protecting melons from animals?

daninthedirt (USDA 8b, HZ10, CentTX, Sunset z30, Cfa)
2 months ago
last modified: 2 months ago

So I had a nice crop of cantaloupes this year, as I've had for many years. But I regularly fight with possums and raccoons, and sometimes even squirrels. I trap them regularly, and displace them, but that's not quite enough. Probably half of my melons were harvested with a bite taken out of them. The advantage is that the animals don't touch them until they are ripe, because at that point they start to SMELL terrific. So a melon with a bite taken out of it is indeed just about ready to harvest. But I'd rather wait for the slip to maximize sugars.

So the question is, how to protect them. There is a lot of info on protecting melons on the web, and much of it seems questionable. One person says, yep, all they do is prop them a few inches above the ground. Then the animals don't touch them. Duuuh? Someone else says to wrap each of them in a towel or old t-shirt. My beasts won't be deterred by that. No way. Someone else says to wrap them in garden netting, and the animals don't like to get tangled in that stuff. Um, nope. I don't believe that. They'll tear right through it. I could engineer some baskets of hardware cloth, but that seems overkill. Someone suggests snapping them in a transparent plastic kitchen container, but sunlight would roast them in the daytime, and I don't want to have to put them on every evening and take them off every morning. It is suggested that one just anchor a plastic milk crate over each melon. But those crates are huge compared with a canteloupe. Maybe for a watermelon? Now one curious YouTube says that animals don't threaten mature melons. They just go after immature ones. That's totally nutso. Of course, one could trellis them up, but that's a big job for heavy melons, and these guys can all climb anyway. No, I'm not going to invest in a big fence or a dog. I should say that salting the area with smelly or noisy stuff NEVER works for me. These are street-wise urban animals, and aren't ever fazed by stinky or loud stuff.

So I'm thinking that I'll get a bunch of 1-gallon pails, and just put one over each almost-ripe melon, with a brick on top. I'll probably wrap the pails with foil pipe insulation, to keep the temperature in the pail down. Could do some ventilating as well. That covering will also protect the (likely HDPE plastic) pail from sunlight UV. Anyone tried anything like that? The disadvantage is that I'd have to uncover every day or two to check for slip. But that could be done pretty fast. An added advantage is that the almost ripe melon wouldn't be sitting on, or just above, moist soil, which would promote rot and attract bugs.

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