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Tips for Growing Cantaloupe in Your Garden

Cantaloupe is one of the many types of melons.  This type of melon is loaded with many health benefits and are delicious to eat.  With the proper soil, location, and care, you can easily grow your own cantaloupes in your garden.  Cantaloupes need plenty of moisture, sunlight, and heat in order to grow.  Cantaloupe, as well as other types of melons, require two to three months of heat. Although this can be challenging in the northern regions, it is not impossible to grow cantaloupes there.  In this article, I will be going over the steps to growing cantaloupe so that you will have an abundant harvest.  I hope you find this article to be helpful when planting cantaloupe.  Now, let's get planting!

Choosing a Location

As I have already mentioned, the cantaloupe plant thrives in warm, sunny locations with plenty of moisture.  However, not everybody lives in this type of location.  If you live in an area where warm temperatures are not available for two to three months, you can easily build a cover around the melons to trap in warm air.  Because cantaloupes need soil that is at least 70 degrees, you can use a black tarp to warm the soil.  This is only for those who live in colder climates.  If you happen to live in a location with the perfect temperatures for growing cantaloupe, you do not need to add any tarps.

Another option for those who live in colder regions is to plant your cantaloupes indoors.  You can either transplant the cantaloupe plant once the weather is warmer, or you can continue growing it indoors.  However, if you grow it indoors it is important that it is getting plenty of sunlight.  Also, make sure you plant your cantaloupe in a large container so that it has plenty of room to grow.  It is recommended to add a trellis so that the vines can climb upward.  This will save on space.  As for transplanting your cantaloupe plant, you'll want to transplant it before the cantaloupe plant gets too big.

Prepare the Soil

Once you have chosen a location, it is time for you to start preparing your soil.  Because cantaloupes are heavy feeders, you'll want to prepare your planting bed well.  The quick way is to plant in soil amended with several inches of compost or well-rotted manure, if available, or with Miracle Grow Potting Soil.  Another option for planting is to dig the soil 1 foot deep and add a 9-inch layer of fresh manure.  Then, cover that with 3 inches of soil mixed with compost.  This creates a bed with a high-nitrogen soil base that is naturally warm because it produces a little heat as the manure composts.

Because cantaloupes need warm soil, it is important that you don't plant your cantaloupes too early in the spring.  If necessary, plant your cantaloupes in a container indoors and then transplant them outdoors when the weather is warmer.  Growing cantaloupe indoors is easy.  All you need is a large container, and of course, make sure your cantaloupe gets plenty of sunlight.  Or, as I have mentioned earlier, if you live in a cold region you may find that you need to build a mini greenhouse or cover it with a tarp so that the heat gets trapped in.

Plant Your Cantaloupe Seeds

Planting the cantaloupe seeds is the next step.  Plant your cantaloupe at least 36 inches apart if you are planting them in a large garden.  If you’re going to use a trellis, the recommended spacing is 12 inches.  A trellis is recommended because it frees up your garden as it allows the vines to grow vertically.  You will want to use heavy-duty trellises, such as cattle panels.  That way, the melons won't break the trellis.  After you’ve added seeds or transplants you should put mulch down.  Mulch will keep the new plant warm, help to contain moisture, and prevent weeds from growing in your garden.

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Protecting Your Cantaloupe from Pests

Although cantaloupes do not have many pests, there are a few that you'll want to watch out for.  One such pest is the squash bug.  Squash bugs try to eat the foliage of your cantaloupe.  While this may not seem like a big deal, damaged leaves can cause the cantaloupe to not be as sweet.  Squash vine borers are another pest to watch out for, as they will eat the vine and often kill the entire plant.  You may also find cucumber beetles will attack all parts of the plant.  Lastly, aphids are known to attack the leaves from time to time.

Besides pests, there are also some diseases that cantaloupes can get.  Fungus diseases can spread rapidly, so it is important to be on the lookout of these diseases.  Alternaria leaf spot and gummy stem blight produce spots on leaves, while stem blight also forms bleached or tan sections on stems and rot on fruit.  Downy mildew causes yellow or pale green leaf spots, while powdery mildew produces white spots on leaves.  To treat fungus diseases, you'll need to use fungicides.  Check with your local garden center or Extension agent to learn which fungicides are approved in your state and more about the disease you’re trying to get rid of.

