Production Guide

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As a cucurbit crop, honeydew are related to several other warm-season crops such as cucumbers, pumpkins, squash, gourds and muskmelons. Native to west Africa, honeydew melons require a minimum soil temperature of 60°F for germination, but optimally, the soil temperature will range from 70°F and 90°F for best growth. Honeydew usually have smooth green or white rinds. Typically, the melons have a mild scent and slightly oval shape. They do not naturally fall from the vine. 

Site Selection   

Honeydew melon planting sites should have good water-holding characteristics, a soil pH level between 6.0 and 6.5 and good air drainage. Honeydew grow best on soils that are warm and are sandy or silt loams. To reduce disease risk, honeydew should not be planted where other cucurbit crops such as watermelon, squash, cucumber or cantaloupe have grown for the past three years. 

High-tunnel systems are an alternative to fields for growing honeydew melons. Using a high tunnel can lengthen a crop’s growing season, and it can protect crops from the effects of extreme weather and insect and disease pressures.


Conduct a soil test to determine fertilizer needs. As a general guide, operations should apply 50 pounds to 150 pounds of phosphorous per acre via banding during planting or transplanting. Applying phosphorus at this time will encourage early seedling growth and help transplants to establish themselves. A soil test can help define specific phosphorus needs. Additionally, 80 pounds to 120 pounds of nitrogen should be applied per acre. Specific nitrogen requirements will vary by season depending on factors such as rainfall or season duration. One-fourth to one-third of the recommended nitrogen should be applied in two bands 2 inches to 3 inches below the seeds, or producers may apply nitrogen in the bed before transplanting. Sandy soils require additional nitrogen. Micronutrient needs depend on growing location and soil type. Also, rainfall, irrigation, plant population, soil pH and harvest season length can affect fertilizer requirements.

Variety Selection  

Choose honeydew varieties based on marketplace preferences and the given growing environment. Several characteristics differentiate honeydew varieties. Honeydew varieties include Earlidew (Early Dew), Honey Orange, Honey Star and TAM-Dew. They reach maturity at different times — see table below — and differ slightly in their tolerance to powdery mildew and fusarium. Compared with other varieties, TAM-Dew honeydew melons tend to have a more round shape. Check with an extension horticulture field specialist for current information on honeydew varieties.

Honeydew Varieties for Missouri

Variety Days to Maturity
Earlidew (Early Dew)

Honey Orange

Honey Star








Prior to planting, deeply incorporate crop residues into the soil to ensure complete decomposition. Then, apply pre-plant fertilizer. Producers can either choose to plant honeydew seeds or transplants. If using seeds, then typically choose a 1- to 1.5-inch planting depth. If planting on drier soils, then deeper planting may be necessary. Row spacing depends on equipment size. Spacing between rows often ranges from 4 feet to 6 feet. As a general rule, space seeds within a row at every 2 feet to 3 feet. If using trickle irrigation and plastic mulch, then seeds can be planted closer together.

Commercial growers often choose transplants instead of directly planting honeydew seeds into fields. Using transplants can increase plant uniformity and reduce seed costs. Before transplanting, reduce fertilization and watering to condition plants for transplanting. Additionally, transplant only after all risk of frost has passed, and soil temperatures at a 3-inch depth should be at least 60°F. High tunnels can be used for growing transplants.

Cultural Management  

Black plastic mulch can be used for honeydew production. In such a plasticulture system, the black plastic applied over the ground prevents light from penetrating to the soil surface, and without light, weed seed can’t germinate. The black plastic can also conserve soil moisture, and because it attracts sunlight and warms the soil, honeydew melons can mature seven days to 10 days sooner. Where cold temperatures can limit production potential, black plastic is a viable option.

Honeybees play an important role in honeydew production because wind pollination does not properly pollinate honeydew flowers. Honeybees are susceptible to most insecticides, and in order to limit honeybee exposure to insecticides, applications should not occur from dawn to dusk. If spraying occurs during honeybee activity, then remove hives from the field the day prior to limit bee kills.

