By Jennifer Poindexter
Cantaloupe is a must-have in the garden. It’s a refreshing treat, a wonderful addition to breakfast, and is easy to grow in most spaces. As long as you provide the care this plant needs, it should do well for you. However, if you’re looking for a few tips to increase your chances of success with this fruit, you’re in the right place.
It boils down to supplying adequate growing conditions and care, but if you can do this, you should have a few fresh melons to enjoy around your home.
Here are a few tips to encourage delicious and healthy cantaloupe plants around your garden:
1. Cantaloupe Need Support
The first way to encourage success when growing cantaloupe is to prepare by providing support. Cantaloupe plants vine.
If you don’t supply support to the plants, not only will they take over your gardening area (which gets messy pretty quickly), but this also leaves the fruit on the ground to ripen.
When the rind sits on the dirt, it causes it to break down. This can lead to rot and also invite pests and diseases to the rotten fruit.
Stop all of this from happening by trellising your cantaloupe. You may use sticks to create a teepee, or you may use a cattle panel as a strong support.
Melon slings are another option. You can purchase them or use some old netting and tie it to your trellis as a way to support the melon as it grows.
If the vines are too long and still leave room for the fruit to touch the ground (or you don’t have access to the materials to trellis your cantaloupe) slide a piece of cardboard beneath the fruit.
You may also gather straw and place it beneath the melon to serve as a barrier between the fruit and the soil to help prevent rot from occurring.
2. Provide Plenty of Sunlight
Cantaloupe are sun-loving plants. Therefore, be sure to pick a growing location which gets plenty of sunlight.
Most cantaloupe plants enjoy full sunlight which equates to approximately six to eight hours of direct light each day.
Also, the more sunlight you provide your plants the less likely disease will form and the sweeter it makes the fruit.
Remember, cantaloupe are frequently susceptible to powdery mildew. This is a fungal disease which forms in areas that are cold and have excess moisture.
By planting in an area of full sunlight, you’re providing warmth to the soil and also supplying what the plants need for their foliage to dry after each watering session.
All of this is taking steps to deter disease from making a home in your garden. In summary, be sure to pick a sunny growing location for this type of fruit.
3. Make Provisions In Areas with Shorter Growing Seasons
If you live in a northern area, you probably don’t have as long of a growing season as other areas. Don’t fret as you can still grow cantaloupe since they grow well in planting zones four and higher.
However, it’s important to take steps to ensure the growing location is ready for your plants as soon as possible.
How do you do this? One option is to start your seeds indoors, so all you must do is transplant seedlings into the garden once all threat of frost is over.
Another thing you can do is cover your growing space with black plastic. This should thaw the soil and warm it up.
Then when frost has passed and assuming the soil is approximately 70-degrees Fahrenheit, you may cut holes in the plastic and plant right through it.
This can serve as a weed barrier for your growing location and also allow you to plant a little earlier to ensure your cantaloupe plants have time to mature.
4. Provide the Proper Growing Conditions
At this point, you know cantaloupe needs a growing location with warm soil and full sunlight, but what else does this plant need?
When you decide to grow cantaloupe, ensure you pick a location with soil that’s rich in nutrients and drains adequately.
It’s also important to amend the soil with compost prior to planting to ensure the plants have the nutrients they need initially for a good start.
Once you have the growing conditions right, if you plant cantaloupe from seed, wait until all threat of frost is over.
From there, create mounds in your growing location and place four seeds per mound. The seeds should be planted two inches deep and the mounds should be four feet apart.
You may plant the seeds directly once the soil is 70-degrees Fahrenheit or above. You can thin the plants in the mounds once the seeds have germinated.
Most cantaloupe seeds germinate within five days. If the soil is too cold, it may take ten days. When the soil temperature is right, this is also the time to transplant seedlings which have been hardened off.
5. Fertilizer Matters When Growing Cantaloupe
Cantaloupe plants need fertilizer to grow properly. The initial amending of the soil should get the young plants through until they begin producing vines.
At this point, it’s important to begin fertilizing the plants with a balanced fertilizer. If you use a water soluble fertilizer, apply it twice per month.
Granular fertilizers should only be applied every two months. Consider which type of fertilizer you’ll use to create a fertilizing schedule for your cantaloupe and provide what they need to thrive.
6. Water Your Cantaloupe Correctly
Cantaloupe plants need approximately two inches of water per week. It doesn’t matter if the water comes from you or nature.
The best method for watering cantaloupe is the deep watering method. This is when you apply water for longer periods of time, fewer days of the week.
It provides the water the plant needs during the initial session, but it also supplies water to the ground around the plant.
As the days progress, and the plant needs more water, it’ll dig its roots into the soil to retrieve it. In the process, it encourages the plant to develop a deeper root system. This leads to healthier plants.
Before supplying any more water to your cantaloupe, be sure to test the soil by sticking your finger into the dirt next to the plant.
When the soil is dry to your second knuckle, it’s time to water deeply again. It’s also wise to apply mulch around your cantaloupe plants to help them retain moisture.
Be sure to reduce the amount of water and eventually stop watering as the fruits begin to mature. You shouldn’t water the plants for a week or two before harvest as this causes the fruits to split and turn yellow.
7. Harvest Cantaloupe at the Right Time
Cantaloupe taste best when left to ripen on the vine. Try not to pick them prematurely for the best flavor.
If you’re unsure as to when a cantaloupe is ready to harvest, wait until the melon begins to fade to a pale yellow.
You may also test how attached the fruit is to the vine. Some varieties are made where they’ll easily slip from the vine when ripe.
Use these tips to guide you on when to harvest your cantaloupe. Timing is everything when enjoying a fresh, homegrown melon.
8. Know Your Zones and Time to Mature
Our last tip to successfully growing cantaloupe is to know your planting zone and the time it takes cantaloupe to mature.
In general, cantaloupe grows well in planting zones four through ten, and it typically takes around 80 days for the melons to be ready to harvest.
However, there are different varieties. Some are ready to harvest sooner and some take longer. Be sure to study your variety to know that it’s planted at the right time for your planting zone.
Also, if you live where there’s a shorter growing season, you’ll want to pick a variety that has time to mature in that window.
If you live in an area with a longer growing season, you may be able to succession plant your cantaloupe to extend your harvest if you plant a variety that harvests faster and a variety that has an average or longer time to maturity.
Understanding your planting zone, your growing window, and the variety of cantaloupe you should plant in your area can be the difference between a positive and negative growing experience.
You now have eight tips to help you find success when growing cantaloupe. This fruit has a variety sure to suit everyone as some harvest faster than others and some produce fruit that’s larger, smaller, and some are even sweeter than others.
If you’d like to grow your own fresh fruit in your home garden, don’t overlook the cantaloupe. It’s sweet, delicious, and refreshing on a hot day. Grow your own to always have this delightful treat on hand when it’s needed around your home.