Cool Weather Melon Adventures

I started on this unlikely- to-succeed project because my husband loves melons! It went great as far as a first year landrace project, and would be considered a crop failure for any production farmer.

Mixed Heirloom Melons: This is a photo of half the melons I harvested this year from my mixed patch. I planted a few hundred seeds of about 15 varieties. Some from Farmers market melons (inland farmers), store melon, heirloom seed packets. It rarely gets about 70F here, and at some point I gave up completely on the whole project because they were doing so poorly and I could see no baby melons.

(The Lofthouse-Oliverson muskmelons were lemon sized by the time I could see a single melon developing in this patch).

But then some of them started happening, and here they are.
I didn’t count plants or melons, but here is a general estimation of results:

Mixed Variety Patch:
I started with 4 rows, each 150 feet long, planted on a drip line.
At least half the seeds didn’t germinate due to cold soil.
Half of those flowered all year and that’s all they did, no baby melons.
Half (ish) of those have little melons that won’t mature in time.
I’ll get about 20 mature melons total to save seeds from.
3-5 melons are good sized and taste good (although haven’t tasted everything yet.

Results of the Lofthouse Oliverson melon patch:
Started with about 1/5 the number of seeds.
About half didn’t germinate.
The rest started making melons in July (abut a month before any in the mixed variety patch).

About 15% of the plants didn’t produce any melons (compared to 50%)
The remaining plants mostly produced a single melon each (about 10 melons).
Two plants produced about the equivalent of all the other plants combined.

Total volume of the heirloom patch and Lofthouse patch were roughly similar. LH/O patch had a much higher volume of tasty, good sized melons.

In a few years I will have a reliable cold summer adapted local melon!


Oh, you got way more variety than I did! Can’t wait to see what next year brings for both of us.

That’s super exciting! I always love seeing people succeed in adapting stuff to colder weather and shorter growing seasons than it’s used to. That’s very hopeful for all of us trying to do the same thing. :smiley:

I think its neat to see in situations like this that the genetically diverse mixes like lofthouse olivierson melon do so much better even in situations that are in a lot of ways opposite to the environment that the mix was developed in. Really just confirms that the philosophy of landracing can benefit humans in unexpected ways that we dont plan for.

I am also looking forward to growing lofthouse melon in my temperate conditions this upcoming season!

This summer has been unseasonably cool, even for me. We’ve had about 3 days of sunshine in the past few months. I direct sowed the melons when it warmed up somewhat on May 30th. Thinning some this week.

Germination in cold soil was much better this year. But then they just sat there for a few weeks. The next 10 days are likely to stay foggy with a high of 60F.

So this year may be a bigger selection test than last year. Fingers crossed for a few melons to add to the Polar Melon Grex…

They look N deficient but I’m finding that all most plants that prefer warmer temps look yellow when it’s cold then green up. I’m doing a test to check in mine.


Not sure that’s nitrogen. Is the whole leaf yellow, or are the veins staying green?

It was just cold/never sunny turning things yellow. Same for the corn and moschata. Adding some fertilizer to a test couple of plants did nothing. We got a couple days of sunshine and 60F which greened things up pretty instantly/1-2 days :slight_smile:

There are about three plants that three times the size of the other hundred plants.

Also I realized I was overwatererd considering the cold… dry soil when the air is cold = happier plants.

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If the leaves are entirely yellow it may be a sulfur deficiency.

Interesting. I wonder if the cold makes the sulfur unavailable temporarily to them. I’ll take some progress photos today.

I’ve heard that plants can turn lighter green during a hot summer. It’s called sun-bleaching. It’s not necessarily a sign that the plant is unhealthy; it can just be a sign that the sun is fading the pigment out of the leaves.

Finally spotted some baby melons! What a relief :heart_eyes: :sweat_smile:

June was so foggy for these babies that admittedly I panicked little and transplanted a few in my greenhouse to make sure I would get a few seeds, but nw it looks like I won’t need them.

It is so fun to see the variation in plants this second year.

weird shape that looks like a turban squash

Tiny unhappy cold knowing it’s now or never to make that melon.


You know, the funny thing is, I may be able to contribute to the cool weather melon grex this year. (If I get seeds at all.) All the melon seeds I planted in May died in June and July, so I replanted in early August. Those seeds are starting to germinate and pop up cotyledons now. That means anything that makes fruits will have grown entirely in August, September, and October, which is a cooler, wetter environment.

