Do you love cantaloupe? If so, did you know that you can grow them right in your own backyard? It’s true! In just one season you can learn how to grow melons in your own home garden. We will go over the basics of growing these delicious fruits, from planting to harvesting. So if you’re ready to start growing your own cantaloupe, keep reading!
Why grow cantaloupe
Not sure why you should add cantaloupe to your list of summer growers? I’ve got some great reasons why you should grow these tasty melons at home.
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Cantaloupe is not only delicious, but it is also a good source of vitamins and minerals. This tasty fruit is a great way to get your daily dose of Vitamins C and A.
Cantaloupe is also a good source of potassium, which is important for maintaining healthy blood pressure levels. And last but not least, cantaloupe is a low calorie food, so it is a great choice for those who want a sweet treat without a lot of calories.
And homegrown cantaloupe is one of the most delicious things you can grow. The taste is miles above what you get from a grocery store, simply because you will pick it at the peak of freshness.
Now that you know the benefits of growing cantaloupe, let’s move on to the next step – planting!
Popular Varieties of Cantaloupe
There are many different varieties of cantaloupe, but not all of them are well suited for home gardens. Here are three popular varieties that are easy to grow and produce great results.
- ‘Hale’s Best Jumbo’ – This variety is an old favorite that has been around for many years. It is a large cantaloupe, weighing in at about seven pounds. The fruits have a deep orange flesh and a sweet flavor.
- ‘Ambrosia‘ – This is a newer variety that has quickly become a favorite among home gardeners. The fruits are small, averaging about four pounds each. They have a light orange flesh with a very sweet flavor.
- ‘Charentais‘ – This is a French variety that is gaining popularity in the United States. The fruits are small, averaging about two pounds each. They have a deep orange flesh with a sweet, fruity flavor.
When to Plant Cantaloupe
Starting from seed: If you live in an area with a long growing season, you can start seeds indoors about six to eight weeks before the last frost date.
If you live in an area with a shorter growing season, you will need to start your seeds indoors about four to six weeks before the last frost date.
Once the seedlings are big enough to handle, they can be transplanted into the garden after hardening off. This is an important process for any seedlings that you begin indoors.
Cantaloupe can also be directly sown into warm soil once all danger of frost has passed. This is a good choice if you’re unsure about your ability to maintain seedlings indoors or if you have a long growing season and there’s no reason to rush.
Transplanting cantaloupe: If you’ve started your cantaloupe seeds indoors, or if you’re purchasing seedlings from a nursery, you’ll need to transplant them into the garden.
When transplanting, be sure to handle the seedlings carefully. The roots are delicate and can easily be damaged. Once they are in the ground, water well and keep the soil moist until the seedlings are established.
Caring for Cantaloupe
Once your cantaloupe plants are in the ground, they will need about an inch of water per week. Water deeply to encourage deep root growth, but make sure the plants are standing in water which can cause root rot and other complications.
Be sure to keep an eye on the soil though – you don’t want it to stay too wet or too dry. The best way to tell is to stick your finger in the soil. If it feels moist, you’re good to go. If it feels dry, give your plants a drink.
As the fruits begin to ripen, you may need to water more frequently. This is because the fruits are high in sugar content and need more water to prevent them from drying out.
Fertilize your cantaloupe plants every two weeks with a water soluble fertilizer; I like a worm castings mix from Thrive or a granular from Espoma. This will help them to grow strong and produce plenty of fruits.
Common Cantaloupe Pests
Unfortunately, humans aren’t the only ones who enjoy fresh cantaloupe, and just like everything else in the garden, you have to be on the lookout for pests. If you’re looking for natural ways to repel and/or get rid of pests in your garden, check out my post all about Natural Pest Control in the Garden.
Here are the most common cantaloupe pests:
- Cucumber beetle: These little guys are yellow with black stripes and they love to feast on melon plants. If you see them in your garden, be sure to hand pick them off and put them in a bucket of soapy water.
- Aphids: Aphids are small, pear shaped insects that congregate on the undersides of leaves. They can be green, yellow, brown, or black, and they suck the sap out of plants. If you see aphids on your cantaloupe plants, be sure to spray them off with a strong stream of water. (See my guide for How to Get Rid of Aphids.)
- White Flies: Whiteflies are small, white insects that congregate on the undersides of leaves. They, like aphids, suck the sap out of plants. To get rid of them, you can use a yellow sticky trap or spray them off with a strong stream of water.
Common Cantaloupe Diseases
If your cantaloupe fails to thrive and has some telltale signs, then chances are it may be suffering from disease. Before considering plant disease, check to ensure your plant is being watered properly and is in a place to get enough sun.
If all of those areas check out, then consider these common cantaloupe diseases:
- Powdery Mildew: This is a white powder that covers the leaves and stems of plants. It’s most commonly found in humid or wet conditions. If you see powdery mildew on your cantaloupe plants, be sure to remove any affected leaves and spray the plant with a fungicide.
- Bacterial Wilt: This is a cantaloupe plant disease that is caused by a bacteria. The first symptom you’ll see is wilting leaves. If you think your plant has bacterial wilt, be sure to remove any affected leaves and destroy them. You can also try spraying the plant with a copper fungicide or an insecticide/fungicide combo.
- Downy Mildew: Downy mildew is a disease that is caused by a fungus. The first symptom you’ll see is yellowing leaves. If you think your plant has downy mildew, be sure to remove any affected leaves and destroy them. You can also try spraying the plant with a fungicide.
The best way to keep your plant healthy is to simply lay eyes on it every few days. This will give you a chance to see if any leaves are showing signs of wilt or mildew. The gardener really is the best pest and disease repellent.
You will know your cantaloupe is ripe and ready to harvest when the stem begins to separate from the fruit. Gently twist the fruit to detach it. If the fruit pulls away easily, then it was ready.
If it offers a lot of resistance, consider letting it stay on the vine, unless you see soft spots. In this case, cut the fruit at the stem and go ahead and harvest.
Cantaloupe is best when eaten soon after harvest. As you may have discovered from buying melons from the grocery store, they don’t last long, so enjoy them while they’re fresh!
If you have more cantaloupe than you can eat in a few days, there are a few ways to store it.
First, you can cut the melon into pieces and store it in an airtight container in the fridge. It will last for about a week this way.
You can also freeze cantaloupe. Again, cut it into pieces and store in an airtight container. It will last for several months in the freezer and is delicious in smoothies.
I hope you’re encouraged to try growing cantaloupe in your vegetable garden. And if you have any tips or tricks to share with other gardeners, feel free to comment below and share!