The Korean melon, a cool sub-temperate crop, grows well in greenhouses, open fields, and home gardens. With the help of the instructions on how to grow Korean melons provided here, plant their seedlings, and pick sweet and flavorful melons right from the vine, this summer.
Did You Know?
Very sweet fruit needs hot weather to ripen. Melons that ripen on vines when the weather is hot and dry are the best and sweetest melons.
The Korean melon is primarily grown in Korea, China, and Japan. It is also grown now in Hawaii and California too. It is suspected that this melon must have originated in East India, and was then introduced to China. These days, the fruit is available in almost all parts of the world. Unlike other melons, the Korean melon comes with thin skin, and tiny, soft seeds. The white flesh is crispy, sweet, and flavorful. Both, the rind and seeds are edible. The taste is similar to that of a pear or honeydew melon.
It is easy to grow Korean melons if you live in a cool, sub-temperate region. The fruit belongs to the family cucurbitaceae. There exist several species, cultivars, and hybrids of this fruit. Sunghwan and Gotgam, the two main popular varieties of this annual herbaceous plant, have greater disease resistance than other varieties. They are known for the nutritious and flavorful fruits that they produce.
Instructions for Growing Korean Melons
Buy good-quality seeds from an authentic dealer. Melons grow well in slightly acidic, fertile, and well-drained (for good air circulation) soil. The pH of the soil can be between 6.0 and 6.5. In spring, when the ground is relatively warm (no more chances of frost), loosen the soil to at least 12 inches deep. Prepare a 3-inch layer of compost. Add to it a small amount of organic fertilizer (5-10-10 fertilizer). Create small but wide, raised hills (6 – 8-inch high, flat-topped mounds) in the soil, as melons grow on vines. The plants would branch and trail. Place three to five seeds per hill, about two inches apart and one inch deep. Water the plants carefully. Let the soil become moderately dry before watering. These plants cannot tolerate frost, cold, and wet soil. Watch the seedlings as they grow. Remove the weaker ones. Let two plants (that appear taller) grow on a hill. Let there be 2 feet of space between two neighboring plants in a row, and 6 to 8 feet of space between every two rows. You may have to transplant the plants accordingly. While planting the seedlings, the holes should be as deep and wide as the root balls.
Those living in colder regions can plant the seeds indoors, and can transplant them outdoors when the weather is warm (when the temperature of the soil is above 60°F). Those who want to plant them outdoors only, can lay black plastic mulch over the ground in the late winter to keep the ground warm.
Since plants belonging to cucurbitaceae tend to crossbreed easily, leave sufficient space between two different types or cultivars of melons. To avoid any type of accidental cross-pollination, plant them away from their cousins (like cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins).
Korean melons grow well in temperatures between 60 and 84°F. They grow best with day temperatures between 75 to 84°F. and night temperatures between 60 to 75°F.
The plants need full sun exposure throughout the day. They grow well in areas where the summers last for 3 – 4 months. They need around 50 – 55 warm days to grow.
Initially, at least two inches of water will be required to settle the soil. Once they settle, the plants would need a minimum of 1 – 2 inches of water a week. The plants are drought tolerant when they are grown in moisture-retentive soils. Watering them in the morning at soil level, using drip irrigation, is recommended. Drying of the leaves before evening helps prevent fungal diseases. Regular watering is essential when the fruit is developing. When the fruits are close to being ripe, do not water the plants. Water them only if they are showing signs of heat stress, such as wilting. Watering them when the fruits are almost ripe can result in bland, watery fruits.
Spread about 2 inches of organic mulch in a 2-foot circle around each plant. Spread it evenly. Mulching would help the soil to retain moisture. Moreover, it would curb the growth of weeds around the plant.
Mix 1 tbsp. of 33-0-0 fertilizer into the soil, 2 – 3 inches away from the base of a plant, a week after the plant blooms. Mix the fertilizer well into the top 2-inch layer of the soil. Water the plant carefully.
Aphids, squash bugs, cucumber beetles, and various other pests are likely to attack these plants. They are susceptible to bacterial wilt. Powdery mildew can affect the taste and quality of the fruit. It is better to plant pest-resistant varieties. Take 1 cup of milk and add 6 cups of water to it. Spraying this mixture every two weeks during the second half of summer can help get rid of the mildew. As far as possible, do not use chemicals for pest control. Spraying young plants with kaolin clay can protect the plants from beetles. Potassium bicarbonate (or baking soda) spray can prevent powdery mildew. You should cut off and destroy the affected branches. Crop rotation helps minimize pest problems.
Ripe fruit has bright-yellow skin. These oval-shaped melons can be about 300 – 500 g in weight at the time of harvest. Ripe fruits can be easily picked up from the vine. You won’t have to exert pressure on the stem while removing the fruit. You can judge the ripeness of the fruit by its aroma too. If the days are very hot, melons can over-ripen on the vines.
➺ Don’t worry if the plants are blooming but not setting fruit. The earliest flowers are often male (pollen-bearing), so cannot develop into fruits. Only the female flowers (pistillate, have tiny bulbs at their bases) would turn into melons. In case of lack of pollination, both the flower and the fruit will eventually fall off the stem.
➺ Poor flavor of the fruit may be the consequence of the weather: cloudy during ripening, too hot, too much or too little water, or a combination of factors.
➺ Lack of essential elements, for example, well-drained fertile soil, fertilization, watering, etc., can weaken the plants, and weak plants are likely to be attacked by pests.
Save the Seeds
You can eat yellow Korean melons with their skin and seeds. But, remove some seeds and spread them on a paper. You can then sow these air-dried seeds in your garden the next year.
Korean melons are highly perishable. Once harvested, you need to consume them within a week. You can store whole, uncut melons up to 5 days at room temperature. Cut melons can be wrapped in plastic, and can be stored in a refrigerator for a couple of days. If you have excess melons, cut them into small cubes or balls, pack the chunks into containers, leaving head space, and freeze them.