good drainage. Mix a little grit and compost into the growing medium.
- Ventilation: During hot weather, prop open the lid of your cold frame to allow air circulation. This will reduce disease development and overheating.
- Mildew: Mildew spores are likely in the soil and can easily transfer onto the leaves whilst watering. To avoid the development of powdery mildew, cover the soil beneath with straw, weed-suppressing membrane or cardboard. For the treatments, read my article on Powdery Mildew prevention.
- Encourage growth: Pinch out the growing tips of each plant once they reach the 5th-leaf stage. This will encourage side shoots and eventually more fruit. Then choose 4 strong side shoots and remove any others.
- Feed your plants with phosphates: I recommend you use fish blood and bone. If you prefer the vegetarian/vegan approach, try using soft-rock phosphate. Every 10-14 days, feed your Melon plants.
- Maintenance: It might be worth covering the soil with weed suppressing membrane to keep weeding to a minimum. Do this before planting. Never use a hoe around your melon plants. Melon roots grow close to the surface of the soil and any disruption may hinder growth.
- Temperature control: Open the cold frame during very warm days and remember to close it at night. For extra protection, cover your melon plants with garden fleece overnight until late June or as flowers appear.
- Pollination: For melons to develop on your plants, flowers must be pollinated. This can be done manually with a small paintbrush or by insects like bees. Plant English marigolds around the outside of the cold frame to encourage pollinators. It is important to note that melons produce both male and female flowers. The male flowers have a stamen and the female have a swollen flower base.
- Grow larger melons: Select the best 4 fruits on each vine and remove all others. This will allow each plant to put as much energy into fruit development and quality as possible.
- Ripening Melons: Once the leaves start to die off and flower production ends, cut down on feed and watering. This will allow for the fruit to harden and ripen. Remove any new growth or flower heads at this point.
Best Melons to grow in uk Gardens
- Castella (Amber Nectar)
- Purseus F1 Hyrid
- Eldoraro F1 Hybrid
- Honey Bun
- Galia F1
- Blacktail Mountain (Watermelon)
- Anguria Valentina F1 Hybrid (Watermelon)
growing melons uk – Resources
Extra growing tips
You may also try growing melons on the top of a compost heap in full sun. The warmth from the heap should be enough to encourage a good crop of delicious melons. Each plant will make use of the nutrients from the compost as well as add a little interest to an unsightly part of the garden.
The short answer is “Yes, it is easy to grow Melons in the UK”. However, you will need plenty of heat in order to get them to produce fruit.
Yes. You can grow Watermelons from seed. As long as you provide plenty of heat. Plant your Watermelons in a raised propagator for the best results.
For a good head-start, sow your Melon seeds during April, indoors. They can be sown in a protected spot outdoors after the risk of frost has passed.
Not only do spent coffee grounds improve soil structure for Melons, but they also provide essential nutrients: phosphorus nitrogen, as well as potassium.
If you have any questions on the topic of “Growing melons UK – Can you grow melons in the UK?”, then please do add them to the comment section below. Happy growing!