What Is the Difference Between Melons and Squash?

Both melons and squash are hard, round, and delicious. So no wonder you get confused at first glance. But no, melon and squash are not the same.

The main difference between melon and squash is their taste and texture. Melons are sweeter while squashes are bitter, silky, or nutty. Both fruits have a hard exterior but a soft, fleshy interior. They are similar because they belong to the same family but from different genera.

The differences and similarities don’t stop with the fruits themselves but also the physical characteristics of plants. Despite being vine plants under the same family, they have some unique properties that any interested gardener may find useful in growing.

Melon and Squash Are Family Members

Melon and squash come from the same family, Cucurbitaceae or gourd family. The gourd family has around 975 species of food and ornamental plants. Though the fruits’ shapes, flavours, and textures vary, they all exhibit an edible and fleshy inner layer.

Melons (known as Cucumis) and squashes (known as Cucurbita) belong to the same Cucurbitaceae family but in different genera.

Gourds are probably the fruits we are most familiar with in a culinary setting. Examples of gourds include but are not limited to: watermelons, cucumbers, squash, snake gourds, ampalaya, and pumpkins.

If it’s either oblong or round with a hard exterior but a fleshy interior, then it’s probably part of the Cucurbitaceae family. You and I have probably eaten one without actually realizing it.

melon fruits vs squash fruits

Differences Between Melons and Squash Fruits

Melons can be generally described as sweet, fleshy, edible fruits due to high fructose. Squashes can be described as fleshy, with a nutty, bitter, and silky flavour due to cucurbitacin.

Melons are high in fructose, a type of sugar much like sucrose and glucose, that gives them their fond sweetness. On the other hand, squash has high concentrations of the chemical cucurbitacin which gives off a bitter flavour and smell to deter predators. Though all Cucurbitaceae fruits produce cucurbitacin, this has been bred out in melons and cucumbers.

Due to this difference in taste, squash is often used as a vegetable in culinary settings even though it is a fruit. Its flavour better serves as a base rather than an accent, which is more suited for sweeter tasting ingredients.

NOTE: Difference in taste is a general descriptor. It is possible that species of squash may be sweet such as the buttercup squash. Conversely, species of melons may be bitter. The same reasoning also applies to the varieties and cultivars.

Similarities Between Melon and Squash Fruits

Melons and squash are often rounded with hard exteriors and fleshy interiors. The seeds are either surrounded by the fleshy interior or embedded in it. This is because they belong to the same family of fruits.

The contrast between a hard exterior and a considerably softer and fleshy interior helps in distinguishing cucurbit fruits from all others. Though different genera and species will undoubtedly exhibit variations, these general characteristics should give any gardener a pretty good idea.

The fruits of this family have been a culinary staple in many cultures in the warmer climates they are found in. As these plants migrated to different parts of the world, more varieties and cultivars have been produced.

melon plants vs squash plants

Difference between Melon and Squash Plants

Though they come from the same family, melons and squash are under different genera. These plants mostly differ in terms of vines and flowers which are admittedly negligible differences.

1 – Vine Differences

Melons and squash grow as tendril-bearing vines. However, squash vines are thicker and shorter compared to the longer and elongated vines of melon plants.

The reason is that squash plants generally produce much larger fruits compared to melons. This means that it needs thicker, longer vines to carry the weight.

melons vines vs squash vines

2 – Flower Differences

The flowers of the Cucurbitacaea family including squashes melons and squashes are generally unisex (both male and female reproductive organs), but some melon plants have male, female, and bisexual flowers.

There also exist differences such as the flowers’ color and morphological properties. These depend on the ecological conditions to better attract pollinators and vary widely between species. These differences are too various to compare between all the 975 species.

melon flowers vs squash flowers

Similarities between Melons and Squash Plants

Because melon and squash come from the same family, they’re much more alike than what their taste would make you believe. Although the Cucurbit family has around 975 species, these individual species still exhibit the characteristics of their family.

1 – Growing Requirements

Melons do best in warm climates (70-80 F), slightly acidic soil (pH 6.0-6.5), and have high nutritional and moisture requirements. Squashes do best in warm climates (70-80 F), slightly acidic soil (pH 6.0-6.5), and have high nutritional and moisture requirements.

Melons and squash exhibit the trait of growing moderate to large fruits especially when growing requirements are met. Because of their high growing requirements, the fruits produced are also dense in nutrients.

2 – Plant Characteristics

Majority of plants in the Cucurbitaceae family are predominantly vine plants with compound leaves and unisex (both male and female) flowers. The few outliers include the papaya (Carica papaya) and pepino (Solanum muricatum) plants which grow as trees.

Vines plants have stems that support the rest of the plant body by latching onto other plants, onto structures, or along the ground. Some vine plants in the Cucurbitaceae family can even develop adventitious roots above ground that provide both support and nutrient transport.

Their leaves are compound, meaning that they consist of several distinct parts (leaflets), divided by the midrib but joined by a single stem. This is opposed to simple leaves that are not divided into leaflets.

