by Jennifer Poindexter
Are you on the search for a different annual fruit to introduce to your garden? Have you considered growing something that isn’t popular in your area?
Many people like to enjoy foods and cuisine from other cultures. Why not incorporate these items into your garden to produce fresh meals?
If you’re exploring foods perfect for Asian recipes, consider growing winter melon. It’s also known as white gourd, Chinese watermelon, white pumpkin, and even gourd melon.
This is a popular fruit in this culture and may become a new favorite of yours as well. If you’re interested in learning more about the winter melon, here’s what you must know to grow it:
What You’ll Learn
- The unique characteristics and qualities of winter melon, also known as white gourd, Chinese watermelon, white pumpkin, or gourd melon.
- The optimal growing conditions for winter melon, including sunlight requirements, soil preferences, and temperature considerations.
- Step-by-step instructions for planting winter melon seeds both indoors and outdoors.
- Guidance on caring for winter melon, including watering methods, fertilization schedules, and physical support.
- How to identify and deal with common pests and diseases that affect winter melon.
- The process of harvesting and storing winter melon to ensure long-term enjoyment of the fruit.
Growing Conditions for Winter Melon
Winter melon isn’t a fussy plant. This crop only needs to be planted in an area with full sunlight and well-draining soil to be happy.
In some areas, it’s better to select a growing location with full morning sunlight and partial afternoon sunlight to protect the plant from harsh temperatures.
However, this isn’t your typical melon plant by a long shot. It’s a member of the cucurbit family and is considered a variety of muskmelon.
This is one of the largest varieties grown as the fruit can become as long as a foot, ½ foot thick, and weigh up to 40 pounds!
Obviously, you’ll need some space to grow this plant which makes it a challenge for some gardeners. However, if you have the room, consider growing this plant around your home or garden.
How to Plant Winter Melon
Winter melon is also straightforward when it comes to planting. You may start the seeds indoors eight weeks prior to the final frost or sow the seeds directly into the soil after all threat of frost is over.
If you wish to start the seeds indoors, begin by filling a growing tray with well-draining soil. Create a small hole in the soil in each cell of the tray.
Place two seeds in each hole to ensure if one doesn’t germinate that you have a back-up. If both seeds germinate, select the stronger of the two plants.
Then cut the other plant off at soil level. The seeds should germinate in one- to two-weeks. Provide water to your seeds by either spritzing the soil with water or placing the grow tray inside another container.
Pour some water into the second tray and allow the plants to absorb the water from beneath. When the top of the soil is damp, pour off the excess water.
It’s also a good idea to wrap your growing tray in plastic wrap to provide a greenhouse effect. When the seeds sprout, move them to an area with bright, indirect light ensuring they have plenty of warmth as well.
Continue to supply water to the plants. Harden them off when they have six true leaves, and frost is over.
At this point, find an ideal growing location, dig a hole that can support the plants’ root systems, and place the plants in the hole.
From there backfill the hole with dirt and water the plants deeply.
The other method to planting winter melons is to sow the seeds directly into the soil. Ensure the soil temperature is 60-degrees Fahrenheit or greater. Create small mounds of dirt with at least two feet of space between each.
Plant three seeds per mound and water them. Once the seeds sprout, pick the strongest plant and cut the rest off at soil level.
Continue to supply your plants with water and adequate lighting to encourage strong root systems and growth.
Figure out which growing method works best for your planting zone. From there, create a plan to use the chosen method to add these fruits to your garden.
Caring for Winter Melon
Winter melon isn’t overly complicated to care for. Supply the plant with water and fertilizer, and it should do well.
When watering your winter melon be sure to do so deeply. Apply more water to the plants for longer periods of time.
This allows the plants to dig into the soil to retrieve water. In the process, it encourages deeper root systems and healthier plants.
Plus, it helps avoid overwatering your plants. You’ll know it’s time to water again by inserting your finger into the ground next to the plant.
When the soil is dry to your first knuckle, it’s time to water again. If the soil is still damp, wait a day or two before testing it again.
It’s also a good idea to mulch around your winter melons as this should help keep moisture in around the plants and keep the weeds down as well.
Next, provide a balanced fertilizer to your winter melons at the first sign of yellowing leaves. This could be a sign of nutrient deficiency.
