This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Since the increased attention given to " orchard house " culture of late, every thing relating to the cultivation of fruits in pots is read with interest Mr. Robert Fish, in a late number of the English Journal of Horticulture, gives the following directions for growing Melons in pots; they will in many respects apply to the treatment of the Melon here. Except, however, for early forcing and the preparation of plants for early fruiting out of doors, this mode is more interesting to the amateur than others. Mr. Fish says:
"Melons may be grown in a green-house from July to October, and without any bottom or other artificial heat; but only well if they have the green-house either to themselves, or have such plants as neighbors as would stand a rather close, moist heat when growing. If the house was kept airy enough and cool enough to keep Pelargoniums, Fuchsias, and things of that sort in steady vigor, then Melons would have a struggle to do well, and could only be expected to fruit well in a fine, sunny season. Otherwise if a house can be closed early in an afternoon, and only a little air given early in the morning, but when the plants are growing freely not a vast deal given during the day, the Melon will grow under glass alone for the time specified, and rather better in a pot than when planted out, as its natural luxuriance will be moderated.
"We have had nice fruit from eight-inch pots,, extra well attended to with manure waterings, but, in general, we prefer the pots to be fourteen or fifteen inches. We then prefer a plant that has been stopped at the rough leaf, and one shoot selected and tied to a little stick, and all the other buds nipped out. We would shift this plant from a sixty and a forty.eight pot into a thirty-two, and then when getting full of roots transfer the plant at once to a fourteen or fifteen inch pot, using rough, stiff mould, sometimes alone and sometimes with a little leaf mould, and we think the plants do as well with the rough soil alone. This is used neither wet nor dry, and squeezed lightly round the ball, If the soil is so stiff as to have a portion of clay in it, and thus might be apt to crack in a sunny day, we used either to put a little moss on the surface, or a little rough leaf mould or decayed dung, just to prevent the sun drawing the soil from the sides of the pot.
When we were forced to use rather light, sandy soil, we have mixed a little leaf mould with it, and used it rather damp than otherwise, and beat it round the balls and the sides of the pot with a wooden pestle. I say used, because for two or three.years I have had less room for this kind of culture; but previously I have adopted it whenever there was a spare place in the house, sometimes train ing the plants to a stout stick, sometimes setting them on the floor of a house and training them to a string fastened to the pot and the rafter above, and sometimes to a little trellis in a pit in the usual way, and, however done, have had less trouble in pruning and better fruit as respects quality, because, so far as I am able to judge, the check given to mere luxuriance threw more of the sap of the plant into the fruit. Well, being thus potted, watering was given with some care, so as not to greatly saturate the soil with moisture before the roots were taking possession of it. As the shoot grew all the buds appearing at the axils of the leaves were removed, until the plant was two or three feet in height, according to the room that could be given it. The point of the plant was then nipped out, leaving four or six joints below it from which the buds were not removed.
These soon throw out shoots, generally showing fruit at the first or second joint and the process of stopping must be attended to as alluded to the other week.
"From two to four fruit is a fair crop. We prefer the plants to be trained upright or to a trellis, though we have had good crops from pots, the pots being sunk in a bed, and the plants trained over the surface in the usual way.
"Guano will do the plants good, especially if not used strong - say two ounces to a four gallon pot; and top dressings of dung, too, will be useful; in fact, we prefer this rich manure watering to incorporating any thing rich with the soil, as there is less danger of cankering at the collar of the plant. We found it also advisable to have a small mound round the collar, and another small mound round the side of the pot; the latter not only tended to prevent the soil cracking there, but the water being poured in a shallow trench between the sides of the pot and the collar of the plant, the latter was not easily wetted, and the moisture could not escape by the former without wetting the earth in the pot thoroughly and regularly. As the fruits approach ripening, the pots would be better if plunged, or half-plunged, or covered with mat or calico, etc., because too much dryness then might be hurtful, and too much moisture would be apt to militate against flavor. Except at that period I would as soon have the pots stand exposed as not. Though thus recommending chiefly pure loam and manure waterings, instead of rich soil at once, we hope if our correspondent tries the pot culture, he will not use guano, or hen-dung, or even fresh deer-dung, so strong as to kill or injure the plants.
It is best and safest to use it weak and often".