A few months ago, I exchanged veggie seeds with Novice Gardener and expanded my repertoire in directions I would probably not have tried just yet. When I started growing edible plants, my initial plan was to start with those that I knew would grow well locally – and honestly, I didn’t consider growing gourds. But, when my “goodie bag” from Novice Gardener arrived, I was intrigued to find winter melon seeds among the other surprises inside. Cool, I thought, and happily sowed a pair of seeds the following weekend. Knowing nothing about the plants was actually an attraction for me because then, there would be that sense of adventure of watching the plants grow and develop. Optimistically speaking, of course.
Both seeds germinated in less than a week and proceeded to grow quite vigorously. Fortunately for them, I built their trellis fairly quickly, and planted them out when they had only two pairs of true leaves.
That’s pretty quick, by my normal standards, and I expected the plants to keep growing as vigorously as they had in the small pots. Surprisingly, though, they slowed down – a lot. Maybe they needed to adjust to the new soil composition (from Tref in the pot to garden soil mixed with organic compost and bonemeal), or maybe they needed time to expand their root systems. In the meantime, the rainy weather started, and one of the two plants died out. This made me nervous, because that was when Novice Gardener mentioned having difficulty germinating these seeds. I crossed my fingers, toes, arms and legs hoping that the surviving plant wouldn’t give up, either.
Fortunately, the plant is still chugging along. It seems to be picking up momentum now, but is attracting yellow aphids. Thanks to my experience with the aubergine plant that was also infested with aphids but got that under control when ladybugs came to feast on them, I’ve stuck to my organic guns and haven’t sprayed any insecticide yet. This will be the proof for me to see if the ladybugs are attracted only by the aphids, or a combination of plant and pest. The “ladybug brinjal plant” is less than 2 metres away and I’m hoping some of the ladybugs migrate soon.
In the meantime, the plant is still growing, albeit with sad-looking leaves, no thanks to the aphids. I was so focused on the state of the leaves that I failed to notice when the first tendrils emerged. There are several now, latched onto the sticks meant to guide them upwards to the trellis. It shouldn’t be long before the plant reaches the trellis proper.
Since this seems to be such a slow growing plant now, I’ve planted a couple of regular long bean plants on the other side of the trellis, where the first winter melon plant died. I normally shy away from letting edible creeping or climbing plants share growing space, but these long bean plants have a short life – they’ve already peaked the trellis, have flowered and started fruiting; in a month or so, they’ll be dying off, and if my timing is right, the winter melon plant will be near the top (so I hope). But, even if they end up growing together, I’m fairly sure there will be no cross-pollination issues as they’re from different plant families. We’ll see.
I’ll also be observing how the winter melon plant grows so I can do better by the plants the next time. Hopefully this trellis will be suitable enough for it to grow on. It’s my A-frame design on a shorter scale. Anyway “first children” are usually the guinea pigs – we’re not sure of the best ways to nurture them, but we try our best.