GROWING MELONS IN DUBAI
Have you ever grown a melon at home? If so, you know how fun and rewarding it can be – we absolutely love the taste of melons fresh from the vine. If not, keep reading and we will show you how to grow melons right here in Dubai & UAE. It’s been a few years since I began to grow melons, and I have to admit it is possibly my new favourite plant to grow (sorry tomatoes). The lush vines themselves are also an elegant addition to the garden, creating a carpet (or wall if grown vertically) of green. Amirah often mentions how the distinctive leaves resemble a heart shape.
Melons are part of the Cucurbitaceae family, which includes other fruits and vegetables such as cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins. Melons are not hard to grow in Dubai & UAE given the right conditions. If you’ve followed us on Instagram for any length of time, you’ll know that we like to keep things simple, so let’s take a look at the steps you need to take to grow them successfully.
When to Grow Melons
Melons are true heat lovers, and will even grow throughout a Dubai summer if you provide some shade. We suggest sowing your seeds between Mid January and the end of March for best results. Later sowings will grow, but may struggle to produce fruit until the weather starts to cool again after the summer.
Where to Grow Melons
As with many fruit and vegetables, growing melons requires a fertile, well-draining soil in order to thrive. Be sure to amend the soil with compost and/or organic fertiliser, as they demand a lot of nutrients to grow successfully.
For best results, sow seeds directly where they are to grow. Melons can be started in pots and transplanted later, but they absolutely hate root disturbance. A damaged root might mean that you get little or no harvest… so be very very careful if going down this route. We grow melons both directly in the ground and in pots for transplanting later and have had good success with both methods.
A good rule of thumb with sowing seeds is to plant the seed about 3 times as deep as the size of the seed, so in the case of melons we sow them about 1/2 to 1 inch deep depending on the variety. Sow 2 or 3 seeds together, and after germination remove all but the strongest in each place. We space plants approximately 18 to 24 inches apart, but we do grow vertically, meaning we don’t require as much room for them to spread out. All our seeds are started outdoors.
If growing melons as transplants, plant them in their final homes after they have grown 2 or 3 leaves. Any longer and they may get root bound in smaller pots.
Watering & Fertilising Melons
Melons need consistent moisture in order to grow properly, so it’s important to water them regularly. Be careful not to overwater, as this can lead to root rot and other problems. Aim to keep the soil evenly moist, but not waterlogged. This is where good soil prep can really make a difference. You can add mulch around the base of the plants to help conserve moisture – you’ll be surprised at how much this helps!
Melons also need regular fertiliser in order to produce a good harvest. Try a slow release organic fertiliser at the time of planting and again at the appropriate intervals as suggested on the packet of your particular fertiliser. We then use a liquid fertiliser such as seaweed or fish emulsion, every 2-3 weeks throughout the growing season. Depending on the fertiliser you use and your growing conditions, you might need to fertilise more or less. Using more fertiliser than recommended can do more harm than good, so always monitor your plants and act accordingly.
Melons can be grown on the ground, but most melon varieties grow on sprawling vines that can take up a lot of space in the garden. To maximise the space in our small garden, we provide vertical supports for the vines to climb. This in turn keeps them off the ground and makes harvesting easier. If you are growing on the ground be sure to place an upturned pot saucer, brick or similar underneath the fruit to keep them from rotting on the soil. You really don’t want that to happen after getting this far!!
It can actually be quite difficult to tell when melons are ripe, but there are a few things you can look for. We normally use all of the below, but on a rare occasion we occasionally get it wrong…
- Look at the colour: the colour of a ripe melon depends on the variety. For example, honeydew melons should have a yellowish-green colour, and cantaloupes should have a beige netting over the surface. If the melon is too green, it’s probably not ripe yet.
- Check the stem: the stem should be dry and brown. If it’s still green or moist, the melon is likely not ripe yet.
- Cantaloupe melons will come off the vine with the gentlest tug, if it resists at all it is not ripe.
- Press on the end opposite the stem: When you press on the end of the melon opposite the stem, it should give slightly, but not too much. If it’s too hard, it’s not ripe yet. If it’s too soft, it may be overripe.
- Smell it: Ripe melons should have a sweet aroma. If it doesn’t smell like anything or has a musty smell, it’s probably not ripe yet. Honeydew melons generally do not have the pleasant odour.
- Check the weight: Ripe melons should feel heavy for their size. If it feels light, it’s probably not ripe yet.
Growing melons can be a fun and rewarding experience if you provide them with the right conditions. So make sure to give your melons plenty of sun, water, and care, and you’ll be well on your way to a delicious harvest!
Have you struggled to grow melons or any other fruit and veg? We offer one-to-one coaching and consultation appointments either in person or virtually! Read this to find out more!