The first two years, I planted my seeds in late May or early June and then transplanted the plants to the garden a few weeks later. All would go well. The vines would spread on the ground, the flowers would appear, the bees would show up to help pollinate the plants, and then I'd see tiny fruit. The fruit would get bigger and bigger -- and then, I'd leave for vacation in August.
Once, I picked the fruit while still green hoping that it would ripen fully on the trip. It tasted awful. But when I left the fruit to ripen on the vine, the melons were usually half eaten by the time I returned. After all, these melons were extremely fragrant. If I were a rodent prowling the neighborhood, I'd want a bite too.
This year, I took a different approach. I planted the seeds in early April, and transplanted the seedlings in May, under row cover for warmth. I began to get fruit by June. By July, when DC was basking in 100-plus temperatures, everything was humming.
Then I went to extreme measures. I bought a solar powered owl, which I propped up on a stake. The owl's head turns periodically (it actually freaked out my wife, who went to the garden and didn't know about the owl. She jumped when its head turned). So far I've had no pest damage. While this owl made for a helluva an expensive melon, I am enjoying my lucious, juicy and delicious fruit. And I bet it will work for my tomatoes too.
- Samuel Fromartz