Melon 'F1 Irina' is probably one the easiest melons to grow in our climate. An early maturing, vigorous variety with an abundance of female flowers, it is more tolerant of lower temperatures than most varieties and one of the quickest to mature.
Round and slightly netted fruit with grey-green skin and sweet aromatic and light orange flesh, the uniform size fruit typically weighing 0.75 to 1.0Kg, this modern hybrid is resistant to Fusarium and Powdery Mildew. Suitable for growing in frames or under cloches this variety is recommended for northern districts.
When ripe they have a wonderfully complex and full bodied flowery aroma and a sophisticated flavour. The flesh is deep orange, not watery, with a high sugar content and has a long shelf life.
F1 Irina is a Charentais type of melon which originated in the 1920's in the Poitou-Charentes region of western France. Developed as a more refined cantaloupe, they are considered by many to be the most divine and flavourful melons in the world. Charentais (pronounced sha-rahn-tay) are small with ridged, sage-coloured skin and dense, perfumed orange flesh.
Although they are popular in Europe, Charentais' are especially prized in France for their rich, honeyed finish. Try wrapping slices of Charentais with prosciutto as an appetiser or cut one in half and serve with port wine poured over it for a special dessert.
You won't find Charentais in your grocery store - their thin skin and high sugar content make it too fragile to ship when ripe. Nothing beats the flavour of a ripe, juicy melon eaten straight from the greenhouse on a summer afternoon - they are surely one of the sweetest rewards of home gardening.
In general, melons are lovers of warmth, which makes them short season crops for the U.K., whereas in warm countries they are grown in succession for export to temperate zones. They typically grow best under glass, but can be grown outdoors in warmer regions. They can be grown in grow bags in a glasshouse or in a poly tunnel. They can be outdoors in well prepared ground with lots of organic matter in the soil. (Composted grass clippings and straw are ideal.). Plants can be trained vertically or, if space is not a problem, can be left to sprawl along the ground.
Melons prefer is diffuse light rather than bright light. The soil should be rich and well drained, and like the atmosphere around them, kept continually moist.
They need higher temperatures than tomatoes and high humidity but will grow well with cucumbers which require similar conditions. Contrary to popular belief, you can grow melons alongside cucumbers; they are similar, but will not cross-pollinate each other
Sowing: Sow from March to the end of May
Melon seeds are sown from late winter to spring in hotter countries, but in our temperate zone sow indoors from March to the end of May. Sow 1cm (½in) deep directly into 8 to 10cm (3 to 4in) pots using standard free draining potting compost. Keep moist at all time. Seeds will germinate at temperatures above 21°C (68°F). Germination usually takes 6 to 10 days at 24°C (75°F).
Transplant when large enough to handle into 13cm (5in) pots. Grow on in good light at around 15 to 18°C (59 to 64) before planting 75 to 100cm (30 to 39in) apart when all risk of frost has passed. Planting into an unheated glasshouse or polytunnel must not take place until the compost or soil is sufficiently warm (18°C / 64°F ) and the air temperature likewise. Set the plants out firmly but do not compact the soil.
The planting area must be adjacent to suitable support if the melons are to be trained in conventional fashion. When planting, you may wish to inserting a 7cm (3in) pipe into the soil so you can water directly to the roots with a watering can.
Top dress with good compost when white roots are seen. If the basal leaves begin to yellow feed with a liquid tomato fertiliser. Feed weekly once the fruits begin to form.
Melons can be trained up a simple single line of string tied to the supports in the glasshouse roof and secured in the ground with a peg next to the base of the melon or use a fan trellis which is simple and reusable next season.
As the melon starts to grow, tie the strongest shoot to the support and pinch out the side shoots which grow from the main stem. As the plants grow pinch out each stem a couple of leaves beyond the female flowers.
Once the stem has reached the top of the support pinch out the leading shoot. This will make the plant concentrate on the formation of fruits. Sprawling plants are simply left to develop and restricted to avoid growth congestion as required.
Watering holds the key to successful melon growing. Regular watering is essential, try to keep the compost constantly moist but not wet. You need to water so that the plant never gets wet, avoid sogginess around the plant stem as this can cause stem rot. Over watering can cause the fruit to split. Possibly the best way to water is with a drip irrigation system.
