521. The Montreal Melons

It is believed that the Montreal muskmelons could be grown in various parts of the country were the proper care exercised in their culture. The Vermont Experiment Station (Vt. Sta. Rpt. 1907, p. 358, Bul. 136) has furnished the instructions contained in the following synopsis (Experiment Station Work, Vol. III, No. 9, p. 236):

The seed is sown in greenhouse or hotbed from late February to early April; later the plants are potted in 3 or 4-inch pots, and when in danger of suffering for lack of root space and plant food and the weather is favorable they are removed to sash-covered frames, there to remain until almost fully grown. These hotbeds are well constructed, well exposed to the sun, and also protected from cold winds. The frames are often covered with two sets of sash, mats, and board shutters. With such protection, if horse manure is used to generate a sufficient bottom heat and the exposed portions of the frames are banked therewith, the plants may be grown almost as well as in a greenhouse. These frames are movable sections, approximately 12 by 6, strong and tight with tie rails for the sash to slide upon.

The soil over which these sections are set is ridged up in beds 12 to 16 feet wide with a 1-foot center elevation. A trench is dug 2 feet wide, 15 to 18 inches deep, and filled almost level with well-fermented manure, and a portion of the surface soil thrown over it, slightly more being drawn in where the plants are to be set. The frames are then set in place and covered with sash, which in turn are further reinforced with mats and wooden shutters, or hay or straw with or without the shutters. A 4 to 6 foot space is allowed between the ends of each section. When the soil over the manure is well warmed up, the warmest portion of some favorable day is selected for planting. Great care is exercised now in transferring the plants from the hotbeds to guard against setbacks from sudden changes of temperature or soil conditions. The coddling process does not cease now. It is simply spread over a greater area and the plants require even closer care than before, for greater attention must be paid to watering, syringing, and ventilation, success at this stage being very largely dependent thereon.

As the fruit attains size, it is usually lifted from the soil by a shingle or a flat stone, to avoid loss from cracking, rot, etc. Uniform shape, color, netting and ripening are secured by turning the fruit every few days. When the runners fairly occupy the inclosed area the frames are raised a few inches. As the season advances more and more air is admitted until, finally, when the melons are almost full grown, the sash and then the frames themselves are removed.

As each fruit sets, its shoot is pinched off one or two joints beyond it. A 15 to 20-melon crop is considered sufficient from each 6 to 12-frame. Three or four hills are planted and usually two plants are set in a hill.

The melons vary greatly in size. One weighing 44 pounds has been grown. Their average weight ranges from 8 to 15 pounds, and a dozen average 120 to 130 pounds. In exceptional cases some have been shipped weighing 240 pounds a dozen-package. The larger melons are apt to be poorer in quality than those weighing 8 to 15 pounds.

Two distinct types exist, a roundish oblate and an oblong, the first slightly deeper ribbed than the latter. These do not seem to be separated by the growers. It is not at all certain that either type is fixed.

A large wicker basket (clothes basket) is commonly employed in shipping to distant markets. It holds a dozen melons, packed in short, fine-stemmed hay, and is shipped without cover, no attempt being made to fasten the melons in place. The express company is held responsible for safe delivery.