Watering Your Cantaloupe Plant

One of the most common mistakes that people make is over-watering or not watering their plants enough.  Cantaloupe needs a constantly moist soil, but the soil should not be drenched.   Try to deliver water to the base of the plant and avoid soaking the leaves which can cause fungus and spread disease.  You’ll want to use drip irrigation or a soaker hose for best results.  It is not recommended to use a sprinkler.  Don’t worry if the leaves seem to wilt every afternoon, as this is perfectly normal.  To help keep the soil moist for a longer amount of time, you may want to add mulch.  Not only does mulch contain water, but it also prevents weeds from growing and keeps your cantaloupe warmer.

Weeding Your Garden

Keeping your garden weeded is important.  Weeds can steal sunlight, water, and nutrients from your cantaloupe.  As a result, your cantaloupe plant will become weak and will eventually die.  However, weeding a garden with cantaloupe can be difficult because it is easy to step on the vines and crush them.  Because of this, it is recommended to keep your garden clear of weeds before the vines start growing.  Once the vines begin to spread everywhere, you may not be able to weed your garden as much.

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How to Tell When a Cantaloupe Is Ripe

Cantaloupes take 35 to 45 days to ripen after the flower has been pollinated.  As soon as one melon is ripe, the others won’t be far behind.  About a week before a cantaloupe is ripe, minimize watering to just enough to keep the vines from wilting.  This lets the vines concentrate sugars in the fruit.  Too much water dilutes the sugar and the sweetness.  As for telling when a cantaloupe is ripe, you'll be able to tell a cantaloupe’s ripeness by the skin color and stem.  The rind of cantaloupe changes from gray-green to yellow-buff and the netting pattern becomes more pronounced.  At the stem, a crack appears that encircles the base of the stem.  A ripe cantaloupe should slip right off the vine.  Cantaloupes also develop a musky odor that’s noticeable as you approach the melon patch.

How to Store Cantaloupe

As for storing your cantaloupe, there are several different options.  You can eat it right after picking it, which is probably the best way to eat it.  If you want it to be a little sweeter, wait a few days after picking it before you eat it.  Another option is to refrigerate your cantaloupe.  Cantaloupes can be refrigerated for a couple of weeks before they go bad.  If you are wanting to store your cantaloupe for a longer amount of time, you may want to consider freezing cantaloupe.  To freeze your cantaloupe, you'll want to cut it into slices, balls, or cubes.  Then, you can decide if you want to freeze it with sugar on it, or if you want to leave it unsweetened.

You can also dry or can your cantaloupe, although these two methods are not recommended. Canning is especially not recommended because cantaloupe has a high pH.  Fruits high in pH can support the growth of microorganisms that cause botulism when given the right conditions, which include moisture, room temperatures, lack of oxygen, and low-acid conditions.  The only safe way to can cantaloupe is to use a pressure canner instead of a water bath.

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Final Thoughts

There is nothing quite like eating a juicy cantaloupe.  Not only is it loaded with health benefits and nutritional value, but it also makes a delicious, healthy dessert.  A homegrown cantaloupe can taste even better than store-bought cantaloupes, and it is rewarding to know that you grew the fruit you are eating.  In this article, I went over the steps to growing cantaloupe in your garden.  Although it may seem overwhelming at first, growing cantaloupe is not as difficult as it may seem.  Although cantaloupes thrive in warm locations, it is possible to grow them in colder regions as long as you cover them with a clear tarp.

Once you have chosen a location, you need to prepare the soil and plant your seeds.  If you are planting your cantaloupe seeds early, it is recommended to start them indoors.  Once the weather outside warms up, you can move your cantaloupe plant outdoors into your garden. Remember to weed and water your garden, as well as watch out for pests and diseases.  When the time comes, you'll need to harvest and store your cantaloupe either in the freezer or refrigerator.  Cantaloupe usually takes 90 days to grow, from the day you plant the seed to harvest.  I hope this article has answered all your questions on how to grow cantaloupe. Remember to have fun.  Your hard work will soon be rewarded with a (hopefully!) large supply of cantaloupes.

Mariann Foster

I am one of our content writers for Everything Backyard. I am a mother and business owner of Big Horn Mountain Alpacas in Wyoming. I love farm life, cutting my own firewood in the mountains, and participating in local trail run races.

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