How to get melons up in 4 days outside in March

This is my slightly improved method to get melons up in a hurry outside in March. It finally warmed up after a cold stretch. Since Saturday when I planted days have been 70s nights 30s and 40s.

Seeds were planted Saturday morning March 23 about 1 to 1.5 inches deep underneath black weed barrier with a brick placed on top of the seeds. That was covered with clear plastic and the area watered. The brick was to somewhat moderate temperature day and night. At night the area was covered with 4-5 inches of foam insulation to hold in the heat gained during the day. Coldest at night was 78F. Hottest during the day was 118. Mostly I tried to maintain 80-100F by shading as needed during the day. Temperature was measured by a wireless sensor wrapped in a plastic bag next to the brick. So this isn’t soil temperature at seed depth.

Cantaloupe seeds usually emerge a day ahead of watermelons so last night I checked and nothing was showing. This morning three cantaloupe seeds are poking thru at slightly under 4 days.

This shows the insulation setup at night.

Here’s the daytime setup.

Here’s the result.

After emergence the plants get some ventillation by day but will still be covered at night for a week or two until it warms up some.

The biggest beauty of this system besides speed is the soil doesn’t dry out at all. I’ve gotten seedless watermelons up this way without any watering issues.

Advantage over started inside is no root disturbance. It does require some sun to heat things up.


I’ve gotten 30 lb Star Brite watermelons as early as June 5 using this system. That same plant will continue to ripen large melons into fall if I play things right. A long harvest is easier using two planting dates, March and late April. Around here if you don’t get melons off to an early start the harvest season for high quality fruit can shrink from 3-4 months to one month. Watermelons planted in late May aren’t worth the trouble.


Nice. How many seasons does that black fabric last you? Looks good quality.

Here, I’m happy to get one month of melon harvest. After that, disease is killing them off anyway

Ten yrs or longer when fully exposed to the sun. It’s the Lumite from Shaw Fabric products. I’ve been pleased with it.


Maybe you need a fungicide. At times I’ve needed to control various pests from powdery mildew to squash bugs to aphids. Some yrs no issues. We do have a climate that’s not too hot or too cold for a long stretch. That allows a potentially long harvest. But even here quality starts to decline in September and really falls apart in October.

Oh, I drench them in fungicides, but disease hits anyway, not to mention bacterial wilt. Still, it’s the same thing - the earlier you can get them to harvest, the better. Which, here, means August.

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Wondering how your melons are doing now, after about a month

Nights have stayed cool since planting. The warmest about 52 and coldest 27 on April 1. I haven’t been pushing them lately by too much. Mostly they’ve been covered with a light blanket at night to maintain soil temperature and with Agribon 30 by day for wind and hail protection.

The plants are starting to run so today I put down cattle panels to give the vines something to hold onto. Not my earliest start but I’m pleased. Right now is about the right time to plant unprotected melons. We don’t regularly reach 50s at night until May.


Lookslike you thinned to one vine

There are several plants of each. Just leaving one is too risky given I only have one hill of each.

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I agree

So to be clear, you started them about a week before your average last frost date?

It would be closer to a month before average last frost date. We have lots of warm weather before average last frost. That and lots of sunshine make starting things early easier than many locations. It’s also why we have spring freeze damage most springs. I even had one nectarine start blooming in January this yr. Then we had hard freezes in March and the last so far on April 1. We’re probably in the clear now but I’ve thought that many yrs and then it froze again.

OK then. I had better get started.