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Magnificent Melons: Growing Watermelons and Cantaloupe in North Texas

Updated: Nov 18, 2023

Episode 6 of our spring vegetable gardening series


Watermelons and cantaloupes are the most-invited guests at summer picnics. They're loved for their super juicy, thirst-quenching, cool flavors. They're also surprisingly easy to grow. In Episode 6 of our spring gardening series, we'll show you how to get them started. Then in later episodes, you'll learn how to bring them to harvest. Of course, we'll also update you on the overall progress of our demonstration garden.



Transcript


Good morning. If you’re here to learn about how to grow watermelons and cantaloupe, you're in the right place. We are about to start here. Tammy's going to be leading you this morning. We're also going to talk a little bit more about squashes and cucumbers and update you on the latest developments in our demonstration garden.


Okay, we're going to get seasick for a minute because we're going to look at everything going on in our garden. First off we want to look at what I was calling our Chinese cabbage. Lo and behold, it is not. It is a Brussels sprout. It’s a purple Brussels sprout. We were kind of wondering why the leaves were so tough and that they weren't really good raw and it's because we really needed to be cooking them. But even the leaves are edible on your Brussels sprouts. And from some of the recipes that we found online, it talks about sautéing them and doing them like collard greens. So we're going to try some of that and see how well it turns out.


Brussels sprouts take a long time to grow and they say that they’re best to harvest after a frost, so I think I got my timing off on them because I just put them in and it froze.


Now we're getting up to it being in the ground for 3 months and it's just now starting to develop its little Brussels on it and it takes about 6 months to grow a Brussels sprout, so we're going to keep playing with it. We will harvest some of the bottom leaves, we will show you the development of the little Brussels on there, and see how well we can grow this thing. And yes, the next time we'll plant it in the fall and see if we do any better. And I think we'll plant a green one instead of a purple one. I just like purple.


As you can see our dill has gotten huge it is actually keeping some of my onions from getting sun, therefore they're not growing as quickly. I'm considering taking it up and transplanted it into its own pot. It'll still be out here but it will be out of the raised bed and in its own pot.


Our tomatoes – two of them have taken off and are growing by the day. Basil is looking a little strange but I think it was because of this last really cold snap that we got. I did turn pots over the top to keep frost off but I think it still got a little bit too cold. That other tomato, which is my Sweet 100, has gone crazy.


Now all of this stuff has been fertilized just with fish and seaweed. I have decided that I'm going to fertilize with the (Espoma) Tomato-tone and see how well that does. My peas are not doing well at all I don't know if it was from the wind breaking all of the stems because you can see there are breaks in the stems and causing the death. Or if I have an insect that I don't know about, but I'm not seeing any insect damage. I'm not seeing any insects on it. That being said, I don't like failing and so I'm taking the peas out and we will replace it with squash. Now since squash likes to climb, it should do the same thing and be a little bit easier to harvest. So the peas are gone and we're going to put the squash in the pot. I'm going to do Yellow Straight-neck – yellow neck. That almost looks like a little bit of powdery mildew and we have had a lot of moisture lately, so this whole this whole plant looks like it has powdery mildew on it.


I know that my beans are looking a little peaked. They're growing real well.


The reason that I was going to start with a granular fertilizer is to see if it doesn't green up a little bit better. They're starting to bloom really, really well. That's a purple green bean and I think the cold might have done a little bit of damage because I did not protect them at all. There was nothing on there. I just let them go to Mother Nature. So that being said, we're going to keep babying the purple beans and we're going to change out the sweet peas.


The carrots are actually starting to come up and starting to develop some. I really did not realize that carrots were such a long harvest date. I thought they were quicker like radish. My radishes all became mature and I harvested them. I love them. But even our lettuces are starting to actually perform now.


This looks like a dandelion. Dandelions taste good too.


But I think the mix might have had arugula in it. I like arugula.


All right that's a tour of our little demo garden and how it's going and what we're doing.


Now we’re going to talk about our squash and cucumbers again just because we did not have them in the last time we discussed them. We do have them in now, so cucumbers – I have a burpless and I have a Straight 8. Straight 8 is usually what you get in the grocery store. I like them. It's a really good one to slice and do in salads with, that kind of thing. Burpless – I don't think that I've ever tried to grow a burpless so that's why we're doing this, It should be, you know, the same instructions on growing and everything else. It's just they're going to have a lot less seeds in them and be a little bit less acidic. The acidity in there is what makes you burp. So we're going to do these guys both of them.


