Green Side Up

Garden talk with Gazette community blogger Janice Peterson.

Cantaloupes, Casabas and the Three Stooges

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Janice Peterson
Tuesday, January 28, 2014

This summer Rotary Botanical Gardens will be growing 25 varieties of small-sized melons on ten-foot tall towers.  To grow melons up a structure rather than on the ground demands using smaller varieties. Imagine a whopping 40 pound watermelon dangling several feet above your head—it brings to mind many a Three Stooges episode! The small-sized varieties that will be grown were researched and selected by Maureen, a Master Gardener and RBG volunteer, who also compiled much of the following information (thanks, Maureen!).

Growing smaller sized melons is easy. They can be trained to grow up a trellis, and can even be grown in a large container. They also mature earlier. The small-sized melons in the RBG collection will include varieties with names like 'Banana', 'Faerie', 'Jenny Lind', 'Kiwano Horned', 'Tigger' and 'Minnesota Midget'.

Melons (mostly Cucumis melo) are members of the Cucurbit family, along with pumpkins, gourds, squash, zucchini, and cucumbers. Among the different types of melons are cantaloupes or muskmelons (orange flesh with netted rinds), honeydew (sweet green flesh), crenshaw and casaba (both needing long hot summers), watermelon (also needs plenty of summer heat), and specialty melons.  Here are descriptions of some specialty melons:

Asian and Canary - this “winter melon” starts out sweet and loses sweetness as it matures. It's often eaten like a vegetable when fully grown.

Charentais - A traditional French melon similar to a muskmelon. It has a deep orange flesh and honey-like flavor.

Mediterranean - Also known as Israeli, Galia or Middle Eastern melons. These tropical melons generally have yellow skin and a sweet, aromatic, pale-green to white flesh.

Piel de Sapo - Also known as the “Santa Claus melon”. This oval-shaped Spanish melon has a green-striped outer rind with white flesh. Its mild flavor is similar to a honeydew.

Melon seeds can be sown directly into the soil after all danger of frost has passed. Plant several seeds together, 1” deep. The main disease issues to watch out for are cucumber beetles and squash bugs.

Now that I think about it, the Three Stooges thought melons were pretty funny. What Stooges aficionado could forget the classic line “Give me those melons!” or the time Curly wore watermelon shoes? Who knows, maybe watching the Stooges in my youth sparked my interest in horticulture!

Janice Peterson has worked as a grounds horticulturist at Rotary Botanical Gardens in Janesville since 2002. She is a master gardener with the Rock Prairie Master Gardener Association. Though her education is in plant science, she considers her love of gardening and strong back to be her true qualifications. Janice is a community blogger and is not a part of The Gazette staff. Her opinion is not necessarily that of The Gazette staff or management.

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