Summer Vegetables

Monday, May 26th, 2008 by Jenny Watts
    • Colorful Gerberas with their large, daisy flowers are a standout in containers. Water them infrequently and give them plenty of sun for flowers all summer.
    • Spray roses every two weeks to keep them healthy and prevent leaf diseases. Neem oil is a new safe alternative to the chemical fungicides.
    • Asparagus plants should be fed with good, rich compost when you have finished cutting spears. Keep the bed mulched and weed-free all summer, and the soil moist.
    • Ivy geraniums make wonderful hanging baskets for partially shaded spots where they will bloom all summer.
    • Tropical-looking cannas give you a big, bold look in sunny flower beds. Plant them now for bright flowers this summer.

Muskmelons from Persia

The muskmelon (Cucumis melo), like watermelon, is hardly a vegetable, but it is an important garden crop. The most popular type of muskmelon in America is the small, oval, heavily netted kind commonly called a cantaloupe. However, no cantaloupes are actually grown commercially in the United States, only muskmelons.

Cantaloupes are actually a subgroup of muskmelons. Known as Charentais, this sweet melon from Europe has a smooth light-green skin with deep ridges, while muskmelons have the characteristic netting on the fruit rind. Other subgroups of muskmelons include Honey Dew, Casaba, and Crenshaw types; the Oriental Pickling Melon, and such odd varieties as the apple melon and Armenian cucumber.

Muskmelon is so named because of the delightful odor of the ripe fruits. Musk is a Persian word for a kind of perfume; melon is French, from the Latin melopepo, meaning “apple-shaped melon” and derived from Greek words of similar meaning.

Muskmelons originated in Persia (Iran) and Pakistan, and they are also grown in India, Kashmir and Afghanistan. Although truly wild forms of Cucumis melo have not been found, several related wild species have been noted in those regions.

The oldest supposed record of muskmelon goes back to an Egyptian picture of the period around 2400 B.C. In an illustration of funerary offerings of that time appears a fruit that some experts have identified as muskmelon, although others are not so sure.

Cantaloupe should be planted when soils are warm (65°F), after all frost danger has past. Plant 4-6 seeds in mounds 4 feet apart in full sun. Water deeply and infrequently, 1-2 inches per week.

Many gardeners wonder why the earliest melon blossoms do not set fruit. The first flowers developing on the vines are male or pollen-bearing flowers. Only the female flowers are capable of developing into fruit. As the vines mature, both male and female flowers are produced at the same time and pollination occurs with the help of bees and other insects.

Allow melons to ripen on the vines.  When ready to harvest, the stem will loosen and break away from the plant. The melon will also develop a ripe golden color. You need to watch closely as they will crack open and rot very quickly if left too long on the vine. Once the melon cracks open, bugs quickly attack the melon and you have waited too long.

Muskmelon will not cross with watermelon, cucumber, pumpkin, or squash, but varieties within the species intercross freely, however this cross-pollination is not evident unless seeds are saved and planted the following year.