Fruits of our labors

There are some jobs that are best left to professionals. Plumbing. Aircraft maintenance. And, I’m convinced, melon growing.

Every spring, we’ve planted one kind of melon or another, but in a lottery-ticket spirit. We don’t really expect any melons but, hey, you never know.

Really, though, we did know. We weren’t going to get any melons. It’s Cape Cod. It’s cold and it’s damp at the best of times, and our garden is right in the path of the breeze coming off the lake – which means our micro-climate is even colder and damper. These are not melon-growing conditions.

But everything changed when we built the hoophouse. Suddenly, we had heat. On an eighty-degree day, it’s over 100 in there. Walk inside, and it’s like another climate. A tropical climate. The kind of climate where they grow … melons!

So, this spring, when we planted watermelons and cantaloupes, we did it with intent.

The watermelons never got momentum, but a couple of the cantaloupe vines grew, flowered, and then developed several actual, genuine cantaloupes. A few withered once they got to be the size of baseballs, but two hung in there. Two actual, genuine cantaloupes.

We watered. We watched. We waited. And then, yesterday, we harvested.

The melon was just a little overripe – I’d been away, and Kevin wanted to wait for me. But, other than one little soft spot, it was firm and juicy and that soft orange color that cantaloupes are supposed to be.

With some trepidation, we tasted it.

I hadn’t known it was possible for a melon to taste like nothing. Although it had a perfectly nice texture, it had no flavor at all. No sweetness, no musk, no nothing. It was like what jicama would taste like, if it were a melon. We gave some of it to the chickens and the rest to the pigs, but even the animals couldn’t muster much enthusiasm.

Here’s the thing, though. Next spring, you’ll find us planting melons again. A different variety maybe. And we’ll water and watch and wait just like we did this year. I mean, hey, you never know.

Now you’ll have to excuse me – I’ve got a sink to fix.

31 people are having a conversation about “Fruits of our labors

  1. What a successful harvest season it’s been–congratulations! Not sure if Pam Anderson and the Real Housewives would agree, but I think the melons you earn have got to be superior to the ones you buy!

  2. How disappointing after the long wait.

    I am like you — there are things I keep planting, even when I get disappointing results every time. I think this is one of the characteristics of a lifelong gardener. Most people try it, it doesn’t work, and they don’t do it again. Gardeners keep thinking that we will find the magical way to grow melons or whatever, so we keep going back again and again. I view this as a strength, rather than a weakness, because every once in a while we do find the way to make it work and the results make us forget all the disappointments that went before.

  3. This year we grew, among others, Minnesota Midget cantaloupe. If they do well in Minnesota, they should work on Cape Cod shouldn’t they? They are only baseball size at maturity and are excellent cut in half with a scoop of ice cream. We had them both in the greenhouse and outside and both plantings did well and tasted good.

  4. the Charentais melon is supposed to ripen in cooler temperatures, but I couldn’t do it, I can’t figure out why, if they are both cucurbits, and they are, why I can grow and harvest decent zucchini and cucumbers, but not melons.

    Stupid melons…maybe I don’t like them anyoldhow.

  5. Tassie gardener says:

    I know how you feel, though I once grew charantais melons successfully here in Tasmania a few years ago, complete with perfume and sweetness – but followed by years of failure. Never the less, I’m trying again this season and getting all my seeds in for our spring. I had the same experience as you with a pineapple in my greenhouse – it was small and cute but sour as hell.

  6. It’s a black box, gardening. Paula, like you, I get inconsistent cucurbits. I had a gangbusting cucumber in the hoophouse, but me melons tasted like … well … cucumbers. Except not as nice.

    And it’s not that I revel in other people’s failures, but it’s good to know I’m not the only one struggling with melons. Lori, I’ll keep my eye out for the Minnesota Midget, and plant it in the outdoor garden. Inside the hoophouse, I’ll probably try another hot-weather variety.

    Or not. Right now, it seems like a stupid idea, but I know I’ll feel differently in May.

  7. I highly recommend Ambrosia melons – smaller, sweeter, less rind and (for me) ripen earlier than the large ‘lopes and melons. They train well on trellis, too.

    • Jean, I *love* the gamblers with dirt under our nails! That one made me laugh out loud, and now my co-workers are on to my surfing the web instead of getting my work done.

        • I blame seed catalogs. Let’s face it, those things are nothing but gardener porn. In late winter when the garden is at the lowest point your mailbox is stuffed with glossy, brightly colored publications with lushly written descriptions which make claims that during the times when the garden is in full swing we would take with a grain of salt, but in those cold, bleak months spark fantasies of a lush, exotic garden that produces bushels of rare, strange and exotic fruits and vegetables that will please our palate and amaze our friends. They never tell you that the only way these plants will produce edible fruit is if they are grown exclusively under red light and grown in compost made from the leaves of a tree that has been extinct since the 1800’s and the manure of yaks that are raised in a small village that is rumored to be located somewhere near Kathmandu and only accessible to the outside world for one week each year.

          And yet, come January I will be reading the catalogs!