Glasshouse conditions in high summer need to be kept humid on the hottest days by watering the path early in the morning or by standing a bucket of water in the glasshouse.
Melons need sufficient moisture while growing and fruiting, but prior to harvest, the best, sweetest flavour will occur if the plant is grown on the "dry" side. Cut back on watering the plant when you approach harvest, about three weeks prior to the main crop harvest.
Once the flowers have formed, you will need to pollinate the flowers. This is best carried out mid day when the humidity is high. Females have a swollen part at the base of the bloom. Either remove a male flower and place it inside a female bloom, or take a small paintbrush and lightly brush each flower in turn to. After 2 or 3 days remove the male flowers from the plants.
As soon as the fruits reach the size of tennis balls you need to use string nets or other means to support them. For sprawling plants, a layer of straw should be put down to prevent fruit damage. As the summer progresses and the fruits reach full size remove a few leaves to allow the fruit to ripen.
Harvest: July to August.
Judging when melons are ready to harvest IS an exact science – don’t be told otherwise. Whether it is late in the garden or early in a greenhouse, the plants will tell you when to pick. In the case of the muskmelons (cantaloupe and honeydew), the short stem seems to become backed up with juice, as though the fruit can take no more. It becomes soft to the point that if you give it a slight pinch, the fruit will fall off. Some fruits may actually fall off the vine, so keep a careful eye on each one as it develops.
Many mature cantaloupes are orangey yellow on the outside, beneath all that netting. They are not green. The ones you find in the store are nearly always unripe. They have to be unripe in order to ship them to you. Eating cantaloupe at ideal ripeness is a nuanced dance – a complex perfection of textures, flavours, and sweetness.
The terminology for picking cantaloupe at full maturity is 'full slip', this means that the 'belly button' at the top of the melon will be clean of any signs of the vine having been ripped off during harvest. If the belly button has pieces of the vine still attached, even a small piece, this melon will NEVER ripen.
The best test of course is smelling the melon, look for melons where the outside rind is turning from green to yellow a sign of the ripening process and smell it. The cantaloupe should smell sweet and have a fantastic aroma as if you had just taken a knife and cut it open. No smell means it's not ripe, but if the belly button is clean, then it will of course ripen in time.
Also, the belly button should be dry, if you gently push with your thumb the flesh should not come away and no sign of mold should be present. It's okay if the melon is a little soft to touch as long as it's ripe. The same applies to Galia and Musk melons except that the outside rind must always be firm to touch.
Watermelon vines have many more tendrils than cantaloupes, and there is always a tendril very close to, but opposite, the stem to each fruit. When this tendril dries completely and turns from green to brown, the fruit nearest it is ripe. Without fail, this is true.
To speedup the ripening process place the melon in a plastic bag and seal the bag with a twist tie and place on your kitchen counter. This traps the natural ethylene gas cantaloupes produce inside the bag and the melon will ripen in a couple of days. Remove the bag after the cantaloupe has ripened and refrigerate until you're ready to eat it.
Melon is from Medieval Latin melonem, from Latin melopeponem meaning 'a type of pumpkin'.
The cantaloupe derives its name from the Italian papal village of Cantalup, where it was first cultivated around 1700 A.D. Originally, cantaloupe referred only to the non-netted orange-fleshed melons of Europe; however, in more recent usage it has come to mean any orange-fleshed melon.
The charentais melon is a type of cantaloupe melon, Cucumis melo var. cantalupensis. It originated in the 1920's in the Poitou-Charentes region of western France, and was developed as a refined cantaloupe. Unlike another famous french melon, the Cavaillon, Charentais melons are not protected by an AOC (appellation d'origine contrôlée) which designates by law specific growing regions. Therefore, Charentais melons can legally be grown anywhere.
The annual festival the town of Saint-Georges-des-Coteaux honors the Charentais melon.
- Additional Information
Average Seed Count 10 Seeds Seed Form Natural Common Name Charentais Melon Other Common Names Netted melon, Rockmelon Other Language Names Nutmeg melon or Muskmelon Family Cucurbitaceae Genus Cucumis Species melo Cultivar F1 Irina Hardiness Annual Spacing 75 to 100cm (30 to 39in) apart Aspect Full sun. Time to Sow March to the end of May Germination 6 to 10 days at 24°C (75°F). Harvest 65 to 70 days to maturity Time to Harvest July to August.