6 Cantaloupe Plant Care Tips
Cantaloupe is a type of melon with orange flesh and belongs to the Cucurbita family. This fruit is delicious and high in nutrients. It is popular with backyard gardeners because it is easy grow and maintain. Cantaloupes are however, very picky about temperature and will not grow in cool or mild weather.
1 – Plant in Warm Weather
Cantaloupes grow in warm weather. Make sure you do not sow the seeds if there is any chance of frost. To be safe, wait till there is no chance of frost, and ensure that the soil temperature is over 68 F. Even without frost, most melons and cantaloupes will not grow well in the absence of warm weather.
2 – Ensure Proper Soil Conditions
Cantaloupes prefer light, well-drained and rich soil. Clay-like heavy soil is not good for these plants. Make sure you amend the soil by adding compost before sowing the seeds. Ensure that the soil is slightly acidic or neutral, by using a pH testing kit. It is a good idea to sow the seeds in small mounds of soil-compost mix. You can sow a few seeds in each mound, and when the seedlings appear in a couple of weeks, remove the weaker ones to leave 2 or 3 plants in each mound.
3 – Provide Plenty of Food
Cantaloupes are large fruits that require lots of nutrition. Before planting the cantaloupe seeds, enrich the soil with mature compost or fertilizer. A fertilizer high in phosphorus is beneficial to the production of healthy fruit. Fertilizers high in nitrogen are to be avoided, as they promote spindly growth of vines, which results in inferior fruit.
4 – Water as Required
Another important aspect of cantaloupe growth is the supply of adequate water. Lack of water will not allow the plant to grow and over-watering will lead to rot and plant damage. Before watering, check the soil for signs of dryness and water before the plant shows any signs of wilting. Avoid watering the foliage, as it can cause fungal infections. If possible, water during the early part of the day, so that the leaves can dry faster.
5 – Mulch the Plants
Black plastic mulch is highly beneficial in protecting the plant from several infections, as well as in raising the soil temperature. This enables the faster growth of fruit, and also makes them healthier. Mulch also reduces weed infestation and promotes moisture retention.
6 – Monitor the Plants
Make sure you check your plants often for signs of wilting, fungus, or pests. Apply fungicide or insecticide as required. Also ensure that the plants have plenty of space for growth, and the required air circulation. Lack of air and crowding will result in poor fruit production, and also fungal diseases. Crop rotation also goes a long way in preventing most soil-borne diseases. Avoid planting members of the melon or cucurbita family in the same spot in your backyard every year.