Friday, 26 August 2011

Gnadenfeld Melons

Gnadenfeld Melon
We've only been growing melons for a couple of years, but we've been finding them a challenge. Most of them take a long time to ripen, and our season is just not quite long enough. We are in a micro-climate that gives us plenty of frost-free days, but that's not enough. Melons need heat. That's why I was so excited to read this description in the Heritage Harvest website:

"I am very pleased to be able to offer this excellent variety to my customers! This melon has been grown in Gnadenfeld, Manitoba for generations and is named after its place of origin. One of the earliest, most productive and sweetest melons that I have ever tasted! I cannot say enough about this excellent find. The small melons have deep orange fragrant flesh and are produced in abundance. A must for short season areas. (60-65 days) RARE."
So we duly got some seed from Heritage Harvest*, and planted it, and Lo! It germinated! Which has been something of a problem for us with melon seed. It's often pretty iffy. We planted out our little seedlings in their peat pots (melons don't like to have their roots disturbed) into good compost-enriched soil when the weather warranted it. Weeded a bit; watered a bit. Mulched with grass clippings. And for the last couple weeks we've been eating MELONS! Lots of melons! Delicious, ripe, perfumey melons! It's amazing.

In addition to being trouble-free, fine-tasting melons, it's easy to tell when they are ripe, which is not always the case with melons either. The smooth skin under the bumpy melon veins turns from beige to light greeny-yellow. You can smell them, too.

Damn Those Voles
Unfortunately we are not the only ones who can smell them. Our two plants produced 8 or 9 melons thus far (I don't think there will be many, if any, more) but 2 of them got eaten, probably by voles. We have had to set up a trapline by the sole remaining melon, and I check it daily. This is war! I'm not sharing my melons. Well, okay, I am, but I really don't want to.

Next year? We will plant more. I will probably start some a little earlier, under hoop houses. A lot of people plant melons through black plastic, although we've always been a bit more laissez-faire than that. These are so quick to ripen that I'm not sure that's really necessary, although it probably doesn't hurt either.

Next year we will probably also trellis the melons. They did fine just lying on the ground (protected a little by that grass-clipping mulch) but hopefully it will take the voles a little longer to find them if they are up in the air. These are small enough melons that I think they will trellis quite well. I'd say one melon is generally about 4 servings. I suspect their size is the trade-off from being so early and so sweet - something had to give. Size is fine with me; it's actually an excellent size for a two-person household.

*My impression is that no-one else has this melon. Sorry to be flogging something so obscure, but really, I've never had such success with melons and I just have to recommend them.


Boiling Pot said...

Based on your experience, I've just ordered some of the Gnadenfeld Melon seeds. Wish me luck!!!

Ferdzy said...

Good luck! Where are you located (more or less)?

Boiling Pot said...

Hi, Ferdzy. I'm in Manitoba north of Winnipeg. I got a few ripe Gnadenfeld muskmelons in '12 & '13. They are as you say & no complaints! Except for the fact that rodents love them, too. This year I am putting chickenwire around them. Heh, heh, little buggers, let's see you chew thru that. As we speak, I'm nursing some young'uns on the windowsill...

Best of luck in this year's garden!

Ferdzy said...

Hey, Boiling Pot, glad to hear they worked well for you! Do you think chicken wire will keep out rodents? Not mice or voles, surely - they will go through a hole the size of a dime or even smaller. I have been trellising my melons since I originally posted this, and I find that just keeping them up off the ground does help a lot.