How can we grow cantaloupe and watermelon to have them ready to eat in mid or late July? We have lots of trouble with squash bugs. How do we get rid of them.
Cass County Iowa
Early crops can be obtained by selecting early maturing muskmelon and watermelon cultivars, sowing seeds indoors or in a greenhouse 3 to 4 weeks before the outdoor planting date, and planting the seedlings in black plastic mulch.
Early muskmelon cultivars include Goddess (70 days) and Cleopatra (70 days).
Early watermelon cultivars include Yellow Doll (70 days) and Little Baby Doll (70 days).
Sow muskmelon and watermelon seeds in peat pots 3 to 4 weeks before the outdoor planting date. Grow the seedlings indoors or in greenhouse for 2 to 3 weeks and then harden/acclimate the seedlings outdoors for 1 week for planting.
Squash bug populations vary greatly from year to year. Begin checking for eggs and small nymphs during late June. Handpick and discard egg clusters and nymphs as they appear. Use garden insecticides such as Sevin, permethrin or insecticidal soap according to label directions. Sprays are generally more effective than dusts, but must be reapplied frequently. Avoid spraying plants in bloom. If spraying during bloom is necessary, spray at night after honey bees have quit foraging for the day. Remove crop residues in the fall to reduce the number of squash bugs that survive the winter.