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Melon Growing Problems

Dealing with melon pests and disease problems... organically.

Garden MelonsAfter our last column, a friend pointed out that she didn’t have trouble getting melons to pollinate. Her problem was with blights and mildew. It’s true that melons are a bit difficult to grow because of their susceptibility to molds and certain insects, especially when you’re trying to grow them in cooler, damp climates. Any trouble growing melons is well worth it once they reach the table. The cantaloupes, watermelons and other melons now coming into our stores from warmer climates just don’t hold a candle to a juicy, sweet, homegrown melon.

Finding the proper natural or organic cures for these melon problems can be difficult. Mulching is great for issues caused by uneven watering. But mulch can provide places for pests including squash bugs and cucumber beetles to lay eggs. These pesky critters not only consume melon plants but spread disease and wilt. Melon leaves can be burned by insecticidal soap and liquid copper sprays, two common, organic-approved solutions for bugs and mildew. They should only be used in the most diluted form possible. Other problem solvers — like using row covers to shield plants from insects — are great ideas until you need the help of pollinators. Any successful melon growing regimen begins even before you start them in your garden.

Got bugs? At Planet Natural we offer a large selection of organic pest control solutions that are guaranteed SAFE and effective. Also, visit our Pest Problem Solver for pest pictures, descriptions and a complete list of earth-friendly remedies.

I’ve moved around enough and started new gardens to know one thing is true: the first year is the easiest to grow melons. After that, problems start to mount. So the first rule, one especially helpful in avoiding blight and mildew, is to rotate your melon crop as best possible. Growing melons in warm dry areas of the country is easier than growing them where it’s cool and moist. Good drainage is important as well as is even, careful watering. Over watering gives molds and mildew encouragement they don’t need. Water at the base of plants as best you can and avoid getting leaves damp. Watering at the beginning of the day gives moisture time to evaporate off plants.

The cucumber beetle is your enemy. They’re fairly well distributed around the country, we’ve even spotted them — they’re kind of attractive — as far north as our Montana garden. The damage they do to leaves may be minimal but their role in spreading wilt can be disastrous. Use insect traps to detect their appearance in large melon patches. A good visual inspection every few days will suffice if you only have a plant or three. Avoid touching the leaves. You, like the beetle, are capable of spreading mold, wilt and other spores.

You can deter cucumber beetles from breeding by using black plastic as a mulch. This prevents the eggs from getting into the soil that they need to hatch and keeps the larvae from getting out of the ground. It also helps warm melon plants in the early season. If you have an infestation you may have little choice but to spray with a pyrethrin mix. Having gangs of preying mantis patrolling your melons may help you avoid getting to that point. Here’s a thorough discussion on organic control of cucumber beetles.

Aphids will also go after melon leaves and vines. Releasing ladybugs at the first site of them may help but could be too late if you have problems with mildew. Like beetles, aphids spread disease. With either aphids or beetle infestations, you can use a very weak insecticidal soap spray to take care of them. But make sure you dilute it almost to the point where it doesn’t feel soapy. And spray early in the day to allow it to evaporate before it gets hot.

What to do if you spot mildew, mosaic, blight or wilt? Applying copper spray is best but again requires dilution. If the problems have spread widely, there’s nothing to do but destroy the vines. Remove them carefully and stuff immediately into a bag so as not to spread spores or bacteria. Then take them far away from your garden. Burning them? Good idea, but only if it’s legal. And be sure to plant next year as far away from the affected area as you can get.

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5 Responses to “Melon Growing Problems”

  1. Muhammad Shoaib Munir on April 12th, 2016 at 6:28 am #

    it is really good. please commercialize it. a lot of effort in research and extension services will help it in gaining ground.

  2. Stas76 on June 14th, 2017 at 9:59 am #

    Have always had problems growing vine items , cucumber watermelons pumpkins. The same problems white powder mildew some rust the bugs
    catipillars aphids beetles. Can get my garden under control but cant keep bugs from neighbors But have been making improvements as garden is worked.
    Al little too hot and wet to plant in south florida so good time to get soil ready. Any thoughts ?

  3. Elvena Minic on August 17th, 2017 at 4:02 pm #

    Why do my cantaloupes not have a good flavor? They are just kind of flat tasting.

  4. Marsha on June 29th, 2019 at 12:05 pm #

    I have managed to germinate and start a gala melon in my greenhouse. It is a large pot and has lots of room for spreading out. I did what was suggested on a garden website and spread the four main arms out to allow enough ventilation around the plant. It had lots of flowers but only 1 female flower which was pollinated and I now have a melon about the size of a Tennis ball.. I have supported it but to my disappointment when I went to the green house to give it some water and feed this evening there has appeared a flat hard patch on the upper side of the fruit about the size of a fifty pence piece.

    Please can you tell me why this has happened, what did I do wrong, if it is fatal and how can I avoid it in the future?
    Thank you

    • E. Vinje on June 30th, 2019 at 5:48 am #

      Marsha –

      Could it be blossom end rot? This will appear on the bottom end of the fruit and is identified by water-soaked areas that gradually widen and mature into sunken, brown, leathery spots. It is a common melon problem that is often caused by a lack of calcium and/or uneven watering. Learn how to identify, prevent and fix blossom end rot here https://www.planetnatural.com/pest-problem-solver/plant-disease/blossom-end-rot/.

      Hope it helps!

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