How to Plant Cantaloupe
Cantaloupes are grown from seeds and need just the right conditions to produce the sweetest, highest quality fruit. Before planting your cantaloupe, use a loamy soil enriched with well-rotted compost or aged manure to make sure your melon has plenty of nutrients to feed on throughout its growing season. Cantaloupes prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil, between 6.0 and 6.8 pH.
Once the threat of frost is gone for the season, sow seeds in “hills” about one inch deep, and 18 inches apart. A hill is a slightly raised mound of soil that can keep the heat on your crop, while also providing good drainage. Melon vines sprawl, so it's best to make your hills at least three feet apart.
5 Cantaloupe Care Tips
Cantaloupes should be kept warm and moist, and protected from the cold:
- Water properly. Cantaloupes need plenty of water, but not enough to make a soggy garden. Give your crops one to two inches of water per week, watering the soil directly to avoid wetting the leaves and promoting powdery mildew. Once fruit begins to grow, reduce your watering, as dry weather is best for sweeter melons.
- Mulch. Using black plastic mulch will not only help inhibit weed growth but keep your soil warm and your fruits clean as they develop. Cantaloupes germinate best in a warm soil temperature around 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The black plastic absorbs the sun while also helping your garden retain moisture.
- Fertilize. When your cantaloupe plants have started to grow (at least four inches), apply a well-balanced fertilizer.
- Check for pests. Cantaloupes are susceptible to aphids, cucumber beetles, spider mites, squash bugs, and other garden pests. Companion planting and row covers can help protect your crop from these pests, as well as reducing the chance of root rot and vine wilting.
- Practice companion planting. Planting cantaloupes near members of the cabbage family like cauliflower, broccoli, and kale all make good companions for these melons, as well as onions, chives, and garlic. You can also plant melons near spinach, okra, and sunflowers, which have also been known to make solid companion plants—but keep your melon crop away from potatoes. Since cantaloupes produce male and female flowers as they develop, planting with crops that could help bring in bees for pollination will also be beneficial to their growth.
How to Harvest Cantaloupe
Cantaloupes take around 90 days from seed to fully mature. Rinds that are tan or yellow indicate ripeness. You should detect a mild cantaloupe scent. When your ripe melon is ready to harvest, the connecting stem will crack, making the fruit easy to pick. Make sure the cantaloupe vines are dry and that you don’t damage them while harvesting.
Cantaloupe that have already fallen off the vine are overripe and should be used as compost.
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