Gardening: Growing Cantaloupe
How to Grow Cantaloupe in Your Garden
Cantaloupe (muskmelon) has been eaten as a sweet summer fruit for thousands of years. Even the Romans enjoyed growing cantaloupe!
Note: Growing cantaloupes requires long, hot summers.
Cantaloupe is a good source of dietary fiber, niacin, vitamin B6, A, C, folate and potassium.
For growing cantaloupe, choose a sunny spot with good air circulation and leave ample space between plants.
You can grow cantaloupe as container plants, but be select a compact variety. Use a large container that's at least 2 feed deep and that allows drainage. Growing cantaloupes in containers has the same soil requirements as in the garden (pH of 6 to 7, and plenty of compost).
When growing cantaloupes, water frequently from beneath the leaves and feed twice a month with a liquid fertilizer (like manure tea).
You'll have your best luck growing cantaloupes if you add plenty of compost or well-rotted manure to your soil. (You may want to consider raised beds if your climate is damp or the soil is heavy.)
Test the pH of your soil. The pH should be from 6.0 to 7.0.
Make mounds of dirt approx 3 feet in diameter. Cantaloupes need space; allow 4 to 5 feet between mounds.
Many gardeners have good success growing cantaloupe by covering the mounds with black plastic (be sure to stake it securely to the ground). The black plastic helps retain moisture for the plant's roots, keeps weeds out, and also helps to warm the roots. (Just make sure the plastic doesn't shift to cover up your seedlings.)
If you don't use black plastic, be sure to mulch well with straw (leaving uncovered spaces for the seedlings to immerge.)
Plant seeds in the garden after spring's last frost and once the soil temperature is at least 70 degrees. (Cantaloupe seeds won't germinate under that temperature.)
Plant the seeds in a circle around each mound, setting the seed about 1" deep and covering with soil. After the seedlings immerge, thin to 3 healthy plants per mound.
You can start earlier by growing cantaloupe seeds inside 1 month ahead of when you want to transplant them outside. Wait until after the last frost before planting them outside. Harden off your seedlings by gradually introducing them out-of-doors. Introducing them too quickly to the bright sun will damage the seedlings.
When planting the seedlings, cut a slit in the plastic sheet (if using plastic). Dig a hole in the dirt where the plastic was, and plant your seedling (I like to plant them nearly up to their first set of leaves). Water thoroughly.
Slide a flat stone under each cantaloupe, once its about half grown.
This can help keep it from rotting prematurely.
When growing cantaloupe, keep in mind that this fruit does not respond well to drought. Water frequently, but water under the leaves (not over top). Once it starts producing fruit, you can cut back a little on watering.
How to Grow Cantaloupe: Fertilizing
Fertilize every few weeks with a liquid fertilizer such as compost tea.
Cantaloupes are susceptible to several plant diseases. Try growing cantaloupe varieties that are promoted as "resistant" to Fusarium and Powdery Mildew.
Most diseases can be prevented by rotating your crop from year to year, and by keeping your soil enriched with well-rotted organic matter and compost.
Cantaloupe will not ripen once picked. Wait until fully ripe before harvesting.
Harvest when the skin turns gold (or when the cantaloupe slips easily from the stem). Plan to pick cantaloupes in the morning on a dry day. Be careful to not damage the vines, so not to hinder new growth.
Store cantaloupes in a cool, humid location away from direct sunlight. (Note: these will not generally store well for more than a few weeks)
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Note: the advice and information contained herein is based upon our experience and study. As with any advice, please apply at your own discretion.