Water Management  

When growing honeydew melons, moisture is critical, so closely monitor and manage the water supply. Good irrigation is necessary for high honeydew yields. Water deficiencies during growth can delay maturity, cause gaps in production and reduce overall yield. It is essential to not overwater crops, and irrigation methods should distribute water over long periods of time to ensure proper water saturation. Generally, honeydew plants require 1 inch of water per week.

Most melons are watered with sprinkler irrigation systems. If using a sprinkler system, then avoid overapplying water and creating runoff. Sprinkler systems also present produce food safety risks if there are water quality issues.  Sprinkler systems are generally not recommended for crops planted on plastic mulch. From planting until plants begin to run, crops using a sprinkler irrigation system require 0.5 inches of water every five days to six days — or whenever top soil becomes dry. From the time plants begin to vine until harvest, apply 0.75 inches of water every five days. When plants begin to bloom, they require 0.75 inches of water every three days. Overall watering needs will vary depending on temperatures and soil type.

Another option is drip irrigation, which can be used with or without plastic mulch. With drip irrigation, water use can be more efficiently managed. Weeds are less of a problem with drip irrigation systems. Typically, drip irrigation systems need to be operated frequently — every day or every other day — but don’t overwater when growing melons on plastic mulch. 

Weed Control  

Site selection is an important aspect of weed control, so avoid areas with existing weed problems such as persistent perennial weeds. Weeds compete with melon crops for resources such as nutrients and sunlight, and they can harbor pests and diseases. Stale seedbed techniques can be used to reduce disease pressure. In this method, prepare soils normally, and wait for weed seeds germinate and grow. Then, apply a nonselective herbicide to kill the weeds before planting the crop. During planting, don’t disturb the soil, or further weeds may germinate.

Hand-hoeing is effective when controlling weeds before plants have vined because it is least damaging to crops. Mechanical weed control can be effective during early growth but can damage crops after they’ve begun to run. Additionally, pre-emergence herbicides and chemicals can be used to control weeds. 

Insects and Diseases  

Fungal diseases are the greatest threat to honeydew. Diseases that can afflict honeydew are Alternaria leaf spot, anthracnose, gummy stem blight, target spot, belly rot, southern blight, scab, crown rot, powdery mildew, downy mildew and fusarium wilt. Fungal disease control options include using resistant cultivars and fungicides, rotating crops accordingly and keeping fields clean by deeply turning crops and removing plant debris. Bacterial diseases such as angular leaf spot, bacterial wilt and nematodes can also be prevented by rotating crops accordingly, managing pests and using copper sprays and fumigant nematicides.

Several types of insects pose a challenge to honeydew production. They include root maggots, wireworms and whitefringed beetle larvae, cucumber beetles, aphids, thrips, cutworms, pickleworms and melonworms. Insects can infest leaves, stems and roots of melon plants. Adopting the appropriate cultural practices is essential because insects can stunt honeydew growth, cause seedlings to die and damage honeydew melons to the extent that they’re unmarketable. Cultural practices include planting during optimal growing conditions to ensure quick growth and using appropriate insecticides. 

Harvest and Storage  

Honeydew melons typically reach maturity 75 days to 95 days after planting. Honeydew should be harvested when stem ends are springy, the skin begins to have a creamy yellow appearance and the melons weigh 2.5 pounds to 3 pounds. Daily picking during the season’s peak is best to avoid melons becoming overripe.

Honeydew is a very perishable crop. To avoid injury, don’t chill melons below 40°F. For prolonged storage, maintain the temperature at 45°F; storage temperatures as high as 65°F have been recommended. The relative humidity level should range from 85 percent to 90 percent. As a general rule, honeydew can be stored for up to three weeks. After a three-week period, decay, softening, off-flavors or breakdown can compromise quality. 



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Jett, Lewis W. 2006. High Tunnel Melon and Watermelon Production. University of Missouri Extension. Columbia, MO 65201.

Motes, Jim, Warren Roberts, Jonathan Edelson, John Damicone and Jim Duthie. Cantaloupe Production. Oklahoma State University. Stillwater, OK 74074.

Oregon State University Department of Horticulture. 2010. Melons: Cantaloupe, Muskmelon, Honeydew, Crenshaw, Casaba, etc. Oregon State University. Corvallis, OR 97331.

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