You can grow sweet and juicy cantaloupe easily with the right combination of sun, soil and water. With just a little care and attention, and following this guide to growing cantaloupe, you can have the sweetest-tasting cantaloupe fresh from garden to table!
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Preparing the soil
The soil temperature needs to be above 70 degrees. Cantaloupe is a heavy feeder, so it must be planted in soil amended with 4-6 inches of compost or manure. It also should be fertilized during the growing season.
Dig 4-6 inches of compost or manure into the area you plan on planting the cantaloupes in.
You can dig a 12 inch deep trench; fill it with 9 inches of manure, and 3 inches of compost and soil. Mound up a pile of soil, and plant 3 seeds per mound.
A third method you can try is planting your cantaloupes on top of your compost pile.
The plant must be in full sun. The key to sweet melons is sun on the leaves to create the sugars that go into the fruit.
Planting and care
Growing cantaloupe requires moisture, sunlight and heat. Plant each group of seeds 32-48″ apart and 1″ deep. You can also use a trellis for vertical gardening. If you use a trellis, be sure to use a soft tie to avoid damaging the stems as you train the vines up the trellis, and plan on supporting the fruit as it grows. Some people have supported the fruit with a hammock made from used panty hose. The trellis needs to be large and strong enough to support the vines and fruit in strong winds.
Thin the vines to one plant per mound.
Keep the area weed-free from the start. After the vines grow, it will be nearly impossible to weed without stepping on and crushing a vine. Mulch is a good idea, as it will cut down on weeding, and also keep the ground cool and moist.
Melons need a steady supply of water. Keep the soil moist, but not waterlogged. In order to avoid rot, don’t water the leaves. You can make furrows around the melon vines, and put water in the furrows so that the water stays away from the leaves. Alternatively, you can plant on a mound, and create a moat around it for the watering.
Melons have both male and female flowers. The male flowers open first, then the female flowers, which produce the fruit. Don’t be discouraged if the first flowers fall off without producing any fruit. It is natural; the second, female flowers are the ones that produce the melons.
Keep the ripening melons off the ground, on a layer of mulch, for instance.
Fertilize the plants for growth before they flower with a high nitrogen fertilizer. After flowering, switch to a high Phosphorous and Potassium fertilizer to aid in fruit production.
Keep all the leaves intact, as the more leaves, the more sugar produced, and the sweeter the fruit. Also, limit the amount of fruit growing at one time, so the fruit will be sweeter. The plant will concentrate on growing that one or few fruits. The key to sweet melons is lots of sugar, which means lots of leaves.
Bug Pests that attack growing cantaloupe
Melon aphids can quickly become a problem. Inspect the undersides of the leaves regularly.
Ladybugs, lacewings and parasitic wasps will control the aphids. Attract them with companion plants or flowers. Catnip, garlic and chives repel aphids. Nasturtuim attract them, so you can use that as a trap crop.
Spotted and Striped Cucumber beetles are also a problem for growing cantaloupe. Nasturtiums or tansy may be effective at repelling the beetles. Insect predators that attack the beetles are Braconid wasps, nematodes and soldier beetles.
Melons will turn color to indicate they are nearing the harvest stage, after 80-90 days. They will turn from green to yellow color, and the netting across the melon will become more pronounced. A crack will start on the stem, and go all the way around the vine, so that the melon will almost fall off the vine. It will also have a “melony” or fragrant aroma.
Following these directions for growing cantaloupes will result in the sweetest tasting cantaloupe you’ve ever tasted! Fresh, from garden to table, and tasting a lot better than the store-bought variety.