Gardeners are generally limited by one important factor: growing room. If you don’t have a lot of garden space, there are certain fruits and vegetables that you immediately cross off your growing wish list. But I found out that you shouldn’t always be so quick to write off certain summer treats. Melons, for example, have a reputation for being space hogs. They ripen to big, round fruits that take up a ton of room, and grow on vines that spread out all along the ground. But not every melon sprawls out all over the garden. There are lots of small melons with huge flavor that are very easy to grow in small spaces, and some that grow very well vertically. The size of these melons may not overwhelm you, but their flavor will.
Photo credit: Flickr
Not only are Alvaro melons small in size and very manageable—only about 5 inches in diameter on average—they ripen very quickly. If you don’t want to wait all summer to enjoy the fruits of your garden labor, plant some of these beauties. They’re ready to eat in about 65 days, so you’ll get to enjoy them long before your other crops are ripe. Alvaro flesh is very sweet and tasty, and each plant produces about 6 fruits. That means you get a lot for what you plant, which makes these melons a great space-saving option.
The cantaloupe fruits are ripe when the skin turns yellowish, and you’ll start to smell their sweet scent when they’re ready to be cut off the vine. Alvaros are ideal for outdoor growing when you plant them in full sunlight, and the plant’s total height is usually just under 12 inches. The spread is pretty small, as far as melons go, peaking at about 6 and a half feet.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
I found that many gardeners avoid cultivating melons because they have a reputation for being somewhat hard to grow. That may be true with some varieties, but not Kazakh. The vines are resistant to drought, so you don’t have to be out there caring for them and watering them every hour. The plants are strong and are good growers, and the melons become mature after only 75 days. Each beautiful, pale yellow Kazakh melon only weighs about 1 or 2 pounds, so they’re very small and space-saving.
An added bonus is that Kazakh melons grow well vertically, so you can maximize the garden space you have by letting them grow up rather than spreading out. The vines grow well on a trellis or fence, so you can devote the rest of your garden space to other plants.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons
The Sprite melon’s name says it all. Its honeydew fruits are small, just about 4 inches across, and weigh about a pound. But while they look tiny when compared to other melons, these small melons pack huge flavor into their petite packages. The vines are also prolific, producing several fruits per vine. You’ll get to enjoy Sprites in about 79 days, and the wait is well worth it. The crisp skin turns creamy white when it’s ready to eat, and the flesh is described as tasting quite a bit like pear.
You can plant Sprites as early as April in warmer climates, and enjoy melons when the first harvest is ready in June. The fruits fall right off the vine when they’re ripe. They’ll continue to grow and ripen through November, so you can enjoy their fruit all the way into early fall. When it comes to small-space gardening, these melons look like they were cultivated specifically for this purpose.
Photo credit: Pexels
Not only are Sleeping Beauty melons small, the vines are quite compact as well, allowing this plant to take up very little room compared to other varieties. Ripe fruits weigh about half a pound, and grow together in little bunches. This behavior gives Sleeping Beauty melons their name, and makes them an even more space-saving garden solution. Vines top out at about 12 inches in height—an extremely manageable size that leaves plenty of growing room for other crops.
One thing that Sleeping Beauty melons need is full sunlight. They grow well in containers and small spaces, and when the orange fruits ripen they taste good enough to have a whole fairy tale named after them. Sure, maybe the story is older than the melon, but this fruit will quickly become royalty in your garden.
Photo credit: Pexels
Compared to the other mini melons, passport melons are rather big—up to 7 inches in diameter. That means they’re still much smaller than many other varieties, and they pack a powerful taste. But that’s not the only reason to grow this cantaloupe variety. Its vines are disease-resistant and very easy to grow, which makes them a great choice for home gardeners who don’t want to spend every minute out in the garden. Here’s a tip for small-space gardeners: if you keep a melon’s vines trimmed short, its fruits will be even sweeter.
Passport melons have a very high tolerance to heat and humidity, so they’re great in muggier Southern climates. As an added bonus, its flowers are actually quite beautiful, so they’ll add beauty as well as delicious edibles to your garden.
Photo credit: Pixabay
Haogen melons have a sweet, honey-like flavor that will make them a new favorite after just one taste. That distinctive taste is ideal for standing out in a dish when mixed in with other fruits, and they’re a truly delicious standalone treat as well. Each vine will produce 10 or more fruits, which is a lot for any melon variety. Grow Haogens near a trellis to do some vertical gardening, so your plants won’t take up much valuable ground space.
These melons grow beautifully in well-drained soil, but will also grow well in containers, as long as they’re quite large and sturdy. The flesh of these melons is soft and creamy, and the rind ripens to a smooth, golden yellow. They’ll fall right off the vine when they’re ripe, and don’t need a ton of water to grow strong and healthy.
Sugar Baby Bush Watermelon
Photo credit: NSAC
When you think of watermelon, you probably envision enormous fruits that can grow big enough to win blue ribbons at fairs. Some watermelons grow so large, people need help to carry them. But not all watermelons come in the extra large size. Sugar Baby bush vines grow no longer than 3 and a half feet, and the fruits average out at around 12 pounds. Compared to other watermelons, Sugar Babies are relatively tiny.
Additionally, this variety is very easy to grow, and matures in about 75 days. Its melons look very much like traditional watermelons, only smaller. The flesh is a gorgeous red, and the skin is a mottled green. Generally, watermelons prefer light, fertile, well-drained, sandy loam soil to grow in. For optimal yields, work a fair bit of aged compost and manure into your garden before planting, and make sure to water the soil regularly.
Video via YouTube
If you want a unique-looking melon plant as a standout feature in your small garden, make it the Tigger. Its fruits are eye-catching in bright orange with mottled stripes, which immediately makes them stand out from other melon varieties. The inner flesh is white and sweet to the taste, but not overpoweringly so. This is a nice, medium melon that’s delicious either on its own, or mixed with other ingredients in vibrant summer dishes. Each melon is only about 1 pound when ripe.
Tigger melons also smell sweet as they ripen. Their skins have a flowery scent to them that adds a nice touch to the garden, and to your kitchen once you’ve harvested them.
Don’t be put off by this variety’s floral scent, because it’s a bit deceptive. Its fragrance is very strong, but its flavor isn’t. Tigger melons are sweet, but you won’t get sugar shock from eating them.
Growing Small Melons
Photo credit: MaxPixel
Melons are often thought of as a picky crop to grow, likely because they really only thrive in hot weather. Seeds and seedlings die quickly at even the slightest hint of cold weather or chilly soil. If you’d like to get your seedlings growing early, start your melon seeds indoors and then transplant them outside once they’re a few inches tall. Otherwise, simply wait until the soil heats up before you begin planting your seeds directly in well-fertilized soil.
In truth, they aren’t any more difficult to grow than any other type of plant. Give them soil, sun, and water, and melons will give you delicious fruits to enjoy for months to come.
If you find that you’re harvesting more melons than you can eat, try preserving them. Melons should not be canned like other fruits, so the best method is to freeze them. You can freeze melon slices on a baking sheet—or in pre-made balls—and then store them in freezer bags. In the middle of winter, you can thaw them out and enjoy sweet, summer-fresh flavor on even the coldest days.