We will be vining them, so I'm going to have to get them something to grow up on. With all of my vining stuff, whether it's my cucumbers, watermelon, and cantaloupe, squash – I want to try as much as possible to vertically grow them instead of letting them travel. They travel really, really well, so hopefully we can get them up and take up less space.


I know for sure that I'm going to do my watermelon and my cantaloupe in pots and try to train them up the fence to see how well they do this year. And then, as I said, we're going to do the squash and the cucumbers in my buckets and on the teepee. So that'll be good.


Oh, we didn't look at my potatoes. The potatoes are doing awesome. I just added more more soil to the red potatoes only because one of my little potatoes with had its little head above the soil. It was the prettiest thing. Bright, bright red. It is really pretty but I apologized to it and put more soil on it. So we don't really need to put soil on it this week. Maybe when we talked about Okra, I’ll soil it for the last time and then we'll just let it go. But I do know that they're producing potatoes down in there and it's kind of cool.


I'm not real pleased with the garlic either. It looks kind of yellow. I think maybe garlic needs to be started in the fall also. I waited just a little bit too long. But we'll see how well it does. It’s a demonstration.


Yes ma'am. The type of onions that we planted? We planted 10-15’s here. And there we planted red candy, candy red, on the opposite side.


And they're already, if you look at them, they're a pretty nice size and they're showing no signs of getting ready to quit yet so we're going to have some pretty big awesome onions. They have gotten big enough now that I would say no we're not going to be able to eat them as a green onion anymore. We need to go ahead and let them develop all of their sugars and all that kind of stuff. And then harvest them. When they're ready to be harvested, you'll see that all your leaves will start turning yellow. They'll start laying down. At that point is when you need to harvest them/ Let them lay in a shaded area to dry and then you can store them.


Question: When they start putting up the seed head, can you just pinch that off and will they continue to grow or are they done?


They should continue to grow but when they start putting up their seed head usually that means that their leaves are going to start failing.


They’re not very big.


But they’re putting up seed heads already?


They’re only that big around but they’ve got some seed heads.


I’d pinch them off. Because any time that they go to seed, they’re going to quit. All of your plants are like that. if you let them put up their seed heads, they're going to quit being productive. They're going to think they've done their job and they don't have to do it anymore, so you don't want to let them do that. And I don't know how they know that I’ve pinched their seeds off, but they do. So they try to put on more. So, yes, definitely do that.


Squash vine borers do not usually start attacking until your plants start blooming. They're attracted to that yellow in the blooms and that's when they start attacking the plants. So you can still plant right now and be relatively safe. It's after they start blooming that you’ll start having some problems and that's when you need your traps out. Your traps really do work. It has a pheromone – is that a pheromone? . . . in there that will attract the guys in there instead of to the plant


The male – and the male is what does all the damage?


No. It attracts the male so they can’t mate.


Oh, very good. If you don't have a male you can't mate and then you won't be laying eggs.


Let’s see. Cantaloupes. All of our cantaloupes that we get in here before this area. I tried to keep our vegetables coming in from local growers and so I don't have as many, but I am getting the stuff in. I don't like going outside of Texas because then you have to figure out how to acclimate them to our area because even bringing stuff in from California – in California sunny in California warm California gets cool nights and when it gets really hot, we do not. We sometimes can roast at night just like we were during the day. So it makes a big difference on plants on how they're going to grow and how they can recover. Everything needs a recovery period. And if we're still hot at night, they're going to quit. That's why some of our Tomatoes – you know, the large guys – they don't have that temperature that they need to recover and to still put on blooms so that they can put on fruit.


I guess the biggest thing now is to go rip out one of my plants and put ask in a crook neck squash cuz I like crook neck best. I don't know why. I think the straight neck in the crook neck taste the same but I just like the way that they're formed.


Since my buckets have already been – my soil had already been mixed and I've already put Biostart in them, all I'm going to do is just plant it and then after I’ve planted it, I will put in some seaweed to stimulate root growth.


Are the peas that are in there still good?


Yeah. Here, try one. Oh, that one looks. . .


Is it too late to plant them?


Yes, Peas are a cooler season guy so I would wait till fall and do you some snap peas in the fall. It did actually really get grown up into the stuff. It would have been kind of nice if it hadn't done that. I do want to see what my root structure looks like. Oh, look, I got a ladybug. I got a ladybug. It’s is a very nice little taste.


