Wondering how to grow cucamelons? You’ve come to the right place. Cucamelons may look like a mouse-sized watermelon, but they taste like a cucumber with a citrus kick. Called “sandía de raton” (or “watermelon for a mouse”) in Mexico, cucamelons are also called Mexican Sour Gherkin and Mouse Melon.
No matter what you call them, cucamelons are easy to grow and resistant to pests and disease. Learn how to grow cucamelons and add this crunchy, vitamin-packed fruit to your garden.
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6 Tips for How to Grow Cucamelons
1. Understand how cucamelons grow
Cucamelons are a tender perennial; this means they are sensitive to frost but if cared for properly can live for several seasons. Over the course of a season, cucamelons develop an underground tuber.
At the end of the season in cold climates, dig out and remove the tuber to overwinter in a sheltered location. Once the plant dies back in mild winter areas, mulch the ground around the roots well and it should survive over the winter and begin to regrow in the spring.
2. Plant cucamelons at the right time
Cucamelons thrive in warm, humid weather. Plant cucamelons outside after all danger of frost has passed in the spring, and nighttime temperatures have warmed to about 50℉.
In the low desert of Arizona (and many other hot summer areas), here are the planting dates for cucamelons:
Start seeds indoors: December – March and July – August
Plant transplants outside: February 15 – April and August 15 – September
In Arizona, spring-planted cucamelons may not produce until cooler temperatures come in the fall. You may get a spring and a fall harvest if you can keep the plant alive over the summer.
The larger spring-planted cucamelon plants often yield a larger harvest than fall-planted cucamelons. The trick with growing cucamelons in dry, hot summer areas like Arizona is to have them survive the summer heat.
- PLANTING GUIDE: Each month lists vegetables, fruit & herbs to plant outside & seeds to start indoors.
- HARVEST GUIDE: Photos show what may be ready to harvest that month.
- Planting dates are for the low desert of Arizona (zone 9b).
3. Plant cucamelons from seed or transplants in the correct location
In all but the warmest areas, give cucamelons full sun. In very hot summer areas, grow cucamelons in a spot with afternoon shade.
Plant cucamelon seeds ¼ to ½ inch deep. Seeds generally take between 7-14 days to germinate. Because cucamelon seeds germinate slowly, it can be difficult to start them outdoors. You may want to start seeds indoors 4 weeks before the last spring frost, and then transplant them outside. You can also look for transplants at local nurseries.
Space cucamelon plants and seeds about a foot apart in a location with compost-rich, well-draining soil.
How to grow cucamelons in square foot gardening:
Plant one cucamelon plant per square. Plant the cucamelon on the edge of the garden bed and give them something to climb.
How to grow cucamelons in containers:
- Grow one plant in a large 12-18 inch container (at least 5 gallons).
- Give cucamelons in containers something to climb.
4. Care for growing cucamelons
- Plants tolerate dry conditions, but do best with regular watering.
- Fertilize cucamelon plants once or twice during the growing season with a high-potassium liquid fertilizer to encourage fruiting.
- Once vines reach about 8 feet, pinch back growing tips to encourage branching and fruiting.
- Cucamelons produce male and female flowers. Male flowers wither and die; female flowers develop into fruit after pollination.
5. Give cucamelons something to climb
Cucamelons are a sprawling vine that can be difficult to contain. Provide a trellis for the tendrils to climb as the cucamelon vines grow. Growing cucamelons vertically on a trellis allows for better airflow and helps prevent damage from feet and pests. Ripe cucamelons grown on a trellis are also easier to spot and thus harvest.
Looking for ways to add vertical space to your garden? This post shares 10 of my favorite ideas.
In this blog post, find more ways to add vertical space to your garden.
6. Harvest cucamelons at the right time
Cucamelons typically begin producing 65-75 days after transplanting. Harvest cucamelons when the fruits are the size of small grapes, firm, and bright green.
Cucamelons left on the vine past their prime will soften and develop a yellow tint. Pick cucamelons often to encourage production. Leaving cucamelons on the plant signals to the plant to stop producing.
Eat cucamelons fresh like grapes (our favorite way) or slice them and add them to salads. Enjoy them pickled (so cute!) or even added to salsa.
Harvested cucamelons will store for 5-7 days in the fridge. I love using these containers to help my produce last longer.
Bonus Tip: Save seeds from cucamelons to plant and share
At the end of the season, leave a few cucamelons on the vine until they are very overripe, soft, and yellow. These are the perfect stage to save seeds from.
How to save cucamelon seeds:
- Cut cucamelons in half and scrape seeds into a half-pint glass canning jar.
- Fill the jar partway with water.
- Allow the water to ferment for 1-2 days (not longer); this removes the gel covering around the seed that prevents germination.
- Remove the seeds and pulp that float to the top of the water.
- Rinse off the seeds that settle on the bottom of the jar, and let them dry on a paper plate.
- Store in a paper seed sleeve in a cool, dry location.