By Jennifer Poindexter
Are you interested in growing cantaloupe in your home garden? Are you concerned that you might make a few mistakes along the way?
First of all, mistakes aren’t a bad thing. They’re a great way to learn how to be a better gardener in the future.
However, there are a few common mistakes many people make when they first begin growing cantaloupe.
I’m going to cover these with you, so hopefully you can avoid a few unnecessary learning curves through this process.
Here are some common mistakes you’ll want to avoid when growing cantaloupe:
1. Sowing Seeds When It’s Too Cold
Some people get ahead of themselves when planting cantaloupe. These are warm weather crops that shouldn’t be planted until the threat of frost is over.
If you’re planting cantaloupe from seed, be sure that the soil is approximately 70-degrees Fahrenheit or above. This should be warm enough to encourage germination. If not, this could reduce the germination rate significantly.
2. Planting in the Shade
Along with cantaloupe being a warm weather crop, it loves the sun. When planting cantaloupe, select a growing location with full sunlight.
This equates to the plants receiving around eight hours of direct sunlight each day. Without this amount of light, it could lead to sickly plants and invite potential issues with pests and diseases.
3. Using the Wrong Soil to Grow Cantaloupe
The next thing to avoid is the wrong type of soil. Cantaloupe plants need well-draining, fertile soil. It’s important that the soil can retain necessary moisture.
However, you don’t want the ground around the plants to remain soggy. This could cause the roots of the plant to suffocate. When growing cantaloupe, ensure the roots receive the moisture they need while excess moisture quickly drains away.
4. You Don’t Provide Support for Your Cantaloupe
Cantaloupe plants produce vines and round fruits. Both of which can be impacted if the plants aren’t provided the correct support.
When growing cantaloupe, ensure you either provide three feet of space between each plant or supply a sturdy trellis. This will keep your garden neat and also keep the fruit off the ground to avoid rot.
5. You Forget to Fertilize Your Cantaloupe
It’s important to amend your soil prior to planting cantaloupe. This is to provide a boost of nutrients that will carry the plants through until they begin producing vines.
At this point, it’s time to add a balanced fertilizer to your plants. The type of fertilizer will determine how frequently it must be applied.
Water soluble fertilizers should be applied twice per month. Granular fertilizers only need to be applied once every two months.
Once you decide on the type of fertilizer you’ll use, you can create a schedule which will help to ensure the plants have what they need throughout the growing season.
6. Watering the Cantaloupe Wrong
Cantaloupes need water, but it must be applied the right way and at the right times. When watering cantaloupe, it’s best to water the plant deeply.
This means you’ll water the plants for longer periods of time, fewer days of the week. They’ll need approximately one to two inches of water each week from you or nature.
Should you water the plants deeply, this allows the water to reach the roots while also saturating the ground around them.
As the days progress and the plants need more water, they’ll dig their roots into the soil to retrieve it. In turn, this creates a stronger root system and should equate to healthier plants overall.
However, it’s vital that you stop watering cantaloupe one to two weeks prior to harvest as this can lead to the melons splitting before they’re harvested.
7. Ignoring Pests and Diseases
Cantaloupe are prone to a few pests and diseases. The most common are typically fusarium wilt, powdery mildew, and aphids.
Don’t ignore these issues as they’ll only grow worse without treatment. Should you spot fusarium wilt in your cantaloupe plants, immediately pull them up and destroy them.
These plants shouldn’t be composted as this will only transfer the disease to other plants, and there is no cure for fusarium wilt at this time.
Powdery mildew is another common disease. Should you spot this issue, be sure to treat your plants with a fungicide.
You should also ensure the cantaloupes are growing in an area with ample sunlight and well-draining soil as fungal diseases form in saturated, cold areas.
Also, be sure to water your plants earlier in the day. This will allow the leaves to dry before the cool night air sets in.
Last, if you spot aphids, be sure to treat your plants with an insecticide. You may also spray them with soapy water as another way to remove the pests from the area.
These are a few of the most common issues cantaloupes face. Should you notice any issue with your plants, take action quickly to catch things before they grow out of hand.
8. Pruning Your Cantaloupe Plants
Cantaloupe is one plant which doesn’t thrive from pruning. The leaves of these plants are where the sugars are made for the melons.
By trimming the leaves, you’re reducing the amount of sugar in the plant which could have a negative impact on the flavor of your harvest.
Therefore, if your cantaloupe plants are getting out of control, consider using a trellis to contain them. You may also chalk this up to a learning experience and know to either provide more space between plants the next year or to plant less.
9. Allowing Each Cantaloupe to Grow
You might think more is better when growing cantaloupe, but this isn’t the case. Each plant should only be able to produce five or fewer fruits.
It’s almost like fruit trees. You shouldn’t let all the fruit ripen as this decreases the overall quality of your harvest.
Therefore, pick the five best cantaloupes on the plant and remove the rest. This allows the plant to pour all of its energy into the remaining fruit.
Should you allow all the fruit to grow, it can impact the flavor of your harvest. Less is more when growing cantaloupe.
10. Harvesting Cantaloupe Too Soon
The last mistake you can make when growing cantaloupe is harvesting the melons too soon. Cantaloupe tastes best when it’s allowed to ripen on the vine.
When the melons begin to turn a pale yellow, you’ll know they are close to harvest. Most varieties grown today will slip from the vine easily when they’re ready to harvest.
Should you pick a cantaloupe and realize it isn’t fully ripe, allow it to sit at room temperature for 48 hours. If you place it inside a paper bag, it will speed up the ripening process.
If all of your melons are perfectly ripe, place them in your refrigerator for up to five days. This provides the right temperature and humidity for the fruit to last longer.
Take these tips into consideration when deciding when the right time should be to harvest your homegrown cantaloupe.
You now have ten mistakes you should try to avoid when growing cantaloupe. Hopefully, these tips will help you avoid some frustration.
It’s hard when growing something new because you put forth a lot of effort and sometimes little things impact your harvest. Stay alert to these potential pitfalls and hopefully you’ll have a delicious harvest to enjoy.