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The Cucumis melo is an annual plant with a flexible herbaceous stem, creeping or climbing, sarmentose with lateral branches. Melon is a product of great interest for our tables, in particular for summer ones. It can in fact be eaten as an appetizer, as a fruit or as an accompaniment to a dessert.
Introducing it in our garden can also be a good idea since, in the right climatic conditions, it grows quickly and does not require great care.
The Cucumis melo arrived in Europe from Africa, although many scholars argue that its origins are Asian, especially being endemic to Afghanistan.
It has been known to us for centuries. It was in fact introduced as a crop around the first century, under the Roman Empire, but was already known because it was previously imported from the African coasts. It was in fact of great interest and considered more a vegetable than a fruit.
Many famous people loved him madly. However, until the end of the 1800s its consumption was hindered: there was in fact a suspicion that it could be poisonous (which later proved to be false). However, it is possible that some Cucumis melo fruits gave digestion problems due to their perishability. A belief (linked to some texts by Galen) suggested eating at the beginning of the meal or in combination with savory foods (such as ham) to avoid the aforementioned negative effects. From this derives the traditional summer dish still in vogue today.
The melon is appreciable during the hottest months due to the large amount of water it contains. For this reason it is considered, together with watermelon, one of the most refreshing and thirst-quenching products ever. It is also recommended to those on a diet, given its low caloric intake (34 kcal per 100 g.). Provides good amounts of vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin B and fiber.
Leaves and flowers
The leaves of the melon are alternate and glauchescent and have the typical characteristics of the plants of the cucurbitaceae family.
As for the flowers, they are monosessuated, meaning that the male flowers are different from the female ones and positioned in different areas of the plant.
The male flowers are gathered in groups of three or four in the axils of the leaves and on the second-generation jets. The female flowers are solitary at the axil of the first leaf on the third and fourth generation jets. The male flowers appear first in the plant.
Melon cultivation is really affordable for everyone. The important thing is to choose a rich soil, a very sunny exposure and insert the plants only during the hottest months of the year.
Family, genus and species
Cucurbitaceae, gen. Cucumis melo
|Type of plant||Annual herbaceous plant|
|Height at maturity||Up to 50 cm|
|Maintenance and ease of cultivation||moderate|
|Resistance to cold||Not resistant|
|Ground||Rich, deep, calcareous, sub-alkaline|
|Germination: days and temperature||4-5 / minimum 18 ° C|
|Distance between rows||100-180 cm|
|Distance in the row||50-100 cm|
Cross-fertilization is carried out by insects, even if for greenhouse crops it is better to resort to artificial fertilization.
How to get the seedlings?
As with all vegetable crops, we can choose whether to buy seedlings or dedicate ourselves to sowing. In any case it is always good to choose selected varieties both for the quality of the fruit and for its resistance to pathogens. In this respect, grafted individuals have proved to be very resistant. In this case the incidence of diseases such as the fusarium is considerably reduced and the production is often much more consistent. For a family garden they can be a good choice as they give the possibility of obtaining maximum production from a small plot of land.
Sowing and planting
If we choose to sow our seedlings, it is good to buy quality sachets first.
In the Center-North, proceed in the greenhouse or on warm loungers from February to April, while in the open field from mid-April to June In the South, instead, it is possible to start sowing in the open field already from March.
However, we would like to point out that the sowing will only be successful if the soil temperature has stabilized above 13 ° C.
Outdoor sowing is carried out on rows one meter apart from the other. Four seeds are dropped into holes fifty centimeters apart. After germination, it thins out leaving the most robust seedling.
As for early crops, sowing takes place in March in a seedbed on a warm bed. The seedlings are transplanted in tunnels of transparent plastic material after about fifteen days and are taken to their home with a second transplant when the season allows, after preparing the soil by distributing a layer of manure in the furrows which is then covered.
Forced cultivation takes place in a greenhouse and is sown in December in a heated environment. It is transplanted in January, always in the greenhouse.
The seedlings are very sensitive to transplantation. The damaged roots, in fact, almost never manage to recover their functionality. For this reason the advice is to sow directly at home or using special alveolar trays with a rather compact substrate, which does not break during the transfer.
The diameter of each container must be about 8 cm. We insert in each of them three seeds, with the tip pointing downwards, at about 3 cm of depth (in open field in postarelle). For 10 square meters of cultivation, generally 30 to 50 gr of seeds are required. With a minimum temperature of 18 ° C germination occurs quickly, in about 4-5 days. When the second real leaf is released, the seedlings will thin out, leaving one per jar, or post, choosing the most vigorous one.
THE MELON CALENDAR
|Indoor sowing (Center-North)||February-April|
|Sowing in the open field (South)||March|
|Sowing in the open field (Center-North)||From mid-April to June|
|Flowering||May to September|
|Collection||From June to October (depending on the area and the variety|