Guess this year, I’ll be selecting for early maturity! :smiley:

Last year, the one melon survivor I had was planted in early May and didn’t finish ripening its fruits until early October. It was a trouper (it handled drought like a champ, and it was delicious), but it was slow.

I’m starting to think March-April-May and August-September-October are much easier times to grow things here than June and July, so it may be a really good idea to focus on crops that are adapted to cool weather and short seasons. It may be beneficial for me to think in terms of having two short growing seasons with a gap in the middle, rather than one long one.

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I’d like to try growing melons outside too. I live in the UK, it’s rainy and cloudy most of the time, especially this summer. Where do you think the best place would be for me to source some seeds?

I have farthest north melon mix as base on my melons as it was clearly the best performing when I started. I think it’s hybrid swarm or early stages of what could be called landrace. I did not see any sold in UK, but maybe you could get it with seeds exchange even within UK if you don’t want to risk it and order abroad. Heirlooms, even what are supposed to be short season and cold hardy haven’t been that good. Some have performed well enough to get incorporated in my mix. F1 hybrids have done this year fairly well even with direct sowing, with emir F1 being the best and not far from my best plants. F1 varieties might be quite good starting point as you get genetically diverse seeds if you just have them produce instead of having to make F1s first. Some heirlooms might be good for diversity even it takes more trouble to get them produce, atleast as a pollen donor. I grow them in southern Finland that is similar to cooler than southern half of UK in temperatures during summer months. I have helped them with black plastic and cloth to get them started and plan to decrease their use over time. Percitipation might be what is most different and especially after we have had many dry summers. That does seem to be maybe even more problem than just having moderate temperatures. Probably have to deal with that as well some years when it’s wetter than average. What I have noticed is that many melons tend to spoil when they are in contact with wet ground that you might want to help them with that untill you get started.

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I will have a look around, thanks for the search term. The rain really is a killer here, both for plants and my mental health(!)

Polar Melon Mix Update: Looks like plenty of the plants have melons that will mature in time.- yay! Most plants have some fruit ranging from a golf ball size to a grapefruit size.

I removed some of the plants without melons since I planted densely.

I’ve been thinning plants heavily since I started. I planted a seed every couple inches.
Germination was OK this year, so I’ve been thinning the slower/yellower plants every couple of weeks as needed so I can still end up with good ground cover and the biggest 10% of plants by the end.

This population is half Lofthouse muskmelon with some of the best of other heirlooms from 2022. Lots of fun diversity and besides maturing in cold temperatures I want to encourage everything to be nitrogen fixing. The lack of strong roots on melon plants needs to shifted.


Would you go into detail about this please?

On the Saturday zoom Joseph announced that Dr White studied his tomato seeds and found N fixing bacteria on them. The audio was bad, so I’m sure we’ll get to Joseph to speak more about the findings soon. Cool though, right?

All species can associate with nitrogen-fixing bacteria in the soil, not just legumes, as we know, and some are better than others, both between species and within a population.

N-fixing corn from Oaxaca is probably the most famous non-legume, but I’m guessing a lot of genetically diverse seeds that have been planted in poor soils for many generations host N-fixing colonies on their leaves, we just don’t know the details yet.

So selecting for ones that are healthier in poor soil moves a population towards plants that are better at associating with the beneficial endophytes, roots and leaves. That’s all in Dr White’s course you can take.

Fertilizing with N discourages plants from doing this, and since breeders have been fertilizing for many generations, we’ve discouraged the trait and selected against it since the plants that yield well under N conditions are different than the ones that yield well in soils without much N.

So we have a lot of work to get back to traits that were much more common 75 years ago.


This is very good to know. I plan to use this. Thanks

I harvested 6 melons 2 weeks ago, and another 12 melons yesterday. They were delicious! And all orange. Like more delicious than melons grown in warm places. Which is interesting they can produce sugars in cold weather, when, for example, tomatoes struggle to.

I figure I thinned out the 95% of melon plants to have the ones I ended up with.
Starting genetic diversity x Size of population x intensity of selection pressure = adaptation speed. Last year I used a big space so had a big population. This year I used heavy sowing and heavy thinning to have a large population and heavy selection.
Some of them were a little overripe because I went to the heirloom festival then I got Covid.