Seed Library: Melons and Flowers
Melon: Hale’s Best Cantaloupe
Melons provide a sweet and colorful addition to summer meals, and they can be grown in the home garden. In addition to the typical cantaloupe and honeydew melons, gardeners can grow other varieties such as banana melons.
Before Planting: A light, well-drained soil with a pH of 7.0 and a southern exposure is ideal. Good soil moisture is important in early stages of growth and during pollination when fruits are setting.
Planting: For direct seeding, sow 1-2 weeks after last frost when soil is warm, above 70°F, 3 seeds every 18″, 1/2″ deep, thinning to 1 plant/spot. Space rows 6′ apart. For transplanting, sow indoors in 3 weeks before last frost and transplanting outside. Plant 2-3 seeds per or pot, about 1/4″ deep. Keep temperature 80-90°F until germination. Handle young plants carefully and never let the soil dry out. Grow seedlings at 75°F. Reduce water and temperature for a week to harden seedlings. When the weather is frost-free, warm, and settled, transplant 2-3′ apart in rows 6′ apart or thin to 1 plant/pot or cell with scissors and transplant 18″ apart. Even hardened melon seedlings are tender. Do not disturb roots when transplanting, and water thoroughly.
Watering: Melons need a steady supply of water, and soil needs to be damped but not flooded, approximately 1 inch a week.
Fertilizer: Prior to planting, mix aged manure and compost into the soil. Melons are heavy feeders, so fertilize at planting and throughout the growing season with a 5-5-5 or 10-10-10 granular fertilizer. Do not let the granules come in contact with the plant.
Days to Maturity: A ripe melon should be very easy to remove from the vine. For a cantaloupe, the netting pattern on the melon becomes more visible and a crack appears at the base of the stem when it was ripe. For a honeydew, the color becomes creamy. Most melon varieties are ready for harvest when the gray-green color begins to change to pale yellow and when a light tug separates the fruit from the vine. Some melon types, like honeydew, Charentais, canary, Spanish, and Crenshaw are overripe by the time the stem can be tugged from the fruit.
Harvesting: Melons must be cut from the vine. All melons should be stored at 90% relative humidity. Store ripe melons at 40-45°F for 7-14 days.
Tips: Cut off watering 1 week before harvest. This will give a more flavorful, concentrated melon. Over watering before harvest can cause bland taste.
AVG. Direct Seeding Rate: 30 seeds/10′, 100 seeds/50′ 1M/500′, 15M/acre at 3 seeds every 18″ in rows 6′ apart.
Found naturally on bottomlands with ample moisture, the Plains Coreopsis is adapted to all by the driest soil types. It does best on well-drained soil in full sun, but it will tolerate light shade.
If you live in an area with strong winters, you must plant your Plains Coreopsis seeds in the spring, but a fall planting is possible if winters are mild. This annual will bloom from mid-summer to mid-fall.
Sow your Plain Coreopsis seeds directly outside on a firm soil bed. It will germinate best if a clean tilled site is firmed with a roller or finishing harrow. Broadcast or shallowly drill 1 to 2 pounds of seed per acre (1 to 2 grams per 100 square feet.) Plant growth and seed production is increased by fertilizer. Fertilizer should be applies according to soil test recommendations. If test results are not available, a rate of 3.5 to 5.5 ounces per 100 square feet (100 to 150 pounds per acre) of 13-13-13 should be applied in the spring before flowering occurs.
The Plains Coreopsis only requires average watering. Water regularly, but be sure you do not over water.
Bees, butterflies and birds are attracted to the Plains Coreopsis.
Sunflowers: Autumn Beauty, Lemon Queen, & Moonshine
Germination: Sunflowers will take 5-14 days at 70-75°F.
Direct Sowing: Direct sowing is highly recommended. After the last frost, sow in groups of 2-3 seeds, 1/2″ deep. Thin to one plant when true leaves appear.
Transplant: If you prefer to sow indoors use a peat moss pot that can be planted directly into the ground. Sow no sooner than 3-4 weeks prior to planting out. Sunflowers dislike root disturbance and do not transplant well.
