Tag Archives: watermelon trellis

Melon Hammocks

I can’t help but laugh whenever I hear the phrase “Melon Hammock”.  It just sounds like it should be some horribly inappropriate euphemism.  Eventually, I’ll be reminded of a certain piece of men’s undergarments, and must metaphorically pressure-wash the inside of my brain.  I’m not talking about just putting the hose to it, but rather the kind of intense pressure-washing that is strong enough to separate flesh from bone, thus completely eradicating the image from my mind.  I tried to come up with a better term (melon sack, melon support, etc) yet each one leaves me giggling, because apparently I’m still 12.  At one point, while planning this project, in an effort to embrace my sophomoric tendencies, I even asked my wife if I could use some of her old bras.  For a moment, I thought the delightfully funny image of a bra used to hold actual literal melons was enough to convince my wife.  I was wrong.  I ended up just using the fabric from an old T-shirt instead.

already count about 15 melons that have started to swell up. They need to be hammocked (verbing nouns wierds language :)) soon, or they will snap the vines.

So, here’s the issue.  I decided to grow the melons on trellises because of limited space.  Even these smaller “Sugar Baby” varieties will quickly take over the whole garden if I just let them crawl along the ground.  So, this is where the pyramid trellises come in.  The vines grow up instead of out, and the space is saved for other things.  However, as strong and prolific as the watermelons are, they aren’t strong enough to hold the weight of a developing melon.  Eventually the melon will get too heavy and snap the vine.  To solve this issue, each developing melon needs a “hammock” that’s actually anchored to the trellis itself, thus taking the weight off of the vine, and allowing the melon to develop normally.

melon hammock 2Using the material from the old T-shirt, I made little slings, and tied the corners to the structure itself.  This was much harder than it sounds.  Some of my trellises are an Escher-like hellscape of tangled vines, wood, and twine.  For each hammock, I had to create a path through this mess that wouldn’t put any weight on the criss-crossing vines, yet still firmly supported the melons hanging below.  When all was said and done, I had thirteen melons supported by these hammocks.  Two more melons were growing on the ground, beneath the trellis.  So I’m hoping for fifteen small Sugar Babies at the end of the season, but we’ll see.

Japanese Beetle snacking on my beans... here we go again!

It just so happened that I noticed some interesting leaf damage to my beans when I was out there.  Several plants leaves were eaten in a way that left the interlocking veins of the leaf, leaving a lacy skeleton behind.  As I searched through the plants, I found the culprit: a swarm of Japanese Beetles.  So, just as we finish fighting off the relentless Colorado Potato Beetles, we get hit with a wave of the Asian cousins… awesome.

Next step:  Meta-Trellis

I Can’t Think of a Good “Trellis” Title…

Me (Preparing to write this post): “Honey, I need a funny lead-in about trellises.”
Angela (My Wife): “OK…  Knock Knock.”
Me: “Whose there?”
Angela: “Trellis”
Me:  “Trellis who?”
Angela:  “I don’t know… that’s as far as I got”

When we planted our cucumbers and watermelon, I made a quick decision to plant two extra mounds of each.  The problem is that we didn’t really have the space for this, so I figured that I would just build a trellis for the plants to grow on.  If they can’t grow out, at least they could grow up.  All I can say is that I grossly underestimated the effort and time needed to build an effective trellis for ten mounds of viney veggies.  Little did I know that this decision, accompanied by a healthy dose of nerdy obsession, would consume my waking life for almost two weeks.

3 simple trellises in neighboring plots.

For the uninitiated, a “trellis” is simply a man-made structure that is made to support climbing plants.  They can be made of anything from scavenged sticks and bits of string, to heavy fencing and wrought iron.  You can also purchase pre-made heavy duty trellises at nearly any garden center in America.  However, not all trellises are equal, and depending on the size and weight of the plant you’re trellising, different materials and designs would be needed.  For example: a 2o foot, wrought iron fence would be overkill for a patch of 2 ft high sweet peas, and a dowel rod with a bit of string will never hold a mature melon vine.  Cucumbers are somewhat prolific, and need a rather hefty trellis to support their weight, and trellising watermelon is just plain nuts. No first time gardener in their right would ever attempt to trellis watermelon. You would have to be absolutely crazy and arrogant to even think that with no experience, you could just do something impossible, like growing big, heavy watermelon on a trellis….
Challenge accepted!

I’m a full time college student with two kids in diapers.  The only income in our family comes from the tips I make, waiting tables when I’m not in class.  In other words, We don’t have a “let’s-build-a-big-expensive-ladder-thing-for-our-watermelon-to-grow-on-fund”.    This meant that this project had to be cheap.  Watermelon can be a bit… heavy.  Even though the variety that we’re growing is much smaller than the typical watermelon, they still get to be about the size of a cantaloupe.  This meant that the design needs to be able to support a lot of weight.  After shopping around, we realized that pre-made trellises were way too expensive, so we would have to build our own.  These structures would also have to be held together with duct tape and bits of string as that is the limit of my mechanical expertise…

We went with a simple pyramid design.  This can support quite a bit of weight without a lot of effort.  As the melons start to grow, they will have to be supported by small hammocks to take the weight off of the vine.  Anyway, in an effort to stop my rambling, Here’s the pictures of the construction process…

Cuke Trellis Pole

For the Cucumbers, we started with 4ft tomato stakes, and placed a mark every 6in.

Cuke trellis Pole 2

I then hammered a nail (and several fingers) into every mark

Cuke Pole 3

I then bent the top nail down.

Then I pounded the stakes into the ground, three to a cuke mound

All the cuke poles stuck into the ground

tie the tops of the poles together, using the bent nails as hooks

This star pattern tightens the entire structure, allowing it to hold much more weight.

completed cuke trellises

We used 4 2x2 pine beams for each of the watermelon trellises for more strength

same strengthening star pattern, this time with 4 points

rinse & repeat

finished trellises

as if the signs didn't make our garden noticeable enough

The first watermelon sprout

Well, there you have it.  We now have a garden that is visible from space.  I have already started getting comments comparing our plot to the Giza Plateau.  This will be worth it if these things do their job.  If not, I’ve just created a giant neon sign targeting my gardening ineptitude.  Though there is hope.  As I finished the the project, I noticed a few little watermelon sprouts beginning to come up.

Next: The Ballad of the Troublesome Tubers

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