As I have stated before, we have a shortage of bees around here, which has forced me to seek out other options for pollination.
For the last three seasons, I have not harvested one single watermelon or cantaloupe. I have had big, beautiful vines, full of blooms, but no fruit. Frustrating, especially since I designate a large portion of my garden to melons. Space I could use for plants that are actually producing!
Maybe it's the southern gardener in me, or maybe it's the ancestral tenacious farming spirit, but I am determined to have watermelons in my garden. So, this year, I decided to give hand pollinating a try, and leave the rest up to what small bee population we have left.
This is my first go at it, and I am by no means an expert, but it did work for me. I have had melons in my garden, and as I type, a beautiful black diamond that is just waiting for our 4th of July family celebration!
Not every flower that I pollinated set and produced, but a few did. I need to do some more research to find out what I did wrong, or how I can help the process along.
Hand pollination is much less trouble than I was always told it would be, in fact, I tried two different methods, and both seemed to work.
What you want to look for in the blooms is a male, and a female bloom. The female blooms look like the one above. You will see a small bulging "baby fruit" just behind the yellow bloom.
The male bloom looks like the one below, there is no bulge behind the bloom.
I started out using a small paintbrush, and would gently roll the tip of the brush around the inside center of the male bloom, and then gently brush it into the center of the female bloom. Done.
The other method I tried was to remove the male bloom and swipe it across the center of the female bloom. Center to center.
You do have to be careful and gentle as to not damage the fruit or the bloom, but otherwise, it was a simple process and, like I said, I actually had some melons that grew!
All of that being said, I have only been able to harvest one cantaloupe and I have a watermelon that is almost ready. There are two others that are just beginning. I had a few other fruits begin to grow, but as I have had such a terrible pest problem this year, some of the fruit was wasted on bugs before it had a chance to mature. So do better than I did and keep a good eye out for pests once your melons set and beigin to grow!