Regardless of whether tree or vine, the Cucurbitaceae family produces some of the largest fruits in the botanical world, namely the pumpkin. It’s pretty amazing to see how these humble vines can make

Which Fertilizer Should I Use?

Both melon and squash will benefit from a 5-10-10 or 6-12-12 fertilizer at a rate of 60 grams per meter (0.04 lbs per foot).

We recommend these fertilizers for being perfect for the nutritional requirements of melon and squash plants.

Given the size and nutritional density of the fruits of melons and squashes, there’s little chance to run into nutrient burn when the flowers have already been fertilized.

Are Melon and Squash Good Companion Plants?

Melon and squash are good companion plants to be grown in the same planter or plot. They need to be spaced 1-3.5 feet (0.3-1.07 meters) apart. Given their similar nutritional and water requirements, growing them together is better for managing pest and nutritional requirements.

This means that melon and squash have the same light requirements, water requirements, nutritional requirements, and soil type.

The best planters for these plants are those which are wide, large, and deep. This is to best accommodate their nutritional requirements and space for their large fruits.

The Problem of Growing Melon and Squash Together

The problem with growing melon and squash together is that their flowers can cross-pollinate. This is detrimental if a gardener wants to keep his plants as consistent and genetically “pure” as possible.

These plants can crossbreed with one another. Depending on who you’re asking, this might be a good or bad thing. This is good for gardeners who really want to go out there and experiment, creating their own cultivars.

Cross-pollinated fruits will share a similar taste profile to the plant that fertilized them. For example, melon crossbred with squash may exhibit a blander, bitter taste because of the increased presence of cucurbitacin.

To prevent crossbreeding, the plants should be placed distant from one another on separate plots of land. Given that pollination can occur by wind, it is preferable that neither plants are downwind from one other. Finally, as a fool-proof solution to prevent pollination via insects and animals, the plants can be separated indoors and outdoors by using a greenhouse.

growing squash and melon together

The Species Under Melons and Squashes

There are 975 species under the Cucurbitaceae family. There are around 55 species under the cucumis genus while there are around 30 species under the cucurbita genus.

It’s going to be a monumental task to compare each and every one of them so it’s better to illustrate their variety by giving examples of the species of each genus.

The cucumis genus (collectively known as melons) includes cucumbers (C. sativus), horned melons (C. metuliferus), Asian melons (C. melo inodorus), and true muskmelons (C. melo raticulatus), among others.

The cucurbita genus (collectively known as squashes) includes the cushaw squash (C. argyrosperma), fig-leaf squash (C. ficifolia), pumpkin (C. pepo), kobacha (C. maxima), and Calabaza (C. moschata).

Support Structures for Growing

Gardeners also employ similar growing techniques on both melon and squash plants. The fruits of these plants grow so big and long that it’s too heavy for the plant to carry. Gardeners will use meshes, trellises, moss poles, and other support structures.

Plants grow best under conditions they have evolved and adapted to. Given that the Cucurbitaceae family are predominantly vines, having vertical support structures will allow the vines to grow as they were meant to and give them more sunlight.

1 – Meshes

Meshes are interwoven materials made of metal, thread, or plastic that look like nets. The spaces in the net provide ample room for the vines to creep up.

These are by far the most cost-effective and simple to implement. The different materials these meshes come in allow for greater flexibility and modular upgrades. Simple plastic meshes can be nailed on the wall whereas wire meshes can be combined with poles to make a more complex structure.

2 – Trellises

Trellises are interlocking and interwoven wood, metal, or other materials that provide vertical support for vine plants. The most common trellises seen are made out of wood that form rows of open diamond patterns.

Trellises are the most aesthetically pleasing but also the most expensive since they are made of more rigid materials, most often wood and metal. You’ll often see these trellises in rose gardens and horticultural centers.

3 – Moss Poles

Moss poles are sticks wrapped with peat moss or coconut fibers and bound with wire or string. The organic layer provides moisture and extra nutrients to the plants, especially vines that can develop adventitious roots such as the Cucurbitaceae family.

Moss poles are the most convenient vertical support structure for indoor potted growing. It doesn’t take up much space and can be staked to the pot’s soil. They are easily accessible, cheap, and can be created by any gardener with some spare time.

We have an article all about moss poles including how to make one yourself. It looks like it’s not only monstera plants that’ll get the support they need.

Summary of The Difference Between Melon and Squash

Cucumis genus (collectively known as melons) and cucurbita genus (collectively known as squashes) are under the Cucurbitaceae family. Being genera from the same family, they exhibit similar characteristics between plants and fruits.

Their main difference is that melons are sweeter while squashes are bitter, nutty, or silky. Though all Cucurbitaceae fruits produce the bitter-tasting, predator deterrent, cucurbitacin, this has been bred out in melons. Fruit characteristics are similar between species in both genera, exhibiting a hard exterior but a soft, fleshy interior.

The plants of melons and squashes are extremely similar as they are almost all vine plants with unisex flowers and compound leaves. Being plants under the same family, it is possible that melons and squashes can cross-pollinate, creating crossbreeds.

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