One of the sweetest treats of summer is a homegrown melon. That said, whether you’re growing cantaloupes, muskmelons or watermelons, leaving the ripening fruits on the ground can lead to rot and damage from pests such as slugs, earwigs, pill bugs and wireworms. Elevating developing melons so they don’t contact the soil solves this common problem. Here are four ways to keep melons off the ground and make sure you get a perfect, sweet melon at harvest time.
1. Use Plastic Cradles
If you’re a backyard gardener who’s just raising a few melon plants in your veggie patch, commercially made plastic melon cradles are a great way to keep melons off the ground. When the melon begins to form, simply lift it up and place a cradle beneath it. Each of these plastic, bowl-shaped cradles has a spike on the bottom to hold it in place and a perforated upper surface to ensure good air circulation around the developing melon. Plus, they’re reusable, allowing you to get many years of use from each one, which helps justify their expense.
2. Build Platforms
Another way to keep melons off the ground is to make an elevated platform for each one. This can be done with some pieces of scrap wood and heavy hardware cloth. Build a square, rectangular or even triangular frame from the wood and then fasten a top of hardware cloth over it. Rest the growing melon on top of the hardware cloth as it matures. The hardware cloth means that even the bottom surface of the melon will receive good air circulation while slugs and other pests are kept at bay.
3. Make Slings
If you grow your melons vertically, like I do, making melon slings (shown above) is the best way to keep melons off the ground. Use wide strips of old cotton sheets or sections of old nylon stockings to make slings. Tie each end of the sling to the fence or other climbing structure near where a young melon is starting to grow. Gently place the melon into the sling, and the sling will provide support as the melon matures.
4. Use PVC Pipe Platforms
Another clever way to keep melons off the ground is to elevate each one on a piece of PVC pipe. When the melons are small, use 2- or 3-inch diameter pipe, and as they grow, replace the small pipe with a piece of larger diameter pipe. PVC pipe comes in widths as wide as 10 inches, so this method accommodates even large melons. No matter the pipe’s size, cut an 8-to-10-inch-long piece and place it on end beneath the melon, allowing the melon to sit on the top opening.
Using one of these four techniques, you’ll be able to keep melons off the ground easily and without a lot of expense.