MELONS ARE FAST RUNNING OUT OF TIME
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.