It’s wise to side dress the plants at equal increments throughout the growing season. Finally, you won’t need to trellis these plants like you do other vining crops.
These fruits are so large, it’s hard to find something strong enough to support them. Instead, you can place a piece of cardboard beneath the fruit to protect it from drawing moisture from the ground which can lead to rot.
If you’re considering growing winter melons, take the time to learn what they need from you to encourage healthy growth.
Garden Pests and Diseases Which Impact Winter Melon
You’ll be hard pressed to find many plants that don’t face threats in the garden. There are a few out there, but for the most part, almost every plant has an enemy in its growing location.
Winter melon doesn’t have many, but there are a few pests and diseases you should be aware of when growing this fruit.
The most common pests to impact winter melons are spider mites, nematodes, and aphids. These issues can be treated with an insecticide. You may also spray the plants with soapy water to remove aphids or spider mites.
Should you spot these problems, treat them by applying a fungicide and removing impacted foliage.
When growing a crop you know is easily impacted by fungal issues, it’s best to plant in areas with plenty of sunlight, well-draining soil, and to water your plants earlier in the day.
Fungal diseases thrive in areas of cold and dampness. Sunlight and adequately draining soil avoid these conditions.
By watering earlier in the day, you’re giving the foliage of the plants time to dry before the cool night air moves in. You can also prune some of the leaves if you need to increase airflow around the plant.
These are the few things you should be aware of when growing winter melon to ensure they’re given every opportunity to thrive.
How to Harvest Winter Melon
The last thing to discuss about growing winter melons is how to harvest them. These fruits have a taste similar to a zucchini, and they can be stored up to one year in a cool, dry location.
However, they have a long growing season and can’t usually be harvested until the fall. It takes approximately 110 days to reach harvest.
Once the fruits are full-size, and the stem turns brown, use a sharp knife to cut the melon away from the plant.
Leave enough stem on the fruit to discourage rot from forming while in storage. Once harvested, store the melons in a cool, dry location until you’re ready to enjoy.
Check the fruit regularly to ensure no rot is forming as this can spread quickly to other nearby crops.
You now know how to harvest homegrown winter melons. Look for the signs of ripe fruit. Then harvest and store them properly to enjoy long after the gardening season has ended.
These are things you should know if you decide to add winter melon to your garden. This information may help you produce healthy plants and an abundant harvest.
Utilize these pointers to help you along in this gardening experience. Then begin growing winter melons to see if they deserve a permanent spot in both your garden and kitchen.
- Winter melon is a large fruit from the cucurbit family that can grow up to a foot long, ½ foot thick, and weigh up to 40 pounds. It is ideal for gardeners with ample growing space.
- The fruit is easy to grow, requiring full sunlight, well-draining soil, deep watering, and balanced fertilizer. It doesn’t need to be trellised due to its large size.
- Winter melon seeds can be started indoors or sown directly into the soil after all threat of frost is over. Indoor seeds should be germinated in a greenhouse-like environment.
- Common pests like spider mites, nematodes, and aphids can be managed with insecticides or soapy water sprays. The fruit is also susceptible to fungal diseases like powdery mildew and downy mildew, which can be treated with fungicides.
- The winter melon fruit has a long growing season, usually harvested in the fall after approximately 110 days. The fruit is ready to be picked when full-size and the stem turns brown.
- After harvesting, the fruit can be stored up to one year in a cool, dry location, provided regular checks are made for rot.
- Incorporating winter melons into your garden not only diversifies your harvest but also provides a unique ingredient for your kitchen, especially useful in Asian recipes.
Winter Melon Quick Reference Growing Chart
|Winter Melon Growing Guide
|Cucurbit family, variety of muskmelon
|Full sunlight, with some afternoon shade in very hot climates
|Indoors 8 weeks before the last frost, or directly into soil after frost is over
|At least two feet of space between each plant
|Deep watering when soil is dry to the first knuckle
|Balanced fertilizer at the first sign of yellowing leaves
|Insecticide or soapy water for spider mites, nematodes, and aphids
|Fungicide for powdery mildew and downy mildew, ensure good sunlight and airflow
|Approximately 110 days, or when fruits are full-size and the stem turns brown
|Store in a cool, dry location, check regularly for rot
|Large fruit, up to a foot long, ½ foot thick, and can weigh up to 40 pounds