Matamata Chronicle - - Out & About -

Grow­ing melons out­doors is fraught with dif­fi­culty in many parts of New Zealand as if they take too long to set their fruit, there’s ev­ery chance it won’t fully ripen be­fore the warm weather runs out. Melons need a re­li­ably hot sum­mer to ger­mi­nate, flower, set fruit, fat­ten it up and ripen, and the weather hasn’t done them any favours this sea­son. Like pump­kins, if they aren’t reach­ing ma­tu­rity by now, they might start to soften and rot in the cooler weather to come. That’s be­cause the fruit ends up sit­ting on damp, dewy soil for most of the day.

Can you do any­thing to speed up ripen­ing so all that ef­fort doesn’t go to waste? You can lift the fruit up off the soil – use a small brick or an up­turned ter­ra­cotta pot – to keep it warmer and drier, or slip a piece of black poly­thene un­der it.

Don’t judge ripeness by size, as tennis ball-sized rock­mel­ons (like mine) can be just as sweet and juicy as rugby ball-sized wa­ter­mel­ons. When the vine starts to shrivel back, tap the fruit gen­tly – if ripe, they will sound slightly hol­low – and be aware that birds are li­able to peck holes in them if you leave them unat­tended.

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