Growing Vine Crops in Limited Spaces
Many people do not have the space in their garden for some of the rambling vines in the cucumber family. These rampant growers include cantaloupe, watermelons, cucumbers, and pumpkins.
Limited space is no reason to eliminate these popular vegetables from your home gardens.
Many vegetables requiring a lot of space can be grown in smaller gardens if they are grown on some sort of support or trellis. Cantaloupes, watermelon, cucumbers, and pumpkins can be trellised in small gardens if the problems of vine size, and in case of cantaloupes, watermelon, and pumpkins, support of heavy fruit can be conquered.
The problem of vine size can easily be solved. Space the plants about 18 inches apart along some type of support, either on a fence or stakes, etc. Maintain a single vine by removing all suckers or side shoots. This will keep the vines smaller but the resulting plant will only support one or maybe two fruit per plant. Once the plant reaches a height of about six feet tall and has set some fruit the terminal shoot should be cut to prevent the vine from getting any taller.
The next problem facing you will be a method of supporting the heavy fruit on that spindly little vine. The first step would be to select some of the small fruited varieties. Cantaloupes do not present a problem so varieties such as Magnum 45, Perlita, Harvest Queen, Hale’s Best, or Iroquois would do fine. When choosing varieties of watermelon or pumpkin you should stay with smaller fruited varieties. Watermelon varieties like Sugar Baby, Supersweet, Mickilee, Minilee, New Hampshire Midget or Early Canada or pumpkin varieties such as Spooky, Early Sweet Sugar, Jack O’Lantern, or Young’s Beauty, will work well on trellises. These varieties have fruit that rarely exceeds 12 pounds.
These smaller varieties are still too large and heavy for the vines to support. Several methods can be used but the simplest would be to make some type of sack or bag for the fruit to grow in.
When the fruit is about the size of a golf ball it should be placed in flexible netting such as fish net or nylon stocking. The netting should be large enough so it can accommodate the fruit when it is full size. The stocking or netting should be tied one ends to make a sack. The small developing fruit is then slipped into the homemade sack and the sack is firmly attached to the trellis or other support. As the fruit enlarges it fills the flexible sack which holds the fruit.
Now all you do is sit back and wait for the ripe melons to be harvested. In the case of cantaloupe the fruit will slip off the vine when it is ripe. If you crave an occasional melon but do not have a lot of space or do not want to take up the space in your garden take a row and give this a try.