Melons (Cucumis melo), or more specifically muskmelons, are part of the Cucurbitaceae family with watermelons, cantaloupes, and timun suri. Just like other plants in the family, muskmelons vine but do not ‘climb up’. Unsupported, muskmelons would just vine all over the soil surface.
The ideal place to farm muskmelons is at 250-700 m above sea level. At 250 meter, muskmelons tend to produce small fruits while in really highland with less than 18 degree celcius temperature, they are hard to grow. Muskmelons demand air humidity level at 50-70% in 25-30 degree celcius temperature with 1500-2500 mm per year precipitation. The quality of your muskmelon fruits will be better if there’s a significant difference of temperature during the day and night.
Muskmelons vary a lot, however there are three popular cultivars to farm:
- Reticalatus. This muskmelon is the most popular cultivar. It’s shaped like a ball with green colored skin and net-like skin texture.
- This cultivar has smooth skin with the color ranges from yellow to greenish pale yellow. The meat is aroma-less and can be green, orange, or even white.
- This one has wavy skin like pumpkins. The meat is very aromatic and yellow or orange in color. An example of this cultivar would be cantaloupe.
Farming muskmelons usually start with generatively reproduced seeds, so they’re actual muskmelon seeds. For one hectare, you can plant about 16,000-20,000 muskmelon plants so you need about 500-700 grams of seeds.
Before you plant them, you have to let your seeds germinate first. Soak them in warm water for 6-8 hours. You can add fungicides into the water.
After soaking is done, let them dry over wet piece of fabric and let them be for 1-2 days until they have germinated. Keep the fabric wet enough during those two days.
Prepare small polybags or sowing trays. Fill them with planting medium which is a mix of soil and compost or manure fertilizer with 2 to 1 ratio. Bury the melon seeds in it, about 1-2 cm deep.
Protect your sowing place with transparent plastic roof or something like it. This is needed to protect your seeds from overexposure of the sun and direct rainfall. Keep the humidity stable; water them when needed, but not too much.
Seed sowing usually happens for 10-14 days and it’s usually finished when marked with the growth of 2-3 leaves. Your seedlings are now ready.
Land preparation and planting
Land for muskmelon farming should be plowed first to smooth out the big chunks. Then, make seedbeds with 100-120 cm width, 30-50 cm height, and 10-15 m length and 50-60 cm distance between seedbeds.
If your soil’s pH is less than 5, add in 2 tons of dolomite or agricultural chalk per hectare. Mix it with the seedbed soil at least 2-3 days before basic fertilization.
Add 15-20 tons per hectare basic fertilizer like compost or manure fertilizer. Also add 375 kg of ZA, 375 kg of KCl, and 250 kg of SP-36 per hectare. Mix them all up together on the seedbeds with the seedbed soil. Let everything be for 2-4 days.
Then, cover up your seedbeds with black silver plastic mulch with the black side to the soil and the silver side out. Make planting holes on the mulch. There should be two rows of planting holes per seedbed with row distance 60 cm and hole distance in a row 50-60 cm. This should be done at least 2 days before planting.
The next step would be to plant the seedlings: one seedling per hole. Water them. Planting should be done in the evening when the sun is not too hot.
Care and maintenance
1. Pole markers
To get high quality harvest, muskmelon plants need to be supported by pole markers so the fruits do not touch the ground and the sun can penetrate every part of the plant.
Install the pole markers before your muskmelons grow too large, usually at day 3 after planting to avoid damaging their roots when you stick your pole markers in.
Prepare 1.5 m pole markers and stick them into the planting holes diagonally so they would crisscross with each other. Then, get a longer stick of bamboo and put them in the intersection of pole markers and tie everything together with ropes.
Water your muskmelon crops regularly every evening until your crops reach the one week mark. After that, watering can be done once every two days. Make sure to have a well operating drainage system and never let there be any puddle of water.
3. Follow-up fertilization
Follow-up fertilization is needed after the one week mark. The recommended form of fertilizer is liquid, could be organic or chemical. Follow-up chemical fertilizer is given six times. Dissolve it in water and give it to your crop with the dosage 200-250 ml per plant. Here’s a table to help you with the fertilization:
|1||7||NPK (16:16:16)||100||4000 L of water|
4. Synthetic pollination
In the dry season, pollination is done by insects. However, in the rainy season, insects are less in number so pollination has to be done synthetically.
Synthetic pollination is done in the morning before 10 am. Do it on female flowers, especially flowers on the 9th-13th branches. In one plant, you can usually find 3-4 to-be fruits until further selection happens and you are left with 1-2 fruits per plant, depending on their size.
5. Pest and disease
Muskmelon farming in tropical area like Indonesia is quite risky because they’re vulnerable to pests and diseases. Some pests that could be dangerous are aphids, fruit fly, caterpillar, thrips, and mite. Meanwhile, some diseases that could attack are anthracnose, fruit rot, stem rot, and mosaic.
To avoid these, do some technical culture like crop rotation, balanced fertilization, and taking care of your garden sanitation. If you muskmelon crop is attacked by pests or diseases, feel free to use either organic or synthetic pesticides.
Muskmelon crop is ready for harvest at age 3 month, usually. You can see that they’re ready for harvest from their physicality. For example, for reticalatus cultivar, you can see the obvious and prominent net-like texture on the yellowish green skin with cracked stem surface and potent aroma.
Muskmelons should be picked at 90% ripeness or about 3-7 days before they’re fully ripe to give time for distribution. Picking is done by cutting the fruit stem with a knife or a pair of scissors. Cut it in the shape of the letter T with the cut side towards the leaf instead of the fruit. Picking should be done in the morning at around 8-11 am gradually.