This year, we went way out on a horticultural limb.
Last year, we planted tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and cucumbers in the hoophouse. The cucumbers did pretty well, but succumbed to mildew fairly early in the season. We got a few tomatoes, but the heat got so intense that a lot of the flowers fell off. The eggplants and peppers did fine, but grew very, very slowly.
So, this year, we thought about what kind of crop might grow in a place that gets really hot. And, in a fit of the completely unrealistic optimism that characterizes most gardeners in May, we planted melons. Two kinds of watermelons, two kinds of cantaloupes.
Both kinds of watermelon and one kind of cantaloupe failed early. They didn’t die altogether, but they grew just a few leaves, and those leaves turned an anaemic green-yellow almost immediately. I haven’t had the heart to pull them up, so they’re still in the hoophouse, failing to thrive.
Once kind of cantaloupe, though, is actually growing. Don’t ask me which kind, I couldn’t tell you. I bought the seedlings from Country Garden, a garden store in Hyannis, on a whim. Somewhere, under the tangle of cantaloupe leaves, there is a stake with the variety on it, and I hope to find it in the fall.
This particular cantaloupe has sprouted long vines with healthy leaves, and has overtaken almost all the ground left open by a Herculean diva cucumber and a volunteer tomato. And a few weeks ago it started to get flowers. A lot of flowers. Almost all of them female.
Every other day or so I’d go out and look for little mini cantaloupes, with no luck. Until last week, when I found one melon the size of a marble. Unfortunately, it was a sad yellow color, and dropped off within a day or two.
Still, we started to get more male flowers, and a couple of the melons looked like they might actually set properly. We checked again this morning, and found, if not leaps-and-bounds progress, some growth.
And then, as we were walking away from the hoophouse, Kevin pointed to the end wall. “Look at that!” he said. And there, sandwiched between the plastic wall and a windowbox, was a bona-fide, baseball-size melon. Because it was behind the box, we never saw it from the inside.
I went back in and pulled it out from where it was wedged. We will now pet it and feed it and watch it and nurture it in the hopes we can coax it into becoming an actual, genuine cantaloupe.
Keep your fingers crossed.