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Growing Melons In a Cold Climate

 
Jon Wisnoski
Posts: 28
Location: Zone 6b, Ontario, Canada
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I want to try and grow melons mostly for preserving,  freezing, canning, drying, to have more fruit all year round. But I live in southern Ontario, which is a little colder than ideal.

I had heard somewhere that hybrid varieties might be best, so I might just pick up my seeds at the local TSC, or greenhouse.
Would you agree with this, does anyone know of anyone going any good work with cold resistant varieties?

Any suggestions on Watering? Normally, we do not do irrigation here, it is a moderately wet climate. And I am unsure if Melons will be really thirsty plants or not (they are sort of cactus like).

What are your opinions on species. I love watermelon, but its fruit is fairly insubstantial, or does it sort of balance. Will the average watermelon produce the same amount of food, just in a bigger container since it is saturated with water? Or are their species known to produce significantly more food from the same land area?

Do I have to worry about pollination? Or will one plant self pollinate no problem?

And general suggestions?

I am thinking of doing it with hills, filled with manure and compost, which will provide some heating as well as nutrients. I think you are supposed to put like 4  plants per hill and then place the hills 6 feet apart (something like that). Also heard a lot about calcium deficiency, so unless anyone things this is a bad Idea was goign to try and put some bone meal in there as well.
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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There are some hybrid varieties that are decent, but Open Pollinated are more manageable for the home grower.

Blacktail Mountain is an excellent short season Watermelon, while Minnesota Midget and Far North both excel as Muskmelons.

Canada Watermelon Seeds

Canada Musk Melon Seeds

I would also highly recommend considering our own Joseph Lofthouse's Landrace Seeds he puts an immense amount of genetic diversity into his landraces and selects for survival and flavor in very harsh conditions. Odds are decent something in his Muskmelon or Watermelon seeds likely will perform for you [though to get good eating/storage yields may require a year or three of selection.]
 
Genevieve Jones
Posts: 12
Location: Saskatoon, SK, Canada. Hardiness transition between zone 2 and 3
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food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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Hi Jon! Have you heard of The Cottage Gardener? They are an organic/heirloom seed company based out of Ontario. They have a page with all of the different melon seeds they carry. http://www.cottagegardener.com/catalog/heirloom-vegetables-a-m/melon/

I live in Saskatchewan and likely have a slightly shorter growing season than you, but our summer days are consistently long and hot. I have had no success growing watermelons, at least so far. One of our neighbours has been very successful at growing cantaloupes. These are grown outside on the edge of their garden where the plants have space to trail along the ground. Their garden has full solar exposure, it faces south.
 
Blaze Gorski
Posts: 27
Location: USDA zone 5b Ulster County, NY, USA 1200' elevation, catskill mtn foothills area
bee food preservation forest garden
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search for threads with 'Joseph Lofthouse'...He bred his own okra to survive in his garden, 1st yr only one survived, he collected seed and planted second year a bit more and finally 3rd year he had some nice plants...breed your own in a similar way...plant a bunch of varieties, re-plant the seed of survivors until you get a nice crop
 
Jon Wisnoski
Posts: 28
Location: Zone 6b, Ontario, Canada
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Thank you for your replies Kyrt Ryder and Genevieve Jones.

What varieties have you personally tested from these sites? The problem with open pollinated is that they adapt to where they grow, I have had some very bad experiences with buying seeds off the internet, you never know if the seeds come from a farm in California, and it does not matter how cold hardy the variety is, if the last few generations have been grown in the middle of California they will not grow very well with half the sun for half as long.
 
Jon Wisnoski
Posts: 28
Location: Zone 6b, Ontario, Canada
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Lofthouse does not ship to Canada.
 
Kyrt Ryder
Posts: 746
Location: Graham, Washington [Zone 7b, 47.041 Latitude] 41inches average annual rainfall, cool summer drought
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Whups, my bad on linking his site. The other links I provided are to a seemingly small-time seed operation in canada that should be happy to tell you where their seed is grown.

I'm not in Canada so no direct experience with that seller's seeds.

