This section is from the book "The Gardener V3", by William Thomson. Also available from Amazon: The New Organic Grower: A Master's Manual of Tools and Techniques for the Home and Market Gardener.
All the Cucurbitaceae have the same habit and mode of growth; some climbing, however, but mostly trailing, gross-feeding, rapid growers, impatient of checks, or stopping in consequence, producing their fruit in continuation as they grow - Gourds, Squashes, Marrows, Cucumbers, and Melons, with ripe fruit, half-swollen fruit, and fruit just set on the same plant. We have here Cucumbers bearing continuously for two years, and there is no reason why the Melon should not do the same thing if it were profitable and convenient to do so. It is usual, however, to treat the Melon as a very shortlived plant, to secure the setting of a certain number of fruit per plant, and after they have sufficiently swelled, to withhold water in order to ripen and flavour the fruit. This practice is, in our opinion, a great mistake, and probably the reason why such heaps of trashy Melons are seen at flower-shows. A Melon will not be roasted into flavour. The flavour of a Melon, more than perhaps any other fruit, depends on how it has been grown. On our early Melon plants, generally planted about the beginning of February, we always allow a few fruit to set as soon as they will, even though the plants be but small - say one or two fruits to a plant.
Although the plants continue to grow, no more fruit will set for a time until these have nearly ceased swelling, which they do very rapidly; then four to six will set together, according to the size of the plant. By the time the first are ripe, these next are half-swollen, and so on in succession so long as the plants are kept in health with water and ventilation, with occasional doses of guano-water. A house, span-roofed, was planted in February of this year with four plants - one Queen Emma, two Royal Ascot, and one Heckfield Hybrid; the first, Heck-field, was cut the last week in April, weighing 4 lb., which was the first set; a fortnight to three weeks later four more were cut, averaging 3 lb. each. The third lot set consists of one fruit, which will weigh not less than 8 lb., and another 6 lb., and two others 4 lb. There are others now swelling on the same plant like pigeons' and hens' eggs.
The foliage is green and healthy, and scarcely a sign of spider. The two large fruits were accidentally set out of sight on the flow-pipe, and have been allowed to remain on it; they, of course, are subjected to great heat from the pipes occasionally, but we believe that is the sole cause why they have swollen so much heavier than the usual run of the variety. We have observed before that Melons resting on a hot surface swell much heavier than those on soil or suspended; and it is only what might be expected, from a consideration of the climates of which they are found natives. The Royal Ascots have yielded fruits from 2 to 4½ lb.; one of them had to be cut out after swelling its first four fruits, as it became attacked with fly at an early stage, which could not afterwards be subdued. The Queen Emma, a delicious Melon, has rivalled the Heckfield in every way except in the size of the fruit. Both plants now look as if they would go on indefinitely; they have scarcely had any thinning, and very little stopping, being allowed to extend.
They are planted in inverted Seakale-pots, which stand on other Seakale-pots mouth to mouth, both packed full of soil, with pipes for bottom-heat; the bed filled round the pots with leaves, into which the Melons have rooted in a limited way, something after the manner of a Peach-tree rooting into the border through the hole in the pots. The Seakale-pots stand on stone flags.
We do not wish it to be supposed that the above is considered anything new or uncommon, only we think it may be an instance of how several crops of Melons may be had from one plant. We think it only natural for the Melon to go on fruiting continuously, like a Vegetable Marrow, if it be allowed to do so. The Squire's Gardener.