Not much root development.


Well that's what I was looking at. They’re kind of dark. I think maybe I got root rot. Yep. See the way that the sheathing just slid off. If you grab a hold of the root itself, when you get a bigger one – and pull – that shouldn't come off.


Yeah this guy had root rot. That makes me kind of leery. I must not have got as much Comand compost in there as I thought I did. The Comand really aerates a lot so I’m going to add some more in.


Because I'm still not – playing with it like that – I'm still not seeing any kind of insect on it. Oh yeah, these are real wet. I know it just rained but with the root staying really deep dark like that –becoming dark like that – I think maybe I just didn't have enough –


Look at it down there it looks like it should be draining pretty well. Oh, what’s that? There’s something green in there.


Some kind of fungus.


Hmmm. Maybe I shouldn’t plant in this right now. Maybe I should look at it a little closer.


Dump it out and put new dirt in it.


Yeah I hate doing that but I also don't want to set us up for failure, I want to look at this one.


Because this one was still blooming. Now see. This one was little – see this one still has good roots. Oh, but it looks like some of them are dying. Here. Maybe just all of this rain – it just really.


Maybe put some more holes in the pots?


Yeah, I might have to put a few more. Yeah. I might have to put a few more holes because these – as you can see – that's really light colored. This is a healthy root and then if you look over here you have these – see how it’s dark? That's not a healthy root. Okay.


So I’m going to have to do some adjusting. That might be one of those guys turning yellow too is that I'm holding too much water. So I'm going to get my drill out I'm going to drill holes up and down a little bit more of the raised bed or the Comand compost. I don't know which one I'm going to use yet.


And try to get that stuff moving a little bit better. Since that one had fungus in it, I know I don't want to do anything in it. and this one does too. Want to look at it?


The little yellowish green?


Here’s a bunch more of it. I got another chunk of it out.


Is there a way to treat it? Or do you just dump it and start again?


No, there’s a way of treating it and I'll put – I can use cornmeal with garlic. It works on fungus which, you know, that's probably what I'll do. The other thing I could do is treat it with the Bee Safe. Here, we can go over there.


I’ve got one called Bee Safe. That is safe for all of our bees and and it it will take care of – it’s a fungicide, miticide and insecticide so it does all three and it's safe for our bees.


So there's not a whole lot even organic that is safe for our bees. If you if you get an organic insecticide on a flower and then the bee eats out of it, it can cause problems. So the Bee Safe is a really good product. I like it if I'm going to have to use a insecticide, I will use it instead of some of the other stuff. You can use the neem oil. I would use the 100% neem oil to treat these guys because I want to do a drench. So if you use the 100% neem, make you a drench and drench the pots in it and then it should take care of it.


Do you like the Bee Safe versus the neem oil if you’re going to use something?


I like the Bee Safe, yes. Neem oil is a really good treatment. You got to be careful it's time that you spray because it is an oil and if you're spraying the leaves and out in the sun comes out and it's still wet on the leaves it can burn the leaves so I would worry about that it will also kill your caterpillars and I kind of like them even when they're ugly like the hornworm I like the hornworm because he is the most beautiful little moth. Not little – big moth. And I like most of our moths. Yeah, they eat a lot. Usually I just say okay you can have that one but you can't have anymore. Or somebody else goes out and takes care of it. I just can’t bring myself to.


Now some of the other things like asps, yeah, I'll get rid of an asp in a heartbeat. Now I think they have pretty little caterpillars – pretty little moths too. It’s just that they hurt. So I don't do them.


We’re going to talk about fertilization. You can use the Tomato tone and you can use the Tomato-tone on pretty much on everything that you grow in the garden. Or you can use Garden-tone and you can use it on your herbs, vegetables, and your Tomatoes. There is a little bit of difference. This one is a 3-4-4 where as this one’s a 3-4-6 so you get a little bit more for the root structure on this one.


Question: Can you talk about the Fox Farm – this one.


Oh, the Grow Big. This is a really good liquid fertilizer. If you look on it, it actually says hydroponic plant food. But it also a really good foliar feed. You can do it for heavy feeders also. So you just have to shake it really well. Do it like every 2 weeks and you'll do a foliar feed. The foliar feed is only a half a teaspoon per gallon of water so it doesn't take a whole lot. If you’re doing it for Hydroponics, it is: General feeding – 2 tsp per gallon of water with every reservoir change, so if you're changing out a reservoir, you use two teaspoons per gallon. Once you get it up and going, you can go from this to Tiger Bloom. And there’s another one. I forgot what it is.