I know Blacktail mountain was developed in high elevation Idaho.
 
Genevieve Jones
Posts: 12
Location: Saskatoon, SK, Canada. Hardiness transition between zone 2 and 3
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food preservation forest garden hugelkultur
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I have bought seed from the cottage gardener when they come through my city with the annual Seedy Saturday Event. It is my understanding that they grow and save all of their own seed on their site, located in Ontario. You could also try https://prseeds.ca/seeds/ ; This is another small family operation that grows their own seed on site in Saskatchewan.
 
Jon Wisnoski
Posts: 28
Location: Zone 6b, Ontario, Canada
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OK, great.
So if I am goign with open pollinated, then I guess I am saving seeds.
So is their any special considerations for this for melons. I know I learned on this very site that you needed a rather large base population for corn to not suffer inbreeding problems. Is this a problem with melons/all plants, meaning I should focus on one or two varieties (and save seeds from a wide swath of my crop)?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2125
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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I highly recommend including hybrids among the parental varieties used to start melon landraces. I'm not aware of any sterility issues for the offspring, and the second generation provides a lot of diversity for selection.

To avoid inbreeding depression, I'd rather start with one seed from ten varieties than with ten seeds from one variety.




 
Jon Wisnoski
Posts: 28
Location: Zone 6b, Ontario, Canada
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Do you have any tips of planting arrangements? I have heard hills "4 to 6 feet apart for muskmelons, 6 to 12 feet apart for watermelons" with only 2-3 plants per hill. This seems extremely sparse, 6 feet is not that bad, but 12 feet apart sounds pretty insane.
 
Joseph Lofthouse
garden master
Posts: 2125
Location: Cache Valley, zone 4b, Irrigated, 9" rain in badlands.
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bee chicken food preservation fungi greening the desert
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I plant in rows. Seeds about 3" to 6" apart in the row, and rows 7 to 8 feet apart. Those spacings are what works for my hoes and cultivation equipment. Six feet between rows is about the minimum row spacing I use, because that still gives me a walkway between rows at harvest time.

 
Jon Wisnoski
Posts: 28
Location: Zone 6b, Ontario, Canada
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Ah, I guess these hills 12 feet apart must be for hobby gardening, because your planting is like 20 times more dense.
 
Rob Clinch
Posts: 8
Location: NB, Canada
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I've had great success 2 years ago with both sugar baby and blacktail mountain watermelons. I grew them in a double row, planted about 10 inches apart and into black plastic. My vines only crept about 4 feet, but I got some delicious melons, two or three per plant! I'm in New Brunswick and I got my seeds from Annapolis seeds in Nova Scotia. I don't love using the black plastic mulch, so last year I planted them without the using the stuff and my results were much worse, so I think this year I will go back to using it. Good luck with them, they are so much more flavourful than something you by at a store!
 
Walt Chase
Posts: 52
Location: ALASKA
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In your climate you will have more luck with the smaller "personal" sized melons.  Plant in raised rows through plastic, black or the olive.  I use olive, it allows more heat into our cold soils than the black due to our latitude.  Watermelons like it HOT and on the dryer side.  My wife's Great uncle used to grow acres of them in Georgia.  They always did much better during years where the summer was hotter and dryer.

For cantaloupe, if you are planning on growing them, try "Minnesota Midget".  Baker Creek has seed for those.  A few folks here in my area of Alaska have even been able to get a harvest when grown outside instead of a greenhouse.  I tried a strain of large ones last year both outside under a makeshift tunnel and in my small GH without much luck.  I'll try again this year with the MN midgets.
 
rick wilson
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You shouldnt have any problem growing melons in southern ontario i grew 30 pound georgia rattlesnake in  an area of nova scotia where we have less than 80 frost free days jus give them lots of compost
 
Andrew Barney
Posts: 21
Location: Northern Colorado
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you might be interested in the reply i posted in this thread yesterday. A lot of it may apply to you. I'm in Zone 5a, but my climate is a bit drier than yours.

https://permies.com/t/63362/Advice-Growing-Melons-High-Rockies#540576
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