What to Plant: Seeds; Transplants are often available but must be handled with care
Dates: See Vegetable Planting Calendars
Nutrition: Vit A, Vit C, Folate, Potassium
Seeds/oz: 850 - 1000
Seed Viability: 2 - 5 years
Soil Temp: 70º F – 95º F (90º F)
Planting Depth: 1/2" - 1"
Germination: 7 - 10 days
Spacing: 4' - 6' for hills; 1' if trellised
SqFt Spacing: 1 per 2 squares trellised
Days to Harvest: 65 - 90
Length of Harvest:
Origin: North Africa, Southwest Asia, India
Bed prep: Prepare beds by adding compost at 1/3 of volume and SROF at ½ cup per square foot. Mix well by spading. Cantaloupes are heavy feeders. and like a rich soil. Many gardeners still like to use aged manure dug into a 12" deep hole prior to planting. An alternate method is to partially bury a 5-gallon pot in the center of the selected hill or bed and fill it with 1/2 aged manure and 1/2 compost. Seeds are planted around the pot.
Planting: Cantaloupe is traditionally grown in hills. The hill is deeply cultivated with compost or composted manure, and 6 seeds are planted in an 8" - 10" circle in the center of the hill. After germination, the plants are thinned leaving the 3 strongest plants. Hills are not always practical for the backyard garden, therefore cantaloupe is grown on a trellis. Erect your preferred trellis then plant 2 - 3 seeds in each hole, 18" - 24" apart along the base of the trellis. Cover with soil, tamp and water well. Keep moist until germination is apparent. Thin seedlings after germination, leaving the strongest in each hole.
Watering: Once or twice a week without sufficient rainfall. Avoid getting water on the leaves whenever possible to reduce fungal diseases. Drip irrigation works well for melons. Keep the bed evenly moist until the fruit begins to ripen. Signs of ripening include color changing from green to tan or the netting on the skin. becoming more pronounced and dry-looking. Reduce watering at this point, watering only to prevent wilting (plants may wilt a bit during the heat of the day, but if they recover at dusk, they do not need watering). If you over-irrigate or there is heavy rainfall during ripening, the fruit will be bland and not fragrant or sweet.
Aftercare: Keep bed free of weeds – mulch. Watch for disease or pests. Side dress with 1/4 cup SROF when the vines start to run, and again when flowering begins. Train to the trellis with vine clips or stretch tape. Once fruit starts to develop, create a sling for each fruit using old hose, sheeting, burlap, or mesh bags. Tie the sling to the trellis to support the weight of the fruit.
Harvest: Melons should be picked at their peak of ripeness, but can quickly become overripe. Once cantaloupes begin to turn from green to tan or yellow they probably ripe, but do not harvest to early since melons do not continue to ripen or sweeten off the vine. Look for a crack where they stem joins the fruit as this is a sign of ripeness. You can press on the stem with your thumb right at the cap of the fruit and if the fruit easily separates from the stem it is ripe. Harvest from dry vines - allow the dew to dry off first and do not harvest right after a rain. Handle the vines with care - they damage easily. Stressed vines are more susceptible to disease.
Cantaloupe Pests: Aphids - use insecticidal soap. Vine borers - see management guide. Cucumber beetles.
Additional Information: What we call cantaloupe is actually a muskmelon. True cantaloupes are not netted and have a hard rind. However, the names are used interchangeably. Like many cucurbits, cantaloupes will produce male flowers for a week to ten days before female flowers are produced, so don't be discouraged if the first few flowers do not result in a fruit. There was an old practice of removing the tip of the shoot once fruit began to develop. The theory was that this would direct energy to the developing fruit. Research has debunked this. However, it is true that higher quality fruit can be produced if only one melon at a time is allowed to ripen on each vine.
History: Cantaloupes have been in cultivation for centuries. They were grown in Persia, Assyria, and Egypt from 2400 BC. Marco Polo found them in Afghanistan while en route to China and described them as "the best melons in the world". By the 15th century they had gained popularity in Spain and Italy. Columbus introduced cantaloupes to the New World during his second expedition.