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Home & garden.

Updated: 29 Apr 2022

How to grow melons and best varieties

A cool, sweet melon on a summer’s day is utterly delicious. Discover our best melon varieties and tips for how to grow them.
Ceri Thomas

Melons aren't the easiest fruit to grow in the UK, but you can have success in the greenhouse or outdoors in a sunny spot.

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How to grow melons: month by month




Best melon varieties

Which? members can log in now to see the full results and which are our Best Buy varieties. If you’re not a member, join Which? to get instant access.

Full testing results for melons

Variety Overall ratingNo of melons Weight (kg) Weight of one melon (kg) Yield (rating) Health Taste Juice Texture 

USING THE TABLE Number and weight based on number and weight of fruits harvested from three plants. Weight of one melon and size based on the typical weight and size of a fully grown melon. OVERALL RATING Ignores price and is based on: yield 30%, taste 30%, health 20%, texture 10%, juice 10%.

How we test melons

We raised 12 melons from seed, including cantaloupe, charentais, galia and watermelon types. We also grew five varieties from grafted plants, including one variety, ‘Esmerelda’, which we grew from both grafted plants and seed. In late April, our plants arrived and we sowed our seeds using a Best Buy compost for sowing seeds. We kept the module trays on a heated bench until they germinated. We potted on our plants as they grew and planted them in 15L containers when they were around 15cm tall in late May, using a Best Buy compost for containers and a Best Buy controlled-release feed. We grew three plants of each variety in our polytunnel, with one of each variety trailing over the greenhouse bench and the rest trained up bamboo wigwams. We removed excess sideshoots, fruits and flowers, so only four fruits matured per plant. Spare plants were grown outside in a bed through a sheet of weed-suppressing membrane. We watered them at least once a day and liquid-fed them weekly from late August when the controlled-release feed was running low. Despite being regularly watered and fed, all of our plants suffered from powdery mildew. We picked the fruit from late August, and checked the fruits daily to harvest and taste at the optimum time.

When to sow

In mid to late April, sow seeds in modules or small pots, using a Best Buy compost for sowing seeds. They need to be kept between 18°C and 21°C to germinate, so place them in a heated propagator or on a sunny windowsill. Keep the compost moist, but not wet. Pot on when the first two true leaves have appeared, using a Best Buy compost for raising young plants.

Caring for your plants


Melons are tender, so they’re best grown in a greenhouse, polytunnel and under a cloche. Plant in a large pot in Best Buy compost for containers that’s mixed with a Best Buy controlled release fertiliser. If you want to grow outside, we found that growing melons through thick black plastic doubles the crop. Harden off before planting out once all chance of frost has passed. Plant in their final position once the plants reach around15cm in height.

Pinching out 

Pinch out the main growing point after five leaves have formed. Choose the best four side-shoots that develop and remove all others. When four fruits are gooseberry-sized, remove all other fruits and flowers. Provide plenty of room for them to grow. They scramble up supports such as netting.

Watering and feeding

Water plants at least once a day, more frequently in hot weather. Start feeding weekly with tomato feed in mid-August when the controlled-release feed added to the compost starts to run out of steam.

Feeding melon plant

How and when to harvest

Harvest in: August to October

Harvest as soon as the melons are ripe. Smell them regularly to determine when they have developed their sugars. A ripe melon has a slightly soft end, so feel them and harvest as soon as they are soft enough.

Common growing problems

Powdery mildew

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that thrives in high humidity and where there is little air flow, so greenhouses and polytunnels provide perfect conditions for its spread. Melons are particularly susceptible. The first appearance is as a sprinkling of white on the top surface of the leaves. This will quickly spread to cover the leaves and is followed by beige patches where the leaves are dying. It can affect all parts of the plant, including the stem and fruits. There are no fungicides for edible plants, so you have to control it by reducing humidity levels. Open the greenhouse vents and door, and put up shading. This reduces the temperature in the greenhouse and, as a result, the humidity level goes down too.

Read more about powdery mildew.

Red spider mite

Glasshouse red spider mite sucks the leaves, leaving mottled, pale patches covered in webbing. Control with biological controls, such as Phytoseiulus persimilis or amblyseius.

Read more about red spider mite.