The hot dry end to summer gives our garden a boost. The heat is reddening up the Jimmy Nardello sweet Italian frying peppers, ripening the tomatoes, and giving the melons some size.The latter is an exciting addition to Quiet Creek’s table. Past success with cantaloupe and watermelon has been limited. The hi tunnel experiments yielded some small sweet butterscotch melons, but never a good watermelon. The only decent watermelon ever grown at Quiet Creek came from a volunteer spit in a contest at Spring Fest years back. This stray prompted the melon growing committee to try outside growing. Early this spring, we started a lasagna garden on a chunk of lawn by our honeybee hive. The twenty by forty foot patch mowed short, then covered with large pieces of cardboard donated by the local appliance store, and finally topped with wood chips is now yielding beautiful fruit. Initially we waited three weeks before transplanting seedlings into the layers. This time allowed the grass to be smothered, the soil to warm up, and the moisture to reach maximum capacity. It was a slow start, but by July there were plenty of melon blossoms. Throughout the season, intern Jeremy squashed bugs and top dressed the plants with worm compost. His hard work paid off last week when he picked three very sweet cantaloupes. There are plenty more waiting to ‘slip’ from the vine when ripe. The watermelons are doing fine as Rusty patiently learns to harvest them appropriately. The thumping test fooled him twice, although they were devoured with no problem by the boys. His next method is to wait until the white spot on the melon where it touches the ground turns orange, not yellow. Another good indicator is to watch for is the green curly tendril closest to the melon stem to turn brown. If waiting for ripening and a chance of frost may occur, be sure to cover them with a tarp.After the final harvest, the melon committee plans to cover the patch with more cardboard, leaves, and compost to prepare for next summer’s crop. We want to be sure to enjoy plenty of sweet, juicy melons.
Rusty and Claire Orner, with their two sons, Walker and Ashton, are stewards of the non-profit educational organization, Quiet Creek Herb Farm & School of Country Living in Brookville, Pennsylvania. They can be contacted at