This section is from the book "Commercial Gardening Vol4", by John Weathers (the Editor). Also available from Amazon: Commercial Gardening, A Practical & Scientific Treatise For Market Gardeners.
While the Carrots, Radishes, Lettuces, Cauliflowers, and Turnips in the early part of the year are relied upon to fill the coffers of the maraiclier, Melons fulfil the same function during the summer months when the others fetch only low prices. Two varieties of Cante-loupe Melon are grown, namely, the "Early Frame Prescott" (Prescott hatif a chassis) and the Prescott fond blanc. A silvery variety (argente) is also grown, and another called Prescott fond gris. These all have roundish, irregular, somewhat ribbed and depressed fruits 1 ft. or more in diameter, the skin being mottled with shades of grey, green, and white, changing to yellowish brown when nearing maturity. Only one fruit is allowed to ripen on each plant, and if a supply can be obtained in Paris early in June the prices range from 25 to 50 francs each - roughly, 20s. to 40s. per fruit. By the end of the season, however, in August, the fruits will realize only from 3 to 5 or 6 francs; but much depends upon the weather and the law of supply and demand.
The method of culture is as follows. The seeds, which cost about 6d. per 100, are sown singly in small pots in February and March. The pots are plunged up to the rims in a deep hotbed in which a temperature of 75° to 80° F. can be maintained, by lining or banking up the frames with fresh manure when rendered necessary by the weather. The frames are covered with mats during the night, but these are taken off as soon as possible in the morning after the seed leaves have appeared. Melon seeds are also sown in hotbeds in a finely prepared compost, being placed about 1 in. apart and a couple of inches deep in shallow drills 2 or 3 in. apart. The seedlings are either potted on once into 3-in. pots, or are transplanted 4 to 5 in. apart in other frames with hotbeds. They are shaded from strong sunshine and kept moist overhead until well established. Then plenty of light and a fair amount of air are permitted to make the plants strong and sturdy, and watering is done with care. When the plants have developed three or four rough leaves beyond the seed leaves, the stem is pinched off an inch or more above the second leaf, and the seed leaves themselves are also suppressed. Still more air - but not too much - and plenty of light are given after this pinchincooperation, but sprinklings are carefully regulated, as too much moisture would be injurious at this time.
A LECTURE ON FRENCH GARDENING At the Exhibition by the Royal Botanic Society in Regent's Park, 1910.
Photo. Daily Mirror.
CANTELOUPE MELONS IN FRAMES AT THATCHAM Under the French Intensive System.
Photo. Chas. L. Clarke.
As soon as two side shoots have developed from the main stem, as the result of pinching, the young Melons are ready to be planted in the frames. In these the old soil is taken out 2 ft. wide and 1 ft. deep along the centre from one end of the range to the other. The trench thus made is then filled up with two-thirds fresh and one-third old manure well mixed and trodden down. The soil from the second range of frames is then taken out 2 ft. wide and 1 ft. deep (as in the first range), and is spread over the newly made hotbed in Range No. 1. When the hotbed in Range No. 3 is made in the same way, the soil from Range No. 4 is placed on it, and so on till all the ranges necessary for Melon growing have been finished.
The hotbeds having been prepared in the way indicated and the heat having subsided to 80° or 75° F., two or three plants are placed under each light. Two or three holes are scooped out in the centre for the reception of the plants. The soil is packed carefully and firmly round the roots, a gentle watering is given, the lights are closed and shaded from the sun for three or four days, by which time the plants will have become established in their new quarters. Afterwards air is given each day according to the state of the weather, the lights being tilted right up on hot days, but only very slightly on cold draughty days. Water must be given more or less freely according to the growth and the weather.
Fig. 531 - Diagram showing how Hotbeds are made for growing Canteloupe Melons.
A, Soil taken from trench in frame No. I to be replaced with manure. B. Soil taken from trench in frame No. II to spread over manure in No. I. C, Soil from No. III for No. II, and so on.
An important feature in Canteloupe Melon growing is the pinching of the main and side shoots. The plants being placed in the centre with one shoot pointing to the top, or north, and the other to the bottom, or south, side, the tips are pinched out when the shoots reach the limit. Side shoots are developed in due course, and when about 1 ft. long they are pinched back an inch or so above the third, fourth, or fifth leaf. Any other shoots developing afterwards are treated in the same way.
In the meantime the blossoms - male and female - have appeared, but the first batch is usually suppressed until the plants are well established. Afterwards the best female flowers are selected and fertilized with pollen from the male blooms, and the young fruits begin to swell. When about as large as a small hen's egg all the fruits except the two best are suppressed. Later on, when these two are about as large as cricket balls, the grower decides which is the better of the two, and then suppresses the other, so that each plant eventually ripens only one fruit. It is considered better to have one large, fine fruit than to have two or more smaller ones. Throughout the entire period of growth, watering and ventilation are judiciously regulated, watering always being done before ten o'clock in the morning. In due course the fruits begin to ripen. This is known by the change of colour in the skin and by the aroma. The fruits are then cut and are placed in a cool, dark, airy place to ripen slowly. If left too long on the plants they may ripen too suddenly, and be unfit for market.
The worst diseases of Melons are a fungoid disease, called nuile in French gardens, brought about by Scolecotrichum melophthorum in cold, wet, and erratic seasons. To avoid it the plants must be kept warm and free from cold draughts, and great care must be taken not to overwater and make the atmosphere too humid. Flowers of sulphur may be dredged about the plants as a preventive and check. Canker also attacks Melons occasionally. The injured portions are best cut away, afterwards dressing the wounds with powdered lime or wood ashes.
Besides the Canteloupe varieties mentioned, a smaller variety known as "Chypre" or "Kroumir" is sometimes grown. The seeds are sown early in April, and the plants are grown on in the same way as the Canteloupes, but are placed under cloches instead of lights. About the end of May or during June they require no protection, except perhaps over the centre. The plants are stopped and pinched, and the first fruits will be ripe early in August if not sooner.
The plate shows a portion of a range of Canteloupe Melons in full bearing. It will be noticed that only three fruits are allowed to each light (one to each plant), and the size of each can be judged in comparison with the lady's hat, which is by no means small.