Are rodents eating the watermelons and muskmelons (honeydew, Crenshaw, casaba, and cantaloupes) in your garden? Keep reading for a fail-proof way to keep rodents off of your melons.
How to outsmart and keep rodents off of your melons
*Note: This post is NOT meant to help attractively curved women reduce unwanted affection from creepy men. However, if you’re looking for useful gardening DIYs, please continue reading…
We LOVE melons. There are tons of delicious varieties of heirloom melons that can be grown in our area of the country (southeast USA), many of which we’ve never seen in a grocery store. Eating a vine-ripened melon on a hot summer day is as refreshing as jumping into a mountain lake, but you usually don’t have to towel off quite as much after eating a melon.
One recent summer, we encountered a serious problem with our melons: they’d pollinate, and we’d excitedly watch them grow day-by-day. However, before they’d fully mature, we’d come out to find them partially eaten with the tell-tale sign of rodent savagery: two small incisor teeth markings where the flesh had been carved out by the furry villains.
After losing quite a few melons this way, we became extremely agitated. We didn’t know exactly what type of critter was eating our melons, since we never saw one in the act. However, we have squirrels, chipmunks, voles, and groundhogs, all of which are potential vole villains.
What we DID KNOW was that we needed to figure out how to keep rodents off of our melons!
Experimentation: Trying to keep rodents off of our melons
We began experimenting with various remedies to see if we could outsmart the rodents.
First, we trellised some of our melons to keep them many feet off the ground. This method proved ineffective and we grew more agitated at the thought of the creatures eating our melons while enjoying a better view.
We reluctantly tried bird netting. (“Reluctantly” due to a previous unpleasant encounter with a trapped rat snake that we had to untie by hand.)
Bird netting didn’t work either and we became even more agitated as we imagined our rodent nemeses flossing their teeth with the nets after gorging on our melons. Before we had time to experiment with any other solutions, we ran out of summer.
Inspiration strikes! Melon cages…
That winter, inspiration struck and we devised a new rodent prevention plot: wired melon cages.
Benefits of melon cages:
- allow needed sunlight in,
- never wear off or wash away (like a garlic spray might),
- can’t be chewed through by teeth, and
- can be reused year after year.
We’re delighted to say that we’ve never lost another melon to rodent attacks since devising melon cages.
Step by step: How to keep rodents off your melons with melon cages
So, here’s a simple, step-by-step method to ensure you never lose any of your melons to rodents again:
1. Get hardware cloth.
First, get 1/4″ – 1/2″ hardware cloth. Make sure you also have:
- wire snips/clippers that will easily cut through the wire, and
- thick gloves so you can handle and cut your hardware cloth without getting scraped or poked.
2. Cut square-sized pieces of hardware cloth large enough to complete encircle your mature melons.
Depending on the size of the melon you need to protect, cut out a square of hardware cloth that will be large enough to wrap around the fully mature melon and still fold up on either end.
A moon & stars watermelon is going to take a lot more wire than a cantaloupe.
3. Secure a cylindrical shape with metal string.
Fold your wire square into a round cylinder shape by bringing both sides together. Using metal string for ties, tie together both sides of the wire square to lock the cylindrical shape in place.
Our hardware cloth came with metal string wire inside it, but we’re using metal string we had left over from another project.
4. Create your wire end folds.
Once you’ve cut the wire square in half and secured it in place, cut 3-4 straight lines on each end starting from the outer edge of each end.
The goal with this step is to create folds/flaps that will fold up on each end of the wire cage to protect the melon on both sides.
5. Close one end of your melon cage.
Next, fold up all the flaps on ONE side of your melon cage and secure the flaps together with metal string wire. Make sure to leave the other side of your cage open so you can insert your melon into the cage through the opening.
6. Cage your melon.
Insert your melon into the open end of its melon cage. Fold up the last set of end flaps and secure them with metal string wire while being careful not to damage the stem of the plant attached to the melon.
How mature should your melons be when you put cages on them? We’ve had rodents eat our melons very early in development, so the sooner the better.
7. Watch, harvest, eat and share!
Keep an eye on your melons as they grow inside their wire cages. If it looks like you’re going to grow a “super melon” that might outgrow its cage before it ripens, just make and install a new, larger wire cage.
Once your melons are ripe, untie one end of their cages, harvest them, and enjoy! You can compost your melon rinds, pickle them, or if you’re a kind-hearted soul, put the rinds out near your garden as a peace offering to your defeated rodents.
You can use your melon cages year after year, so you’ll never have to worry about how to keep rodents off of your melons again. Victory!
*Melon cage update
If you don’t feel like making your own melon cages or you want a more flexible wiring, we’ve got great news…
We also recently started using vole king mesh wire baskets to keep voles from eating certain tuberous plants in our yard. Well, the vole king baskets work GREAT on melons as well! They slide on and off super easy, don’t poke you, and last forever.
Recommended basket sizes:
- For smaller (under 5 pound) melons, a 2 gallon vole king basket is ideal;
- For mid sized melons (5-10 pounds), use 5 gallon vole king baskets;
- Large melons 10+ pounds use, a 15 gallon vole king basket.
Nope, vole king baskets aren’t a “homemade” DIY solution to keep rodents off your melons, but they still work great.
Enjoy melon season!