Planting Cantaloupe – How To Grow Cantaloupe Melons
The cantaloupe plant, also known as muskmelon, is a popular melon that is commonly grown in many home gardens, as well as commercially. It is easily recognized by the net-like rind and sweet orange color inside. Cantaloupes are closely related to cucumbers, squash, and pumpkins and, therefore, share similar growing conditions.
How to Grow Cantaloupe
Anyone growing cucurbits (squash, cucumber, pumpkin, etc.) can grow cantaloupes. When planting cantaloupe, wait until the threat of frost has passed and the soil has warmed in spring. You can either sow seeds directly in the garden or in flats inside (do this well before their initial planting outdoors), or you can use transplants purchased from reputable nurseries or garden centers.
These plants need plenty of sun with warm, well-draining soil—preferably with pH levels between 6.0 and 6.5. Seeds are usually planted anywhere from ½ to 1 inch (1 to 2.5 cm.) deep, and in groups of three. Although not required, I like to plant them in small hill or mounds as I do with other cucurbit members. Cantaloupe plants are generally spaced about 2 feet (61 cm.) apart with rows 5-6 feet (1.5-1.8 m.) apart.
Transplants can be set out once the temperatures have warmed and they’ve developed their second or third set of leaves. Purchased plants are normally ready for planting right away. These, too, should be spaced about 2 feet (61 cm.) apart.
Note: You can also plant cantaloupes along a fence or allow the plants to climb a trellis or small stepladder. Just make sure to add something that will cradle the fruits as they grow—such as a sling made from pantyhose—or set the fruits on the steps of your ladder.
Caring for and Harvesting Cantaloupe Plant
Following the planting of cantaloupe plants, you’ll need to water them thoroughly. They’ll also require weekly watering of around 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm.) worth, preferably through drip irrigation.
Mulch is another factor to consider when growing cantaloupe. Mulch not only keeps the soil warm, which these plants enjoy, but it helps retain moisture, minimizes weed growth, and keeps fruit off the soil (of course, you can set them on small pieces of board too). While many people prefer to use plastic mulch when they grow cantaloupes, you can use straw as well.
Within about a month or so after the fruit has set, cantaloupes should be ready for harvesting. A ripe cantaloupe will separate from the stem with ease. Therefore, if you’re unsure about when to harvest, you can simply check the stem where your melon is attached and see if the cantaloupe comes off. If it doesn’t, leave it a little longer but check often.
Companion Plants For Cantaloupe: Best and Worst Plants to Grow Near Cantaloupe
Grace Stevens Added: February 23, 2021 Updated: February 23, 2021
Looking for the best companion plants for cantaloupe? Here is a list of plants that grow well near cantaloupe and the ones you should avoid.
Even though we would love to think that all plants need to grow well is sun and water, growing and caring for plants often requires more than that. And that’s also the case of cantaloupe.
A factor that makes the cultivation of cantaloupes a bit tricky is the abundance of pests that can hinder their progress.
As with many other plants, cantaloupes have numerous natural pests that like to take advantage of them. The good news is that if you choose the right companion plants for your cantaloupes, you can control some of the pests without using toxic chemicals.
Although pest repelling is not the only benefit of companion plants, this is certainly one of the most valuable.
How to Grow Watermelons & Cantaloupes
Watermelon and cantaloupe, while moderately easy to grow in most climates, take a bit more effort in a foggy climate. Since they require heat to generate the sugar needed for a sweet taste, the damp weather and cooler temperatures normal for certain areas of the country can be a problem. However, with careful planning you should be able to grow melons that will tickle your taste buds and bring smiles to your entire family.
Choose your seeds carefully. Most melons are rated between 70 and 100 days from germination to harvest. Be aware of the weather conditions in your area and look for short-season melons. For example, the Blacktail Mountain watermelon variety is fully mature in 70 days, and the Minnesota Midget can be harvested in 60 to 70 days.
Prepare your soil. Melons like rich, very fertile, well-drained soil and should be planted in a mound. Loosen the soil in your garden with your spade, adding compost or sand as needed to achieve the best result. Rake the area smooth.
Create small mounds of dirt, approximately 3 inches tall by 8 inches around, and slightly flatten the tops. Space the mounds at least 12 inches apart.
Spread landscape fabric on the garden bed. Use scissors to cut a large X at the center of each mound of dirt. Place bricks around each mound. Both the landscape fabric and the bricks will help generate the extra heat needed to give the melons the most flavor. The landscape fabric, unlike black plastic, will allow rain and moisture to pass through while still adding warmth to the soil. The fabric and bricks will also help to extend your season, allowing you to plant a bit earlier once the soil has reached a temperature of at least 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Plant three to four seeds in each mound of dirt. Water daily until seedlings begin to appear, then cut back to every other day or as needed. Thin the seedlings, if needed, by removing the weakest plants from the mound, leaving only the strongest one or two plants. Consider transplanting any extra seedlings to other mounds should you have extra. Plants grown too close together will result in no fruit.
Water as needed. Melons plants thrive best when the soil is allowed to dry in between waterings to prevent mildew from forming on the leaves. Once melons are reaching maturity and almost ready to harvest, cut back on the water to prevent the fruit from splitting. Cantaloupe will detach themselves from the vine once they are close to ripe. A nitrogen- and phosphorus-rich fertilizer will assist the melons to set fruit and grow large. A ratio of one part nitrogen to four parts phosphorus in the beginning helps the vines grow strong, while additional nitrogen added 45 days in will help keep the vines healthy.
Melon plants break through the soil 10 to 12 days after planting. After the plants are up, thin them to three to four plants per hill. After the plants have two or three leaves, thin them again, leaving two plants per hill. Insect or other damage often makes another thinning unnecessary.
Keep weeds away from the plants, especially at the beginning of the season while the plants are getting started. When hoeing, be careful not to cut too deeply into the soil near the melon plants, or the roots will be damaged.
Melon plants have separate male and female flowers on each plant, and bees must be present to cross-pollinate the flowers. Poor pollination causes female flowers to fall off the vines or fruits to be poorly shaped, which is a common problem with watermelon (Fig. 5).
Figure 5. Melons need bees to cross-pollinate the flowers.
Fruit size can be increased by pruning watermelons to two fruits per plant for large varieties or four to six fruits per plant on small varieties. Pruning also increases the size of muskmelon fruits, but usually it is not needed.
Before using a pesticide, read the label. Always follow cautions, warnings and directions.