You Like Melons? Bill Bird LIKES MELONS!!!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Let me rephrase that title just a tad: Bill Bird just doesn't *like* melons. He LOVES melons. You've heard of a Renaissance Man? Call me a Melon Man. There's nothing quite like that sweet taste of summertime sugar fruit that comes straight out of a San Joaquin Valley Field -- or better yet -- your own backyard.

I'm not sure when my love affair with all things melon began -- but it's been with me for quite some time. I literally faint at the luscious site of a watermelon half converted into a bowl that contains a fruity mix of fruit salad. One of my favorite events to cover during my television and reporting days in Fresno was the famous Kingsburg Watermelon Festival -- where you could chow down on as much melon as you could possibly consume.

Note: Bill Bird can consume a lot of melon. He proved that over the course of several Kingsburg summer festivals. "I'll cover this one boss," I would volunteer. "I'll see you in eight or nine hours." When reminded by the News Director that covering the festival was a two or three hour job, my retort was always, "not if you want a serious reporting job boss."

Venus and I devote one half of an 8X8 planter bed to our passion. She's more partial to Cantaloupe -- but fell in love with an heirloom watermelon variety last year called Moon and Stars. And -- sure enough -- Venus' favorite melon is back this year -- planted in more than one raised bed.

As for why the most wonderful wife in the world prefers the Moon and Stars -- I'm not sure -- but it might be the size. Venus is a fan of "small and cute" (I sometimes wonder why she married me as I'm neither) -- and that's what you get with the Moon and Stars: a personal size serving of melon.

As for Bill Bird? Call me the "anti small and cute." I like my melons big. Not just big -- but back-buster huge monsters peaking out from underneath a canopy of watermelon plant leaves. There's nothing prettier -- in my humble opinion -- than a 40 lb. green-rind garden monster packed with a mouthwatering reddish-pink fruit. When it comes to watermelon -- only one rule applies: Bigger is Better.

Imagine my excitement this morning then -- as I was inspecting the "patch." Like everything else this year -- our melon growing efforts got off to a slow start this season thanks to some rather stinky spring weather. I've been checking the patch daily -- hoping to find some sort of fruity growth in there -- but had been rather disappointed with what I'd found. It was usually a whole lot of nothing.

I know the problem isn't pollination this year. The melon patch is literally humming with activity as honeybees and other native pollinators move in an out -- feasting upon one open flower or another. The patch is watered deeply twice a week and also receives a daily dose of fertilizer (both organic and non-organic***).

So what gives then? As it turns out -- I was lacking in one major category: PATIENCE BILL BIRD.

I know -- you're shocked.

Patience rewarded. As I walked toward the watermelon patch this morning -- something winked at me out of the corner of my eye. Drawn by early morning sunlight bouncing off zippered lime-and-dark green shoulders -- I discovered the most wonderful sight in the world: a watermelon. And not just any melon either. It was the most beautiful watermelon I've ever seen. It's a monster melon -- or it soon will be.

But the melon patch wasn't satisfied in revealing its deep, dark secrets. As I was looking at the most gorgeous of sights -- yet another and larger melon caught my eye two feet away. And then another -- and yet another. As I would soon discover -- my melon patch is literally filled with fast-growing watermelons of all shapes -- sizes and varieties.

"Aha!" I thought. "No wonder the cats are paying so much attention to this area." And it's true. I noticed our one true hunter-killer cat (named Precious) in front of the melon patch last night. I also remembered seeing her in about the same location the night before. I knew what she was doing.

What pest is attracted to melons? Well -- lots of them actually. Birds of all shapes and sizes love melons -- but the rind is far too hard for them to peck into -- so they generally leave the patch alone. But the field mice known as Voles love melon patches -- as I ruefully discovered last year. They're adept at digging into melons from the ground up -- so you never do begin to notice the damage until it's time to harvest.

Precious has been catching her share of Voles lately. I know this for a fact because she routinely brings them inside to show Venus -- who proceeds to emit an ear-piercing shriek of terror before Precious runs right back outside with her "snack." Her "guardianship" of the melon patch tells me that the Voles have discovered our crop this year as well.

Venus and I are growing several varieties of watermelon and other melons this season. Besides the Moon and Stars -- the Jubilee Melon has found a home in this year's garden -- as has another variety known as Kleckley Sweet. Both are the type of melons that Bill Bird loves -- which means they come in sizes of large, extra-large and Holy Cow.

Another new entry in the Bird Back 40 this season is a hybrid melon-cantaloupe cross called Honeycomb. The seeds for this variety were purchased from Pinetree Garden Seeds -- which offers this somewhat tasty and mouthwatering description:

"The first thing I notice with a honeydew melon is the fragrance and Honeycomb is a fine smelling specimen. It is quite large for a fairly early maturing variety with many going in excess of 6 pounds. Anyone growing Honeycomb mentions its high yield, around a half dozen fruit per hill. Flavor is great, enhanced by a super high sugar content."

And finally -- to top it all off -- the final entry in this year's melon patch is the old standard: Hale's Best Jumbo Cantaloupe. Like the nearby melon crops -- it is also fruiting with abundance.

Is that enough to get ye olde tastebuds working? Too much for you? In my humble opinion -- the line of "too much melon" represents an oxymoron. We're off to a late start this year -- no doubt -- but better late than never.

***EDITORS NOTE: Daily dose of fertilizers does not imply that Bill Bird is fertilizing his garden every single day of the week. The organic fertilizers of Maxicrop and Omega 2000 are applied once every two weeks -- per label directions.


Greg Damitz said...

Don't be envious of my cucumbers. Your melons are leaps and bounds above mine. My watermelons have been in the ground since May and the vine is only 8" long. I've lost all hope.

fred said...

Bill, regarding your daily fertilization habit:

Bill Bird said...

still fred:


Greg -- hopefully the melons will come around. I'm still jealous of your cucumbers. We're weeks away from harvesting the first one.


Steve said...

Hey Bill - For some huge watermelons, take a look at "Georgia Rattlesnake". I am having a bumper crop of these heirlooms this year. Sorry for the earlier comment - must have been cached by mistake. Can you delete it?

Bill Bird said...


Deleted and "thanks for visiting!" Thanks for the tip about the Georgia Rattlesnake. Yes -- I've seen it in the seed catalogs and it's on the list of "things to try next year." I may not get to it then -- but I will most certainly get to it at some point in time. As you know from your years in Tracy, this is a wonderful area for growing melons. I hope Texas offers the same gardening opportunities.

Brown Thumb Mama said...

Oh my goodness, I'm trying not to make any jokes about your penchant for big melons. Can't... stop... must... quit... typing...


This year, I'm turning any trailing melon vines back onto themselves. This is working beautifully. The vines make a U turn and begin to shade the melons developing below from sunburn.

Did you know that the consumption of watermelon makes a man more virile? It may be an old wives' tale. You make the call.

LauraBee said...

Just discovered the tiny first moon-&-stars melon on the vines in the school garden ( Venus has great taste, btw). I'm very excited, the students who've seen the photo are amazed.

Do you think putting a thick section of newspaper under the developing melons would keep voles out ? I'm thinking the thickness of an entire weekday Bee...

Jenn's Cooking Garden! said...

Love your melons Bill! I dont grow melons sadly, I ave never had sucess! I will keep you posted on the whole Plum picking. Probably August will be the time! I cant wait to make more Plum B.B.Q. sauce