          • Hahaha. So terribly true. My first year planting San Marzano tomatoes I ordered volcanic ash compost (I’m quite sure I fell for a scheme) as to simulate rich Italian soil in Abruzzo and my yield was 3 tomatoes. My ever-skeptical sister estimated each tomato cost about $55 all things considered. The next year was better! My friend and gardening mentor’s email signature is “gardeners must be a mix of a nurturing soul, a kind heart, and a questionably-sane mind”

          • Ha I love it “garden porn”. My husband has said he thinks I need a 12 step program for my seed addiction. I try to limit myself every year, but there is always that one tomato that looks so delicious and then there’s when it all goes to hell.

    • “Gardeners. We are sometimes just gamblers with dirt under our nails.”

      I love this comment. I always tell friends that gardening is like gambling. It’s so addicting and you never know what is going to do marvelous or fail depending on the year.

  8. I do not know… May be the best way to grow melons is to look the other way.
    You know the same as when you sit and wait for water to boil, so, finally you’ll have a cup of tee.
    The right way is to pretend you are not watching ๐Ÿ™‚

    We ate already 4 of our melons and about 10+ are on the way. All from compost. Honey were the best so far in taste. Cantaloupes were not as sweet. The trick we developed is to sniff and when melon starts to smell like melon to cut it from the vine and store in house for 3-4 days.

    Also, we place them in cardboard boxes while they grow to prevent rot and we think that small wildlife would not jump as high to get to them.

    But that is about all the fuss about melons. We did not start them, we did not do anything to them and started to care about fruits only when we saw them big and enticing enough.

    We are also by the lake but out melon patch is on a low sunny spot where we were going to grow potato. We just wanted to add compost and suddenly we were overrun by melon vines.

    • Cutty, you’re killing me. Just spread your compost and watch your melons grow and ripen! Stories of people who get fabulous fruits and vegetables out of their compost piles make me want to throw in the towel and move back to New York. All I can say is, you must be living right.

      • Tamar, no!!!
        Not New York. We just came back and I read your blog and I am so homesick for Cape Cod ๐Ÿ™
        I love NYC madly but it does not help.

        I did not mean to kill you, sorry.
        All of us still have this luxury not to die if our potato harvest is close to nothing this year.

        I know it is bad thing to say ( probably) but if I would describe my predominant emotion when gardening it would be an amusement.
        Like “look! something is actually growing! Who knew? ๐Ÿ™‚ ”

        My new cherry tree did not live through the winter but I think I am guilty in my thoughts that I was not sure if I wanted cherries to begin with. I was not sure but got enticed by catalog anyhow.

        I did not put that many thoughts in apricots and my dad sprouted 3 from pits all 3 feet high already and keep going. I know from my childhood that stray apricots actually tasted better.

        • Cutty, I love your comments. “This luxury not to die …” is exactly what makes all of our gardening a pastime, and gives us the option to fail.

          Whether it’s my crappy melons, or Stephen’s $55. tomatoes, or your cherry trees, or Tassie’s pineapple, we all live to tell the tale.

  9. Another thought: once I had to use unripe melon. I step on the vine an it got disconnected.

    It did not look ripe and had only a slight smell of melon. But plenty of fresh flesh which I did not want to waste. I peeled it and cut in small cubes, added a lot o sugar and a cup of fresh raspberries. Then I cooked it the way you would make a jam. It turned out pretty good and did not last till the next day ๐Ÿ™‚ I wanted to save it for winter but…

  10. We had some tasteless tomatoes this year and it was really disappointing, even though they had reseeded themselves from the previous owners of our house, so we had nothing to do with them except watering them once they sprouted. Still, a homegrown tomato is supposed to taste good.

    • Cat, I will bet my next paycheck that the former owners planted hybrid tomatoes. The first generation has great tomatoes, but the next generation typically does not. I know this from experience with Sungold tomatoes reseeding. There are few things better than a Sungold right out of the garden, but the next generation is tough, bitter and tasteless.

      • Laura, I’m sure you’re right about that. I’ve left volunteer tomatoes several times, and they never quite pan out. Still, it’s hard to bring yourself to uproot a nice, sturdy tomato seedling.

  11. I once grew melons in AZ, sort of. The plant turned out one small cantaloupe thing that was beautiful but tasteless. Our watermelon plant did squat. Now in the SF bay area, I will do as all do in gardening, try try again. Tis time next year I’ll have melons or not, with plans to do it all over again either way, I’m sure.

  12. We can’t grow melons either. I’ve tried a few times but they don’t grow for us or they are pretty tasteless. I usually forgo melons unless I have extra room to waste. lol. I did plant one this year but it got attacked by cucumber beetles and never recovered.

  13. We’re a year behind you – we’re growing the tasteless squash this year, an italian tromboncino-type. It hasn’t been a total loss, as the squash resemble a part of the male anatomy – fodder for lots of purile humour and sniggering in the veg patch.

    If I’m going to grow tasteless melons next year, be prepared for boob jokes.

  14. Bravo to your melon growing. They’re hard to grow here too in Vermont but this year we had a surprise four cantaloupe melons. I hadn’t realized any had fruited but when cleaning out one of the gardens I stubbled on four beautiful globes. Sweet!

  15. You’ve ruined it, your susoeppd to post a picture of a couple of melons so I can make that corny, stupid but funy joke of Oh, what a lovely pair of melons you have!’ I just have to tell you the joke now. p.s Let’s hope they go grow well, melons in scotland, something new and exciting.

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