Location: Plant in a location that receives full sun and good air circulation. Soil should drain well and well balanced nutrients.
Plant Spacing: Single-stem varieties space 4-6″ apart. Branching varieties space 18-24″ apart.
Hardiness Zones: Sunflowers are annuals and can be planted in any hardiness zone.
Cut Flowers: Flowers can be harvested tight when color first begins to show, or when the flowers are just beginning to open, depending on your market
Coneflower: Eden 7
When to plant: Varies by zone; sow seeds in spring or fall.
Where to plant: Echinacea should be planted in an area that receives 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day, as too much shade can result in floppy stems and foliage susceptible to powdery mildew.
How to plant: To plant Echinacea seeds, loosen the soil to a depth of 12 inches. Add compost to the top 2-4 inches of soil. Seeds take approximately 3 to 4 weeks to germinate, and you should see true leaves at about 12 weeks. If transplanting, dig a hole twice as wide as the pot and deep enough so that the rootball will be level with the top of the soil.
These easy-care perennials require only the basics: regular watering of about an inch per week, a light layer of compost added in the spring, and to be cut back in fall, and even that’s optional if you prefer to leave the seed heads.
Pruning: Though deadheading is a common garden practice to encourage repeat blooming, many varieties these days are flower machines and will keep producing without snipping off spent blooms. That way you can leave them be, guaranteeing food for another beloved category of wildlife—birds, particularly small songbirds like goldfinches, which are crazy about the seeds. Flowers appearing post-deadheading can be smaller and less satisfying, so why not just leave
the first, bigger flowers to go to seed and give the birds a feast?
Once your coneflower has finished blooming, it can be cut down to ground level to over-winter. Or, if you prefer to leave the dried seed heads, it can be cut down in early spring.
As a full sun flower that likes warm weather, zinnias need the air and soil to be warmed to the 70s F to germinate and begin to thrive. Unfortunately, they also dislike being transplanted. That doesn’t mean you can’t make the most of the growing season, though. You still have a choice between starting zinnia seeds indoors or sowing seeds directly outdoors.
Sowing Seeds Outdoors
The easiest way to start zinnias is to plant them directly in their final beds outdoors. It takes air and soil of more than 70 F to germinate well, so wait until spring is firmly in place before planting zinnia seeds. Plant them about 1/4” right in the ground, spaced as much as your chosen variety needs, anywhere from a couple of inches to a couple of feet. Once they sprout, thin them carefully to encourage the strongest to thrive. Give enough space so that air can flow around the mature flowers, preventing disease.
Starting Seeds Indoors
If you want a jump on the growing season for some early spring color, you can get around zinnia’s aversion to transplanting. Start seeds in potting soil and peat pots about a month before the last frost. Once the soil is warmed enough for zinnias, you can plant the entire pot in the ground for an easy transition.
Zinnias like well-fed soil, so some compost worked into the ground early in the season will give the soil an edge before it’s time to get the zinnia seeds or plants in the ground. Moisture is important in early weeks, but make sure it doesn’t get soggy.
Zinnias will last for around two months, so stagger multiple plantings in the garden to keep zinnia flowers in the garden from spring through fall. Heavy humidity might be your only obstacle to constant zinnias all summer long.
Growing Beautiful Zinnias
It’s hard to pinpoint a real challenge to growing zinnias. Resistant to pests, happy in most soils, and prolific bloomers, zinnias are very nearly “set it and forget it” plants.
Water and sunlight will keep your zinnias blooming full and frequently. Too much water, on the other hand, will risk one of the only diseases zinnias are susceptible to mildew. Keep water to about an inch a week, from all sources. And, as with most plants, avoid spraying the foliage and flowers as much as possible and not at all during the heat of the day.
If you want full, bushy zinnia plants, pinch the top of the stems off of young plants. If you want to encourage tall zinnias, stake the largest so they don’t flop over.
“Harvesting” zinnias as cut flowers will also encourage full growth, telling the zinnia to keep producing blooms until some can go to seed. Cut the stems above leave or bud nodes and the stems will keep growing and producing new blooms.
