Vertical Melon Growing – How To Grow Melons On A Trellis
By: Teo Spengler
Who wouldn’t like the luxury of growing watermelons, cantaloupes, and other luscious melons in a backyard garden? Nothing tastes more like summer than a ripe melon straight from the vine. Melons grow on very sprawling vines that can take up most of a garden bed though. The perfect solution is growing melons vertically.
While these fruits are heavy, you can grow melons on a trellis as long as you create a strong support system for the vine and each fruit.
Vertical Melon Growing
Few gardeners have all the growing space they would like.That’s why the verticalvegetable garden has become popular. Using trellises allow you to producemore crops than you otherwise would and often healthier crops too. Thisincludes vertical melon growing.
Vining plants that sprawl on the ground are also vulnerableto insect pests, fruit rot, and other diseases. Growing melons vertically, thatis up a trellis, allows for better airflow that keeps foliage dry. In addition,fruit is held above the wet ground and far from crawling bugs.
Trellising Melon Vines
Vertical melon growing shares all of these benefits. Whenyou grow muskmelons or even watermelonvertically, you use significantly less garden space. A single melon plant grownhorizontally can occupy up to 24 square feet of garden space. Trellising melonvines has some unique issues as well.
One of the issues with growing melons on a trellis involvesthe weight of the fruit. Many fruits and veggies grown vertically areindividually small such as beans,cherrytomatoes, or grapes.Melons can be large and heavy. If you are willing to build a strong trellissystem and attach the fruit well, trellising melon vines can work very nicely.
Tips for Growing Melons on a Trellis
You’ll need to be sure to install a trellis that will holdthe weight of the melon vines and ripe fruit. Encourage the vines to climb bytraining them up a support system such as concrete reinforcing wire. Gettingthe vines up the trellis is only half of the job of growing melons vertically.
Maturing fruit will hang on the melon vine from stems, butthe stems aren’t strong enough to support the weight. You’ll need to provideevery melon extra support to prevent them from falling to the ground androtting. Create slings made of old nylon stockings or netting and cradle theyoung melons in the slings from the time they are a few inches in diameteruntil harvest.
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How to Grow Melons on a Trellis
For gardeners who love melons but don’t have a lot of space, a trellis is the ideal solution. This method lets you grow your plants vertically so that they take up very little square footage otherwise, a melon plant can sprawl over as much as 24 square feet. All your plants need to grow up instead of out is a strong trellis and some individual supports for the melons. Add a trellis anytime after your plants have started to grow, but don’t wait too long or you may have trouble getting them going in the direction you want.
Pound three metal T-posts into the ground, about 8 feet apart. These are commonly used for fencing and can be pounded in with a sledgehammer. Set the posts in place on the shadiest side of your row of melons, about 8 inches from the plants. Make sure the flanges on the posts are well buried.
Set a 16-foot-by-4-foot metal livestock panel about 8 inches from the plants, but on the other side of the melon row from the fence posts. Lean the panel against the posts and wire it in place by using your hand to twist pieces of 18 gauge or smaller wire around the panel and the posts. Livestock panels are readily available from feed stores, farm supply stores and fencing centers. They look like stiff sections of wire fence and are sturdy and easy to handle.
Lift any of the melon vines that are long enough and carefully weave them in and around the wires of the metal panel. Continue doing this two or three times per week as the vines grow. If they won’t stay, tie them gently with pieces of soft cotton string or 1-inch pieces of old nylons or T-shirts.
Cut old T-shirts, nylon stockings or other soft, stretchy fabric into strips about 6 to 15 inches in width and longer than a mature melon. Leave enough on the ends for you to make knots in the fabric.
Make "hammocks" out of the cloth strips. Since the vines won’t support the melons for long, each melon should be in a hammock by the time it gets to be about the size of a baseball. Tie one end of the cloth to the trellis on one side of the melon and tie the other end of the cloth to the trellis on the other side. The hammock should be directly under the melon, making it easy for you to set the fruit carefully into the hammock. Make sure the hammock is large enough to support the melon even when it’s full-sized. Allow enough slack in the fabric that the melon can sink down in, for a more secure hold.
Training your watermelon to climb a trellis
like many vining plants, growing your plant on a trellis is little more than a matter of aiming the vines in the right direction. Tie loose loops to hold the vine in place on the trellis. You never want to cut off “circulation” in the vine, so I recommend using large fixed loops that simply hold the vine in proximity, while also letting it wave loosely. Another option is to use a longer tie and tie one end of the tie loosely around vine and the other end of the tie around the trellis support. This can be helpful for training, as a small amount of tension can be left in order to “pull” the vine up the trellis.
Your vines might need gentle coaxing to grow upward instead of crawling across the ground. Always handle the vines gently – for vines that don’t easily redirect in the direction of the trellis, put a stake in the ground midway between the vine and the trellis and train the vine to climb the stake by using a tie to secure the vine loosely to the stake. After a few days, the plant will naturally yield in the direction it’s being held, and you’ll be able to manipulate the vine further over onto the trellis.