Unique, delicious and refreshing are all accurate descriptions of that summertime favorite, the cantaloupe. The truth is, however, cantaloupe is a good food or snack any time. Like any food that is naturally grown, fresher is always better and there isn't anything fresher than from the vine to your mouth.
With that in mind and for those of you who want to try your hand (specifically those green thumbs) at growing this long-time favorite you will find this guide to growing cantaloupe helpful.
Choosing the variety, the seeds and all the other aspects involved in growing cantaloupe is important but as with any naturally grown food, good soil and preparation is essential. This preparation begins with cultivating your soil. That requires thorough tilling (6-8 inches) removing any debris like rocks or twigs.
The next step in the preparation process is using a quality manure (i.e. well-rotted). Spread a thick layer of manure on top and then mix this into your tilled soil. Then you will want to add a small amount of compost on top as your final layer. Cantaloupe is also known best for growing on mounds so creating small mounds that rise above your now prepped plot is advisable.
The last step in your soil preparation will be to lay a plastic film or weed matting over the soil. This will assist in warming the soil and also help the soil hold heat.
Planting the Seed
If you haven't picked up on it yet, cantaloupe is partial to warmer climates. This means for planting purposes that we want the ground to be at least 70 degrees - generally after the last frost of the season. Starting your cantaloupe indoors is an option, using a biodegradable pot and putting your seeds in the middle of the pot is the best practice for this option.
Generously water the soil when planting, drop 4 or 5 seeds one inch deep, about 18 inches apart in mounds approximately 3 feet apart. For the indoor starters, bury the pots near the center of the mounds. Some guides may suggest planting seeds as close as 12 inches apart. Although this is reasonable cantaloupe is like any other growing plant. That means the more space the better to allow for freedom of growth and maximum absorption of nutrients and water.
When setting up your plot or planting bed, using rows of mounds with the rows being at least 4 feet wide is suggested. If you choose to utilize trellis poles or wires, you should still maintain the same spacing configurations.
Caring for Your Cantaloupe
It is strongly suggested that you cover your rows. Using material like chicken wire to make tunnels and covering the wire with netting is a simple way to accomplish this task. This will help keep the young plants warm and protect from damaging insects.
Once any threat of frost has passed and the plants have begun to bloom it is extremely important to remember to remove that film or matting. This will allow for better pollination. If you choose, you can replace the matting after the fruits have set.
Best Growth Practices
Every plant, vegetable or flower has its own best environment for optimum growth. The cantaloupe is no different, these are the best growth practices for this delightful fruit:
- Maintain a loamy soil.
- Ensure good soil drainage.
- Add compost for a short period after planting.
- When vine growth begins, fertilize well.
- Melon plants will require 1 to 2 inches of water when blooming and setting fruit.
- Water plants in the morning (attempt to avoid wetting the leaves).
- Prune end buds when fruit begins to grow.
Cantaloupe Facts You Want to Know
Understanding that cantaloupe favors warmer climates is just an example of the benefits of learning as much as you can about growing these melons. Other facts of interest that can be of benefit include:
- The sweetest fruits are actually produced in drier climates.
- Don't be disappointed if the first blossoms aren't fruit producing. Cantaloupe produces both male and female flowers. Male flowers will often appear a few weeks before the fruit-producing female flowers.
- Bees are a great friend to the cantaloupe (they provide necessary pollination to the blossoms). Don't try to prevent these important insects from doing their part.
- Using chemical pest products or weed killers should be used only as a final resort.
Remember to always handle these fruit producing plants with extreme care and gentleness like when transplanting from indoor to outdoor. That also applies to harvesting. You will know your beautiful fruits are ready when the vines are dry. Even then, handling with care is important as to not harm any fruits not yet ready. Your melons will get softer after harvesting and will last about 6 days uncut.
The Art of Growing Cantaloupe
Also known as mush melons, muskmelons, Persian melons and rock melons they belong to the botanical family Cucurbitaceae. Yes, growing cantaloupe requires more than throwing some seeds on the ground and collecting a sweet reward later. Being aware of its common enemies like aphids, squash vine borer moths and cucumber beetles is important. Knowing how to plant and care for cantaloupes is necessary if you are looking to produce the best possible fruit.
If you are wanting to learn more about growing melons or how to improve your garden then contact us. We will help you to understand more about the best growth practices and help you to choose the best varieties of fruits or vegetables for your garden and climate. Growing the best melons really is an art - and enjoying art never tasted so good.