Once a zinnia plant is done, you can remove it and plant something else in its place. For heirloom varieties, let one or two go-to seed and be sure to collect them for next year. Try to save seeds from zinnia plants that are tucked behind others to avoid having dying zinnias as a focal point.
Sugar Baby Watermelon
One of the most fun heirlooms on the market and gaining in popularity as gardeners taste the brilliantly sweet, red flesh under this mesmerizing thick rind. Moon And Stars Watermelon sports 25 to 30 pound dark green fruits decorated in bright yellow spotted skin resembling the night sky. No two are alike!
When to plant:
If you live in a climate with a short growing season, consider starting your watermelon seeds indoors 4 to 6 weeks before transplanting seedlings into the garden. Sow watermelon seed directly, or set out your transplants 3 to 4 weeks after the last average frost date in spring. Watermelon demands warm temperatures – both soil and air. Transplant or direct sow watermelon seeds only when the average soil and daytime air temps are at least 70F. Watermelons are heavy feeders and need soil rich in nutrients. They grow best in loose, well-drained, but moisture-retentive soil rich in organic matter. Amend your soil with aged manure, seaweed, and/or compost before planting.
How to plant:
Dig a hole 12” deep and 24” wide, fill with compost, manure and several handfuls of sand – this will create an area that is both moisture retentive and well-draining. Use the soil that was removed from the hole to create the mound and then sow your seed or transplant there.
Sow Watermelon seeds 1” deep, planting 4-6 seeds (or transplanting 2-3 of your strongest seedlings) in mounds that stretch 24” across. Planting on hills or mounds ensures that roots stay warm and the soil is well-drained. If direct sowing, wait until your young seedlings have developed three to four true leaves and choose to keep your strongest 2-3 plants by cutting the thinned out seedlings at soil level with scissors. If you pull out your weakest seedlings, you may disturb the tender roots of your remaining plants, so use of scissors or clippers is advised. Build mounds 5-10 feet apart.
We advise using a nitrogen fertilizer on your watermelon plants until flowers form. Then, switch to a high phosphorus and potassium fertilizer like liquid seaweed. Keep area well weeded, we don’t want our watermelons fighting for nutrients and water. Because this is a warm-season crop, it is helpful to mulch around the base – this will help with weed control and moisture retention.
Watermelons are 95% water and require plentiful, even watering for quick growing. Keep the soil moist until fruit reaches full size then stop watering while the fruit ripens.
When to harvest:
Stop watering your watermelons about 10-14 days before the fruits are ready to harvest, this will concentrate the plant’s sugars and your watermelon will be sweeter. You may want to place a board under each melon to keep the fruit clean and dry. Watermelons will be ready to harvest after 70-90 days from sowing. Most people tap their watermelons and listen for a dull thump to know when the fruit is ripe. Other maturation signs include the ceasing of growth, the yellowing of the underside and the drying of the stem near the fruit’s base.
Other tips (if any): Companion plants are corn, radish, beans, nasturtiums, marigolds and oregano. Bad companions are potatoes as they attract many of the same insects that feed on watermelon plants.
Avoid growing watermelon where night temperatures dip below 50 F; this will cause fruit to lose flavor. If temperatures exceed 90F for several days, flowers will drop without setting fruit. Watermelons require 70-90 frost-free days to reach harvest and will tolerate no frost. In cool or short-season regions, plan ahead by starting indoors or choose smaller varieties that come to harvest early.
Watermelon leaves commonly wilt in the afternoon sun, this is ok. If you see the leaves wilting before noon, immediately water as it is a sign of stress due to the heat and drought. Never allow the vine itself to become dry. A soaker hose or drip irrigation is the best way to water.
If you live in an area where the weather and soil are dry, try planting your watermelon in inverted hills rather than mounds. Make an inverted hill by removing two inches of soil from a circle 24” across, and use this soil to make a rim around the circle. This way, irrigation water or rainfall can be captured. We know lots of gardeners in Zones 9 and above use this technique for their watermelon, squash, beans, and many other summer vegetables.
Regular, even watering will help fruits avoid blossom-end rot which is caused by fluctuation of soil moisture.