Also this is the Micro Brew that you can put in here and it activates all of your beneficials and it that helps your plant take up the water and nutrients and makes them a little more drought-resistant. So this is a really good one too. I like Fox Farm.


Is that more of a drench or is that a foliar as well?


This is more of a drench. And it says: in-ground gardens and containers. You want to mix two teaspoons per gallon of freshwater. Drench soil thoroughly. Apply every other week throughout the vegetative and blooming cycles until harvest.


One of the things that I found out over doing some research is that, like with a tomato, when you bury it deeper, it will grow roots on the stem. Squash does not do that. It will get a little harder, but it’s not going to grow roots. And they're very, very susceptible to – What did they call that? If if they stay too wet they're going to get damp – powdery mildew and something else. Oh! They said blossom end rot, but I didn't believe that. Never mind. I don't want to tell you that. But it will set up for failure if you've got it. So if you do do a mulch across your vegetable bed or anything like, that make sure that you're staying about 6 inches off the stems cuz you don't want to hold too much water. They do need a constant source of water. So if they’re in pots, don’t let it dry out until the soil shrinks away from the pot. But don’t keep it so wet that it’s muddy. Like, you don’t want to come out like this. That was probably too wet. More like that.


Our cantaloupe and watermelon, it is very important that you have a constant water source or they're not going to develop their fruit well. Having enough moisture helps them become sweeter. If they don't have enough moisture there going to be mealy. And if you ever ate a mealy watermelon, it’s just not good. And that has to do with water source and making sure that we're keeping it about the same all the time. It might be good to invest in one of the moisture meters – especially if you're doing that and raised beds or in pot to make sure that you're keeping it, say, at a 4 at all times. It will really help you out a lot.


Heat will be an issue for these guys just because – they like to grow in the heat – but, you know, a couple of days a row of over 100 degrees and them not getting the moisture they need it it'll kill him. They’ll start turning brown and the whole line will die.


One of the things I learned about watermelons is that you can inject them with Boric Acid and it will actually make them sweeter.


Okay, are we injecting the stem? Or are we injecting the melon itself?


The melon itself.


So inject with Boric Acid at the start of development? Or did it say?


It did say the timing, so I’m not sure about that. And it didn’t give the ratio.


We need to study on that and we need to do a – it's our demo garden. We need to see if that really works or not. So we’ll try that. We’ll mark them and try it and see what happens and when we harvest, we’ll do a test.


We’ll do a taste test. That’ll be fun. I love having fun. Is there anything else I can talk to ya’ll about?


No questions? Okay. If there’s no questions, I guess I will see you – when?


On May 8 for the okra class.


I will see you all on May 8th for the okra class.


I’ve got to decide where I’m going to plant my okra. And we’ll talk about that.


All right, so we’ll see you all May 8th. Come back and see us.



Watch other episodes of our spring vegetable gardening series:

Spring in North Texas is actually several gardening seasons in one. Follow along with us through the changing weather as we grow our own organic demonstration garden. Each episode focuses on a different phase of the spring season as we show you what you can plant and when to plant it, how to grow it and how to care for it using our time-tested organic methods.


Episode 1: Cool Greens & Rockin' Roots introduces you to growing lettuce, spinach, kale, cabbage, and other green leafy vegetables, along with root veggies, such as radishes, carrots, and beets.


In Buried Treasures, we show you how to plant onions, potatoes and garlic. Plus we update you on the progress of our early plantings.


Tomatoes and peppers are by far the most popular edibles to grow, so how could we not devote a class on how to grow these must-have veggies?


As our weather warms up, the bugs come out and nothing's worse than being harassed by mosquitoes, fire ants and other pests while you're working in your garden. Along with our weekly update on our organic demonstration garden, Episode 4 of Spring Veggie Gardening in North Texas talks about the latest and greatest all natural, organic controls to protect yourself and your family from dangerous and otherwise pesty pests.


Learn the organic way to grow summer squashes, zucchinis, and cucumbers while dealing with the special challenges gardeners face in North Texas. We'll show you how to start your plants from seed and get them off to the best possible start. You'll also learn how to prevent devastating squash vine borers, squash beetles, cucumber beetles and other pests without resorting to toxic pesticides.






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