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Soil & Fertility


Most soils in Utah are suitable for melons provided they are well drained, fertile, and do not have a buildup of salt. The ideal soil is sandy to loamy with a pH of 6.5 to 7.5. A very loose, somewhat dry tilled soil is ideal for transplanting to ensure good soil contact with the transplant root ball. Crop rotation is necessary when growing melons to minimize soil disease buildup. Remember that squash, pumpkins, and cucumbers are related to melons and may transmit or harbor diseases common to all cucurbits. Melons are quite sensitive to herbicides in soil, so pay special attention to site selection if residual herbicides have been used in the past.

Fertility

Prior to planting, have the soil tested to determine nutrient needs and deficiencies. The Utah State University Analytical Laboratories can test the soil, and forms and collection techniques are found at usual.usu.edu. Organic growers should incorporate organic matter before planting to sustain soil fertility. One option is to band or broadcast 5 tons per acre of high

A common practice is to broadcast or band ⅓ to ½ of the required nitrogen fertilizer and all the phosphorous and potassium prior to planting. In soils with high P and K levels, broadcasting all of the fertilizer is acceptable. This is done before plowing or disking, then worked into the soil during normal field preparations. Banding is a good method to ensure the fertilizer is near the plant and makes sense for crops like melons, where wide row spacings are common. Fertilizer bands should be 3 inches beside and 3 inches below the seed or transplant to minimize salt injury during establishment. Often transplanted melons have starter fertilizer with high P levels applied at one quarter to one half pint per plant. Starter fertilizer is applied in addition to the fertilizer that was broadcast or banded.

Table 6.2. Phosphorus (P2O5 ) and Potassium (KO) based on soil test results.

Phosphorus Test Results Lb/ acre
0-14 120-150
15-29 90-120
30-45 60-90
46-60 30-60
60+ 0
Potassium Test Results Lb/ acre
0-74 100-150
75-149 50-100
150-199 25-50
200+ 0
60+ 0

Use the higher amount when soil test values are in the lower part of the range.

Nitrogen (N) – Up to 50 lbs. per acre can be applied prior to planting. Higher rates of N at planting may cause seed or transplant establishment problems. An additional 50-100 lbs. per acre is often applied in two applications, the first when vines begin to run and again around first flowering. Use the smaller amount if the site has added manure, compost or when melons are grown after a legume crop (beans, alfalfa, etc.).